Grant Ranch Park Lake to Antler Point

Hike facts:  From Grant Lake to Antler Point and back in a reverse figure eight (map shows 9.6 miles, GPS recorded 10.9 miles).  1900 feet of cumulative elevation gain.   4.5 hours hike with only a brief stop for lunch.  Trail map of Joseph Grant Ranch Park.

Yesterday I led a hike for Loma Prieta Sierra Singles and managed to get three hikers to join me in a moderately paced hike in Grant Ranch Park just below Mt. Hamilton.  We began the hike from the parking lot 1/4 mile past the main entrance on the left side of the road.  Radio Ham operators were setting up in the parking lot and a few road bikers were hanging out before making the climb up the road.  It was a perfect sunny and cool day for the hike.  I had reminded folks that we were hiking to 3,000 feet so it might be cooler at the top and it was often windy.

We  headed out along Grant Lake and after 1/2 took the Halls Valley Road up the hill.  The hike is almost all on ranch roads although the park refers to them as “trails.”  Except for the short single track to the point, all roads also allow dogs on leashes.  Most of the climbing for this hike occurs in the first half of the hike.  Half way up the road we saw three wild pigs on the next hill, it didn’t take long to find one of their hangouts which was a wet spot along the road that was worn down with pig tracks.  Wild pigs have long been a problem in this park.  At the top the trail meets up with Canada de Pala Trail and you take a left turn and gradually climb up the road toward the point.  Another road intersects in a mile but stay to the right on Pala Seca Trail.  There was signs of control burning along this section — there should be great wildflowers here next spring!  Continue on the road until you reach a single track trail that will take you the last 1/2 mile to Antler Point.  In a previous writeup I said the point was really on a faded trail to the right overlooking the east.  This is really an old volunteers hangout.  The real point is somewhere below the bench at the top.  Have lunch here and enjoy the view but be prepared for some wind.

Returning we backtracked to the road and made a right turn and headed down to the hunting cabin that is being restored by a volunteer.  There is a writeup on the wall about President Hoover visiting to fish in the area.  The cabin also has a picnic table on the porch which is a good alternate lunch stop if the point is too cold.  Continue down Canada de Pala Trail and you will notice some work being down in a meadow to the left.  This wetland high meadow is being restored by the county.  Here we spotted a coyote hunting the plentiful ground squirrels.

You soon pass and intersection to the right to Washburn Trail but continue on the same road until you meet up again with Pala Seca Trail.  Head back down to the right, staying on Canada de Pala Trail.   Pass the Halls Valley Road until you come to the Los Huecos Trail.  Head down the road on the right.  This road is steep in spots.  We saw a nice looking four-pointed buck here who didn’t seem to mind us.  At the bottom you meet back up with the Halls Valley Road.  Turn left and complete your hike back to the parking lot.

I love this hike because of the open hills and great views.  It is also a pretty good workout with 1900 feet of climbing and 9.6 to 10 miles.  I don’t believe the GPS reading of 10.9 but I will have to try it again.  If you add up the mileage on the County park map above it is 9.6 miles.


Fall Creek — Barrel Mill Site to Lost Camp

Just the facts:  9-10 miles, 2000 feet climbing, 4 hours.

I went back to Fall Creek to scout out the new unmarked trail I found last week.  Of course, after doing this hike I realize it is on the excellent San Lorenzo Valley trail map put out by Redwood hikes —  just not marked.  As usual, I began at the San Lorenzo Elementary School parking lot off Highway 9 just east of Felton.  To find the trailhead to the High School Trail locate the football stadium and head to the back of the bleachers.  You will see a road that goes between the childcare center and enviromental site.  Take this road and you will soon see a wood bridge on the left.  Cross here and you are now entering the Fall Creek part of Henry Cowell State Park.

There are no dogs or bikes allowed here but everyone seems to ignore the dog rule.  High School Trail is a beautiful one mile, relatively flat, trail through the redwoods.  Today,  I head up the Ridge Trail for 1.1 miles and connect with the short S-Cape Trail.   The S-Cape Trail drops down to the Fall Creek Trail.  Fall Creek Trail is where 80% of the hikers walk.  It is a pretty walk but if you want to avoid the crowds just hike the surrounding trails.  Take a right on the Fall Creek Trail and you will have an easy stroll along the creek.

After 1/2 mile begin looking for signs of the unmarked trail.  Of course, there are many trails going down to the creek so it is best to keep watch for the beam bridge that crosses the creek — not downed trees but a foot wide beam.   The trail is about a 100 yards before you get to the Barrel Mill Site.  So if you reach the mill site turn about and back track to the unmarked trail.

I decide to give the wooden beam a try today and easily cross it.  It is solid and only about 8 feet above the creek — not as high as it seemed coming down the hill last time!  The trail is well-built and I wonder if it will be open to general use someday.   I find it easier to go up, avoiding the slippery, steep section coming down near the top.  There is one spot where you need to climb under a huge downed tree, that horses cannot pass, so it appears to be a hikers-only trail.

The trail has switchbacks and in one area there are trees that have been cleared using an axe rather than a saw, another sign that this is not a park authorized trail.  Either that, or volunteers did not like chainsaws.  It  takes me about 20 minutes to reach the Lost Empire Trail so the trail is under a mile.  The trail is well used so many folks have discovered the short-cut.

Turning left on the Lost Empire Trail it is only about a minute walk to Lost Camp.  From Lost Camp I continue on the Lost Empire Trail, taking about 30 minutes to reach the summit and the Big Ben tree and, thus, the Big Ben Trail.  Contining down I cross Fall Creek and meet up with the Fall Creek Trail in another 30 minutes.   From this trail intersection Barrel Mill Site is another .6 miles so I estimate that the unmarked trail cuts about 2.5 miles off of the usual loop.  In another 10 minutes I pass the mill site and continue walking on Fall Creek Trail toward Fall Creek Drive.  DO NOT take the Bennett Trail which go right toward the parking lot on Empire Grade Road. Around 1/4 mile before Fall Creek Drive the High School Trail joins back up on the left.  Fall Creek Drive is another entrance to the park but there is no street parking.

The High School Trail is one mile back to the high school.  The elementary and middle school sits just above the high school.

Fall Creek — Unmarked Trail from Lost Camp

It was Friday so I knew I couldn’t park at the San Lorenzo High School so I began this hike from the main dirt parking lot off of Empire Grade Road about two miles above Felton.  I headed up to the Lime Kilns and then was planning on doing the loop up to Big Ben and back down Fall Creek.  However, once I got to Lost Camp I realized I needed to get back so turned around to back track.

About 100 yards from Lost Camp I spotted a trail headed down from the left of the trail.  I decided I had enough time to go exploring a little.  The trail was obviously built by someone.  Although it was steep by today’s trail standards it was a good trail with shovel marks that showed someone put a lot of work into it.  The trail traversed below the Lost Empire Trail and then turned back in one long switchback, heading down toward Fall Creek.  It was a good trail but was covered with fall leaves so had to pay attention.  Any false trails were covered up to keep folks on track.  Whoever made this trail wanted to make sure people didn’t get lost!  The trail went down steeply and ended at a large beam bridge over Fall Creek that met up with the Fall Creek Trail.  It didn’t look particularly sturdy to me, and was narrow so I elected to rock hop over the creek — easy to do in August but much harder in winter.

I was now on Fall Creek Trail with the barrel mill site down the trail to the left.   This trail is great and probably knocks about a mile off of the regular loop trail.   Next time I will pay more attention to distance.  I hiked back up Fall Creek to the Lime Kiln Trail and out to the parking lot.  About 3 hours and 1,500 of climbing.  Maybe 7 miles or more.

Alum Rock Park to Boccardo Trail

Alum Rock Park is one of my favorite parks in San Jose.  This is my mini Mission Peak hike but with fewer hikers and closer to downtown San Jose.  To get to this hike take the Alum Rock Avenue exit from 680 Freeway and head for the east foothills.  The Avenue passes a golf course on the left and will dead end at Alum Rock Park.  Park along the street.   This was the old entrance to Alum Rock Park but was closed a few years ago due to the shifting hillside.  

As you face the bike and pedestrian entrance take the single track dirt trail on the left and head down into the park.  After about 1/2 mile the trail ends at the main trail along Penitencia Creek which has its own park and trail system outside of Alum Rock Park.  This creek cuts down the middle of Alum Rock Park and was the destination for residents in the early 1900s who took the train here from downtown.  Take the trail to the right and you will soon cross a major bridge and will meet up with the paved road that goes into the park.  Cross the paved road and turn right again and follow along the main road about a 100 feet until you meet up with a dirt road that takes a sharp hairpin turn to the left.  Begin climbing up this road and bear to the right at the top of the first hill.  You are now head toward the Eagle Peak Trail.  Continue climbing and you will soon meet up with a road that will take you to the left up to Eagle Peak.  Skip this and continue straight along the road another 1/2 mile to the trail sign for Todd Quick Trail on the left.

Todd Quick Trail is a loop trail and is the only entrance to the Santa Clara County Open Space area, informally called Sierra Vista,  about Alum Rock Park.  At the top of Todd Quick is one lonely picnic table.  Behind the picnic table to the right is a gate and the entrance to the Boccardo Trail.  Once you close the gate there is a large sign welcoming you to the Open Space area and with maps of the 3 mile loop trail.

I do this trail clockwise because it is steeper and a better workout.  If you would like to try a slightly gentler way, take the loop trail to the right.  This trail should only be done in the early morning or late afternoon during the summer months because it has no shade and is HOT!  There is no water along the way so be sure to bring some with you.  The trail going up is an old ranch road so is steep in sections.  The new addition to the trail was built a couple of years ago and has switchbacks and is .4 miles longer so gains the 1,000 feet more gradually.  This trail has great views of the Santa Clara Valley.

After completing the Boccardo Trail go back out the gate to Alum Rock Park and Todd Quick Trail and take a left on the trail.  Complete the loop to the Weather Loop Trail.  Take a left at the first dirt road (North Rim Trail) and continue taking left turns until you hit the paved road above the Alum Rock Park main parking lot.  Follow the paved, now private road down into the main Alum Rock Park area.  The road will end at a bridge.  Continue over the bridge and continue straight and look for a paved road going up the hill to the right.  This road climbs out and ends back at Alum Rock Avenue.  Total mileage around 6 miles, 2.5 hours, 1,500 feet of climbing.

China Creek Trail, Taylor Creek Trail off Briggs Valley Road

I am spending my vacation in Southern Oregon and will be mostly on the Rogue River but I had a day before my guided trip so I sought out a local hike not on the Rogue River.  The general manager of Morrison Lodge suggested hikes along Briggs Valley Road which goes 36 miles all the way to Highway 199.  The one lane road is paved and in good condition — more than I can say about the China Creek Trail.  At mileage marker 2.2 along the road is a vista overlook with an old sign with the trails marked, unfortunately the metal sign was used as target practice so the trails aren’t clear, however, there is narrative on numerous trails in the area.

The Taylor Creek Trail goes 10 miles along the road on the far side of the creek and is well maintained and marked.  There are several  different trailheads along the road.  I explored the trail from mileage marker 7 (spray painted on the paved road) and it was a great hike, mostly level but some gentle climbing .  You cross over two wooded bridges that have seen better days — there are boards missing and some old highway cones warning of the problem.   One bridge is now closed and the trail has been re-routed to cross the creek, easy to do in August.  Farther down you come across a mining claim that has an old tent cabin and table.  I highly recommend this trail for meandering in lush surroundings.

Another trail I did was the China Creek Trail.  This trail is 5.9 miles, total out and back, but is only well used for the first 1.5 miles.  Even this part was overgrown with poison oak so I would not  recommend it if you are sensitive to the stuff.  The hike is a good workout but you are climbing over some downed trees and the 3-4 inches of dead madrone leaves on some of the steep trail was slick.  The trail dead ends at the bottom at China Creek which is surprisingly good sized.  There is a log that crosses the creek but the trail seems to end there.  It looks like you may be able to bush-whack along the creek if you have the time and don’t mind more poison oak!  The return trip has you climbing out for over a mile, my guess is a total of 800 to 1,000 feet of total climbing.

There are numerous signs of bears along the trail with scat and dug  out areas.  Didn’t see any bears or any other wildlife.   If you are looking for a recommendation, I would skip this trip and do more hiking on the Taylor Creek Trail.

Rhus Ridge to Black Mountain

Description:  9.6 miles, 2400 feet of climbing, 4.5 hours.  Topo map of hike. 

Tuesday I took off work to hike Black Mountain in Rancho San Antonio Open Space expecting to start from Hidden Villa.  Little did I know that they close the park to hikers during the summer for kids’ camps.  So I turned around and headed to Rhus Ridge Road.  There are 8 ways to hike up Black Mountain according to one website.  I had heard about this entrance but have never hiked from it.  The parking lot is small so I assume it would be difficult parking on weekends.   Directions to the trailhead are easy to follow.  This hike started out climbing and reminded me of Almaden Quicksilver’s Hacienda Entrance.  

It was a hot day (90) and even in the shade it was a tough .9 miles to Black Mountain Trail.  Once on the top the trail climbs gradually for three miles before climbing sharply for the last 1.5 miles.  It took me 2.5 hours to get to the top, stopping for rests and food breaks.   At the top the view is great but there is no shade for a rest stop.  a dead end trail to the left takes you to some tree but not really a great place to rest. This hike is best done in spring when it is green and cool and you can hang out on the rocks at the top.  I have also done this hike in winter when it is so wet and cold you can”t see 50 feet in front of you.

Returning was easy, except for some slippery steep downhill.  Return trip took less than 2  hours.  This is a good hike if you are looking for some serious exercise that is an easy drive from the south bay.  The Bay Area Hiker website has a good write up on this hike but there are slight differences in distances and elevation gain.

Fall Creek High School Trail to Truck Trail

High School Trail Loop: 9 miles, 1300 feet of climbing, moderately slow pace, 4 hours.

I took my usual hike starting from the San Lorenzo Elementary School parking lot. Traversing the east side of the track field the hike starts behind the field on the road between the childcare center and the environmental center. Today I took the Ridge Trail up to the Truck Trail. Instead of cutting down to the Fall Creek Trail I continued on the Truck Trail for a while. To my surprise it was a level, pleasant walk to a grove of mid-size redwoods named for a donor, Goldie. From here the trail soon started downhill so I turned around and retraced my steps to the junction down to Fall Creek. I went left at the creek, past the Barrel Mill Site and connected up with the North Trail. Fall Creek Park is basically divided up into the South fork and North fork sections of the creek. I took the level North Fork back to Fall Creek Drive and cut back to High School Trail.