Hi! I am Aleksandra and I am a graduate student at San José State University. Whenever I have free time, I love to spend time surrounded by nature. It is such a great way to relax and “recharge batteries.” Sometimes, the best ideas come to my mind when I am hiking because I let my mind drift freely, without stress and rushing anything. In the past I worked professionally in the outdoor recreation field and I still have the passion for sharing my experience with others. Now, I would like to share it with you and recommend you the best hiking locations in our area. Trust me, they are great. If you are looking to unwind this summer, check out these locations.
The Bay Area is well known for its amazing hiking locations – many of them are in close proximity from the SJSU campus. Life as a graduate student can be busy and stressful, so spending time outdoors is a great way to relax and unwind. While studying at SJSU you should really take advantage of all the locations that are so close from campus, that allows you to get away from the city hustle!
Almaden Quicksilver County Park
My personal favorite park that I can never get bored of. Miles of trails – from easy 3-mile loops to strenuous all-day “ultras.” Fabulous views of the Almaden Valley, Downtown SJ, and Sierra Azul Mountains.
Enjoy the remains of the mines, mining towns, mysteries, and thrilling legends! If you want more, on your way stop by the historic town of New Almaden – no joking, every resident there has a story they love to share.
My favorite loop: 13 miles starting from the Hacienda entrance (New Almaden), going through English Camp, Mine Hill, and Guadalupe Reservoir, and back around through Mockingbird. You will get warmed up at the first 2 miles of a climb and then enjoy the moderately flat hike for the rest of the loop.
Quicksilver is accessible from 5 entrances – it doesn’t matter where in South Bay you are located, you will be able to reach an entrance within a 25-minute drive. Each entrance gives you a slightly different approach to the park and a unique story behind it.
Uvas Canyon County Park
Uvas Canyon is a real hidden gem. Located a bit remotely is often overlooked by hikers. What a shame! This wonderful park will welcome you with the peace and quiet of a secluded canyon and the soothing sound of water flowing in creeks. As soon as you fall in love with that calmness, you’ll face a new thrill – a series of beautiful waterfalls.
Uvas Canyon is a perfect location for summer hikes – mostly shaded, with trails following along the streams. It provides a lovely refuge from the heat and racket of the city.
Best hike to do there? Go for it all – start with the waterfall loopand don’t hesitate to add a 3-mile-long, out-and-back trail for a Nibbs Knob. That part is not easy, but absolutely worth it. Views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and majestic Loma Prieta compensate for every drop of sweat, I promise!
Accessible from the private location – a lovely and welcoming Swedish community. The number of parking spots is limited, so make sure to plan your visit ahead and make a reservation.
Calero County Park
Calero is a great park, especially for beginners, or if you want to get outside but not get too tired (strenuous options available too if you only feel like it). Big open spaces, fabulous views of the lake, and various trail options to choose from – what else do you need?
This park is my favorite for mountain biking – if you are a beginner like me, you will find it perfect. Leave your car at the San Vincente entrance and warm up by riding on McKean road to the Main Entrance. Take the Oak Cove Trail all around the lake – enjoy the wonderful views, empty trail, and tricky (though not too difficult) turns. After the big crossroads, you will follow the Lisa Killough Trail all the way back to your car. The trail ends with a fun downhill cruise – beware though, there is a closed gate at the end of the descent, so make sure to stop on time (trust me, I learned my lesson the hard way).
Calero is a great location for everybody – hikers, runners, bikers, and equestrians. It is a “Choose your own adventure” kind of park. Great location for winter and spring hikes, it gets a bit hot in the summer as most of the trails are in the open sun. Bring sunscreen and plenty of water!
Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve
Small, but an incredibly fun park. Quite literally hidden on the southern border of San Jose, Coyote Open Space is a great location for beginners, families, and hikers who need a quick but intense stroll.
Coyote is a 4-mile-long, one-way loop. Usually it’s not too busy, and you will surely come across some animals – from cows to coyotes, chipmunks to birds. The trail goes across multiple wooden bridges, which surely adds a bit of charm to your hike.
I like this park early in the morning, especially on weekdays. Usually, you won’t meet too many people there. Instead, you’ll see coyotes on their way home from nightly hunts. Personal advice – don’t put your headset in, enjoy the sounds of nature.
Wonderful location for beginner trail runners – you will get good practice, but not overdo it. A loop splits equally between 2 miles of gradual uphill and 2 miles of downhill. Check the website before visiting – this location tends to close quite a bit due to seasonal fire hazards.
Henry Coe State Park
Last but not least – majestic Henry Coe State Park. Probably the most remote of the 5 parks I mentioned, but surely worth a bit of a drive. Speaking of driving – there are some spectacular views to enjoy on the way there, keep your eyes on the road.
Henry Coe Park provides miles and miles of hiking and biking trails – from small, family-friendly loops, to 30+ mile backpacking trails. Great location to start your backpacking adventure or test the gear before hitting the bigger mileage.
If you have time, take a longer route and go all the way to the China Hole – it’s hard but worth the effort. This 10-mile loop with a perfect mid-hike lunch location by the water is just dreamy. Not too many people hike there, so you will surely enjoy the peace and quiet every time of the year. Watch out for Poison Oak around the China Hole!
The Ranger station at the main trailhead has the most helpful staff – they will always share their advice about the best trail, or interesting facts about the park’s nature. Worth stopping by for a little chat before hiking.
Ready for hiking?
Have you visited all the locations, or did I mention some you’ve never tried before? Go check them out now and let me know what you think.
Before you start hiking make sure to check each of the park’s websites for all the detailed information or check your favorite hiking app.