Best Easy Day Hikes San Jose  by Tracy Salcedo-Chourre

Best Easy Day Hikes: San Jose Guide Book

by Tracy Salcedo-Chourre (Falcon Guides)
Best Easy Day Hikes San Jose  by Tracy Salcedo-Chourre
Best Easy Day Hikes San Jose features concise descriptions and easy-to-follow maps of seventeen easily manageable hikes through the natural wonders and former ranches of San Jose and environs, from the marshes of Palo Alto’s Baylands to the highlands of Henry Coe State Park. Look inside for: • Half-hour strolls and full-day adventures • Hikes for everyone, including families • Hikes ranked from easiest to most challenging • GPS-compatible trail maps

© 2009 Tracy Salcedo-Chourre/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Easy Day Hikes: San Jose" Guide Book
Displaying trails 17 of 17.

Displaying trails 1 to 17 of 17.

Boardwalks and easy levee-top walking lead out through marshlands to the bayshore, where you’ll enjoy fantastic bay views and birding opportunities. Snowy egrets rise like shooting stars out of the reeds and rushes that surround Alviso Slough. They have plenty of company, with other shorebirds cruising low over the water looking for a meal, and still others poking in the mud at low tide for the tasty nuggets that hide below the surface. The birds—and the hikers who enjoy their company— reap benefits proffered by the slough’s proximity to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which preserves about 30,000 acres of water and tidal lands in the South and East Bays.
Alviso, CA - Birding,Hiking,Sea Kayaking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 2.8
Meander through the domain of shorebirds and salt marshes on this scenic, lengthy stretch of trail along the bayshore. Amazingly, you’ll feel completely separate from all that the South Bay is famous for—high tech, fast living, crowded freeways—on this stretch of trail, which thrusts you into the realm of shorebirds in an arguably pristine bayshore environment.
Palo Alto, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 5.2
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From weirdly sculpted rock outcrops to a waterfall that plunges more than a hundred feet down a sheer face, this tour will satisfy the thrill-seeker in every hiker. What a trip! From the pocked, overhanging faces of Castle Rock to the observation deck jutting out over the 80-foot falls at the headwaters of Kings Creek, the scenic destinations on this tour are enchanting. Castle Rock, the park’s high point, is more a palace for forest gnomes than princesses. Perched on the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, its sandstone faces host a honeycomb of holds, shallow caves, and, on dry sunny days, crowds of climbers. Views are obscured by the dense forest that surrounds the rock and its smaller counterparts, but you can pull up a piece of the stone apron that surrounds the base and enjoy the athletic showmanship.
Saratoga, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 2.6
Short and charming, this interpretive trail through the site of an ancient Ohlone village opens a window into the lives of the prehistoric people that called this peaceful creekside site home. So informative and lovely you’ll want to do laps, the interpretive trail through Chitactac Adams Heritage County Park immerses visitors in the story of the Ohlone people and in the natural environment they occupied. The trail is so short and well defined it’s impossible to get lost, but it’s so packed with information and beautiful scenery it deserves your undivided attention. Indeed, you may be so drawn in by the spectacular setting, with Uvas Creek pooling in a lush bottomland at the base of an impressive rock outcroppings, that you may miss fascinating details about how the Indians utilized the creek and the creatures and plants that thrive by it.
Gilroy, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.3
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Open meadows, meandering creeks, a historic corral, and a small lake lie along this loop through cattle country in the scenic Halls Valley. The Halls Valley looks a lot like neighboring Santa Clara Valley did before the dawn of the silicon age. Not as untouched as when the Ohlone Indians worked the woodlands, harvesting oaks for acorns and hunting for game, but the legacy of its days as a rancho lingers. Tangible evidence of the park’s agricultural heritage include the ranch roads upon which many of the trails lie, the cattle that continue to graze in some areas as part of a resource management program, and the Circle Corral, its fence boards silvered by the sun and stained green and white with lichen.
Campbell, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Trail Running - Trail Length: 4.5
Well-maintained, moderately graded, and very popular, these trails lead to a lovely riparian corridor along Wildcat Creek and past picturesque Deer Hollow Farm. The history of the Rancho San Antonio park complex encapsulates a story shared by many parks in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Ohlone Indians thrived here for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans, harvesting oaks for acorns (their staple food) and using other native plants, like the berries of the bay laurel, blackberries, and willow, for food and medicine. They also hunted the woodlands, which then harbored tule elk and bear.
Los Altos, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Trail Running - Trail Length: 3.4
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A walk-and-talk trail, a workout trail, and a meander through riparian habitat, this popular paved route anchors a narrow greenbelt along pretty Coyote Creek. The Coyote Creek Parkway stretches more than 15 miles from Hellyer County Park in south San Jose to Anderson Lake County Park in Morgan Hill. This linear park is a Santa Clara County treasure, tracing Coyote Creek on its northward run to San Francisco Bay and protecting the fragile riparian habitat that lines its banks. It links open spaces, neighborhoods, business parks, and schools, offering an alternative, human-powered route for commuters and visitors alike.
Morgan Hill, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.6
Even on sunny weekend afternoons the trails at Santa Teresa County Park remain uncrowded—a pleasant surprise given the stunning vistas of the Santa Clara Valley. Perched on the urban interface, a hike in Santa Teresa County Park is by no means a backcountry experience. But it’s also by no means unworthy of a hiker’s attention. With views that rival the best in the area, easy access, moderately challenging trails, and dollops of wilderness dropped here and there along the loop, you won’t regret time spent here. The park has a history almost as convoluted as the suburban landscape it rises above.
Morgan Hill, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 1.7
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The remnants of a historic mining camp, where the families of men excavating valuable ores from the steep hills once abided, is at the apex of this loop. Mercury, called quicksilver, drew miners from around the world to the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine. For more than 135 years, from the time of Mexican rule in California to 1976, the rock containing quicksilver, called cinnabar, was extracted from these hills. Used to process gold and silver ore, the mine produced more than eighty three million pounds of mercury during its long history, according to park literature. The loop to English Camp, one of several camps established in the hills during the mine’s long life, follows wide gently graded mining roads through scenic landscapes with great views.
Morgan Hill, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 3.5
Well-groomed ranch roads lead up onto a ridge where views spread north across blue Calero Reservoir, east into the Diablo Range, and south down the scenic Santa Clara Valley. South of San Jose the landscape is dominated by rolling hills with open faces blanketed in grasses and wildflowers, and folds shaded by oaks, bays, and buckeyes. Classic northern California, this is the setting for Calero Reservoir and the parklands that surround it.
Morgan Hill, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Trail Running - Trail Length: 3.3
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A quiet forest of grand redwoods, scattered eucalyptus, and colorful acacia encases the ruins of the Miller family summer estate and the easy trails that surround them. Set on the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, enveloped in a deep forest that’s cooling even in a hot spell, the ruins of the summer estate built by cattle magnate Henry Miller remain a great place to pass a vacation day. Miller, a German immigrant who came to California hoping to strike it rich in the gold rush, instead made a fortune as a cattle rancher.
Gilroy, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 1.4
History, health, and hiking merge on the flat track that follows Penitencia Creek from the grottos and pools of a onetime spa into a backcountry lush with sycamores, bigleaf maples, and oaks. Tucked in a steep canyon in the hills east of downtown San Jose, Alum Rock Park has been a retreat for the city-weary since 1872. Its mineral springs, still collecting in grottos and fonts along the Penitencia Creek Trail, earned a spa located here national renown at the turn of the twentieth century. More than twenty springs contain seven different minerals including soda, magnesia, iron, and—you can smell this from the trail—sulphur. You can’t “take the waters” these days, but you can enjoy their legacy along this short route.
Milpitas, CA - Hiking,Mountain Biking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 1.4
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In 1906 the San Andreas Fault ruptured, rocking the San Francisco Bay Area and forever altering perceptions of the seemingly serene landscapes. This hike loops through a woodland that sits atop the fault line, where interpretive markers offer insight into the impact of the quake. Ask for a defining historical event in San Francisco and the 1906 earthquake lurches to the forefront. The San Andreas Fault, source of the temblor, slices through the Bay Area and is the focus of this scenic interpretive trail. Without the interpretive guide, available online and at the trailhead, many of the features along the trail that illustrate the impact of the 1906 quake might be overlooked. A few are obvious—yellow-topped posts that mark the San Andreas Fault itself, white-topped posts that mark smaller fault breaks, and a fence installed to show how much the land shifted in the 1906 event.
Los Altos, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
Wildflowers and wild ducks top the list of highlights along this lovely loop, which also encompasses a sultry oak woodland and pleasant views of the surrounding hills and valleys. The summit of Windy Hill is touted as a great place to take in views of San Francisco Bay—and a great place to fly a kite or launch a hang glider if you have the proper permit). But the park’s lower reaches harbor a pond and oak woodland that are equally worthy of a hiker’s attention. The Betsy Crowder Trail, named for a one-time director on the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District board, is a beautiful path through oaks and bays that rings with bird calls.
Los Altos, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Trail Running - Trail Length: 1.4
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This broad walk-and-talk trail is perfect for family outings and hikes with friends. Tracing the shoreline of Stevens Creek Reservoir, the route affords views of boaters and the wooded peaks of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Stevens Creek Reservoir is the primary draw of this county park, and the route described here skirts the shoreline for most of its length. No motorized boats are allowed on the water, so even on the busiest weekends, hikers and other recreationalists aren’t bothered by the drone of engines. Instead, a walk along the shoreline treats visitors to vistas of birds and anglers playing on or along the serene lake. The lakeside trail is broad, allowing families and friends to walk side by side to a little loop overlooking the boat ramp. It is perfect for a weekend outing with the kids, or for an afternoon jog with your best pal (canine or otherwise).
Saratoga, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
A trek along the headwaters of Stevens Creek enfolds hikers in a deepening riparian habitat. Above, on the slopes of Black Mountain, wildflowers, raptors, and views dominate the scene. Literature for Monte Bello Open Space Preserve swells with superlatives, touting the views from highland meadows as “incredible” and the riparian corridor that cradles the headwaters of Stevens Creek as “one of the finest in the Santa Cruz Mountains.” That about sums it up. It wasn’t named “beautiful mountain” (in Italian) for nothing . . . . At more than 2,000 feet in elevation, views south and west from the ridge where this loop trail begins are amazing.
Los Altos, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Trail Running - Trail Length: 2.8
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From the top of the ridge, it’s all about the views. On a clear day the Monument and Ponderosa Trails open on a world that extends from Monterey Bay to the Sierra Nevada. Hitch the vistas to the solitude, and you’re about as close to paradise as you’ll come on a trail. I don’t like to play favorites, but this hike rises to the top like cream, sweet on all the senses. It appeals to the mountain man (or woman), to the solitude seeker, to the armchair pioneer, to the vista lover. You’d expect to work hard for all these rewards, but that’s not the case. It’s quite simply a perfect day hike.
Morgan Hill, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 2.3
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