Haven Livingston
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Three Great South Bay Trails
By Derrick Peterman

Almaden, Quicksilver County Park. Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County Parks

One of the best things about living in the Bay Area is how easy it is to get away from it all. Here are three recommended trails in South Bay parks that offer a great getaway for folks in Silicon Valley. Visitors enjoy running, biking, horseback riding, or just plain walking on these beautiful trails.

Almaden Quicksilver County Park (San Jose, CA)
San Jose’s first high tech industry was mercury mining to support the gold extraction east of Sacramento in California’s Gold Rush days. You’ll find remnants of this history in Almaden Quicksilver County Park, whether it is mining camp ruins, an old smelting furnace, or two contaminated reservoirs at the edge of the park. If you’re not there for a history lesson, there are plenty of physical challenges in this park’s 4,152 acres that occupy a majority of Capitancillos Ridge.

The Mine Hill trail, which starts at the McAbee Road entrance just outside a quiet suburban San Jose neighborhood, is popular with people walking their dogs or taking a morning walk. If you continue along the trail there will be fewer and fewer people as there are a series of inclines that only bikers, fit runners and a few determined hikers take on. To your left will be great aerial views of San Jose. Four miles and a thousand vertical feet later, your efforts are rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Umunhum. From there it is easy to get lost in a maze of fire roads and single track trails, so it is best to pay close attention to all the trail signs at the intersections.

Several ultra marathons and trail races take place in Almaden Quicksilver during the course of the year, and it is a common meeting point for running clubs getting in their weekend long run. Horseback riding and mountain biking are allowed on parts of Almaden Quicksilver’s 34.2 miles of trails.

Paddlers on Calero Reservoir.
Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County Parks

Calero Reservoir oak tree.
Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County Parks

View from Serpentine Trail.
Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County Parks

Calero Reservoir (San Jose, CA)
Located at the southern most edge of San Jose, parts of Calero Reservoir are some of the most lightly traveled public lands in Santa Clara County. It’s too bad few people explore this place, as great views of the surrounding Santa Cruz Mountains await those who brave its steep trails. Wildflowers decorate the park’s hills during the spring and hidden treasures reward those who travel its 18.6 miles of dusty and often challenging trails.

The Serpentine Trail at the remote south end of the park is a great place to seek solitude. This 3.5-mile loop includes a one-mile section that rises 700 feet up a steep, bare hillside.

The small reservoir at the north end of the 4,500-acre park is in sharp contrast to the isolation of Calero’s backcountry, as plenty of small fishing boats, jet skis, and kayaks dot its waters. Calero Reservoir’s trails are closed to bikers and dog walkers, but are open to hikers and horseback riding.

Walking in Rancho San Antonio. Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County Parks

Rancho San Antonio (Los Altos, CA)
This park is full of families hiking, picnicking and exploring Deer Hollow Farm (a small working farm and educational center located a mile inside the park). But deeper inside Rancho San Antonio, lurks one of the most challenging running trails in the Bay Area, the PG&E trail.

This trail is actually a 3.5-mile service road for the transmission towers that climb the outer ridge of the preserve. No matter how long you’ve been grinding up the PG&E trail, there always seems to be more heartbreaking altitude to gain. Finally, at 1,200 feet, the trail becomes the Upper High Meadow Trail, and you get to lose all that elevation you just gained.

If testing yourself on the hills isn’t your thing, there are plenty of flat and moderate sections in Rancho San Antonio. Part of the beauty of this place is that you can create a monstrous trail workout or just get in a few light miles, whatever your fitness or mood allows. Mountain biking and horse back riding is also permitted on many of the trails of this 4,000-acre park.

There’s a lot more to life in the South Bay than sitting in a cubicle and writing code. Now get out there!

The county of Santa Clara has a nice section of their site devoted to their 29 parks. Visit them at ParkHere.org for more information on these and other Santa Clara County Parks.