×

12 Top-Rated Hiking Trails near San Jose, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Dec 16, 2019

The largest city in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, San Jose has nearby hiking trails complemented nicely by consistently sunny weather. In-city hiking is easily accomplished with several paved pedestrian pathways throughout San Jose, all of which connect with different parks and hiking areas. For more adventurous hiking near San Jose, the trails with the best views are found in the surrounding Santa Cruz Mountains, which separate San Jose from the ocean.

Places in the Santa Cruz Mountains like Almaden Quicksilver County Park and Fremont Older Open Space Preserve are lined with hiking trails. Many of their trails meander past redwood trees, historic mining operations, and overlooks of the Santa Clara Valley. Other hiking trails, like the Mount Umunhum Trail in the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, offer expansive views of the ocean.

More hiking trails near San Jose can be found in the Diablo Range northwest of the city, including the popular Alum Rock Park in the foothills. The paved Penitencia Creek Trail meanders throughout Alum Rock Park, one of the oldest city parks in the state, and heads west beyond park boundaries before connecting with Coyote Creek.

Other paved hiking trails span the rest of the city and connect multiple scenic destinations in one continuous path. The Los Gatos Creek Trail is another popular parkway that starts in San Jose; it stretches 10 miles to the south while crossing through open spaces like Los Gatos Creek County Park.

Discover more places to explore around the city with our list of the top hiking trails near San Jose.

1. Eagle Rock Trail, Alum Rock Park

San Jose from Eagle Rock

In the gorgeous Alum Rock Canyon on the northeast outskirts of the city, this community park is one of the oldest in California. Encompassing 720 acres surrounding Upper Penitencia Creek, Alum Rock Park entices hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders with approximately 13 miles of trails. About half of the trails at Alum Rock Park are reserved exclusively for hikers.

Offering one of the best views in the park, the route to Eagle Rock is open to all non-motorized trails users. From the parking area on Penitencia Creek Road, hikers looking to climb the approximately 400 feet to Eagle Rock need to first hop on the North Rim Trail. From the eastern trailhead, it's nearly a four-mile, out-and-back trip to Eagle Rock. A shorter alternative is available from the western trailhead.

The paved Penitencia Creek Trail also spans for nearly two miles within Alum Rock Park, connecting both trailheads of the North Rim Trail. This popular pathway also connects with other hiking-only trails in the area like Inspiration Point Loop. Going beyond park boundaries, Penitencia Creek Trail extends three miles east from Alum Rock Park to Coyote Creek.

Address: 5341 Sierra Road, San Jose, California

2. Wildcat Loop Trail, Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

Wildcat Loop Trail

One of the most popular open space preserves in the South Bay, Rancho San Antonio is a 20-minute drive from downtown. The open space preserve and adjacent county park has over 24 miles of multi-use trails available for hikers, bikers, and horse riders. The approximately three-mile Wildcat Loop Trail is a good entry point into the expansive public space.

Starting at a parking lot near the historic Deer Hollow Farm, where a restroom facility is available, hikers start on the Wildcat Loop by traversing a scenic creek with little elevation gain. A slight climb on the Wildcat Loop Trail offers some big views atop a ridgeline, as well as a stunning display of wildflowers in the spring. The trail connects with the Rogue Valley Trail before heading back down to Deer Hollow Farm.

Numerous other hiking trails connect to the Wildcat Loop, including the more strenuous Stephen E. Abbors Trail, formerly known as the PG&E Trail. The most strenuous hiking trail at the preserve, the Black Mountain Trail, is an eight-mile round trip from the closest trailhead.

Address: 22500 Cristo Rey Drive, Cupertino, California

Official site: https://www.openspace.org/preserves/rancho-san-antonio

3. Coyote Peak, Santa Teresa County Park

Hiking trail at Santa Teresa County Park

A 20-minute drive south of downtown San Jose, Santa Teresa County Park offers an easy escape into nature with eighteen miles of hiking trails. Multiple different routes and loops can be created to reach the top of the 1,155-foot Coyote Peak within Santa Teresa County Park, and all of them involve climbing. A common approach is to start at the Pueblo Day Use Area and traverse the steep Rocky Ridge Trail to connect with the Coyote Peak Trail.

After following the Coyote Peak Trail and summit spur trail, hikers can hop on the Hidden Spring Trail to make a loop back to the parking area. It's approximately a four-mile round trip in this fashion, with over 750 feet of elevation gain along the way. Longer loops can be created by utilizing the nearby Ridge Trail or Ohlone Trail. Water is available at the Pueblo Day Use Area.

Address: Bernal Road, San Jose, California

4. English Camp and Deep Gulch Trail, Almaden Quicksilver County Park

Old sheet barn used in Mercury Mining at Almaden Quicksilver County Park

In the high hills above the southern suburbs of San Jose, this 4,000-plus-acre park has over 35 miles of hiking trails and a long history with mining. This area was once home to one of the most productive mercury mines in California, and home to thousands of miners and their families, and remnants of these operations remain throughout the park today. The park has three entrances, including the Hacienda Entrance, where hikers can pick up the English Camp and Deep Gulch Trails.

Paralleling each other with a gentle slope, both English Camp Trail and Deep Gulch Trail traverse just over a mile to reach a prominent junction in the park's network of hiking trails. The remnants of an English Camp can be explored at this junction, where other trails like the Castillero Trail and the Mine Hill Trail also converge. Historical remnants line all these trails in the central area of the park and combine to make a Quicksilver History Trail with numerous looped options available.

On-leash pets are welcome on all trails at Almaden Quicksilver County Park, and no reliable water facilities are available.

Address: 21785 Almaden Road, San Jose, California

5. Hunters Point, Fremont Older Open Space Preserve

Fremont Older Open Space Preserve | David Baron / photo modified

Just outside of Saratoga and southwest of San Jose, Fremont Older Open Space Preserve can be reached from downtown San Jose in 25 minutes by car. Fourteen miles of trails navigate the undulating low hills of the preserve, including a scenic trail up to Hunters Point. From the Prospect Road entrance of the preserve, hikers start on the Cora Older Trail to reach Hunters Point, and continue on the Hayfield Trail for the quickest route to the top.

Approximately a mile-and-a-half round trip, this route to Hunters Point climbs less than 500 feet and provides a beautiful view of the Santa Clara Valley. With a more moderate climb from the Prospect Road trailhead, an even higher vantage point can be experienced at Maisie's Peak.

Another popular trail at the preserve is the Coyote Ridge Trail that connects to the adjacent Stevens Creek County Park.

Official site: https://www.openspace.org/preserves/fremont-older

6. Sequoia Trail, Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Sempervirens Falls on the Sequoia Trail

The oldest state park in California, Big Basin Redwoods is located under 40 miles southwest of San Jose. Encompassing dramatic ocean views, tumbling waterfalls, and ancient groves of coastal redwood trees, some over 300 feet tall, Big Basin Redwoods is also home to nearly 80 miles of hiking trails. The half-mile interpretive Redwood Trail is a must-do hike at Big Basin, where hikers encounter the Mother and Father of the Forest and some of the biggest trees in the park.

For a slightly more strenuous hike surrounded by redwoods, the Sequoia Trail provides a four-mile loop that utilizes the Skyline to the Sea Trail. The trail has very minimal elevation gain and the 20-foot Sempervirens Falls is a good hangout spot roughly halfway along the trail.

For a more challenging hike in the same area, the 10.5-mile Berry Creek Falls Trail showcases four different tumbling waterfalls.

One of the most popular backpacking trails in the Bay Area also ends at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The Skyline-to-Sea Trail spans thirty miles from Castle Rock State Park to Waddell Beach in Big Basin, and is usually traversed over three days of hiking. Backpackers from San Jose can be at the Castle Rock Trailhead in less than an hour. Reservations are required to use the backcountry campsites.

Address: 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=540

7. Peak Trail, Mission Peak Open Space Preserve

Sunrise on Mission Peak

North of the city near Fremont, Mission and Monument Peaks are a defining feature of the South Bay skyline. Surrounded by 3,000 acres of parkland, the strenuous route to the top of the 2,517-foot Mission Peak offers a rewarding goal. Starting from the Ohlone College Parking Area, it's a three-mile uphill effort to the top of Mission Peak, but the 360-degree views of surrounding mountain ranges are really worth the effort.

It's just over a six-mile loop to get back to Ohlone College from the top of Mission Peak, and no water facilities exist along the trail. Summer temperatures and exposed areas of Mission Peak Open Space Preserve have prevented hikers from making it to the top. During hotter times of the year, the morning is the best time to attempt a summit of Mission Peak.

Official site: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/mission/default.htm

8. Aquila Loop Trail, Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve

Beautiful view from the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve

In the foothills above Alum Rock Park, less than eight miles from downtown, the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve offers an easy escape from the South Bay. Encompassing over 1,600 acres of woodlands, grasslands, and rolling topography, the Aquila Loop Trail is a good first place to start exploring the park. With minimal elevation gain, this 1.2-mile, family-friendly loop meanders through grasslands and has great views the entire way.

Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve is home to more challenging hikes, like the five-plus mile Boccardo Loop Trail on the west side of the park. On the east side, connected by the Sierra Vista Trail, hikers can go the distance and explore places like the Upper and Lower Calaveras Fault. Ambitious day hikers can also connect Sierra Vista Open Space trails with the adjacent Alum Rock Park for a big out-and-back hike.

Address: 5341 Sierra Road, San Jose, California

Official Site: https://www.openspaceauthority.org/visitors/preserves/sierra.html#about

9. Mount Umunhum Trail, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve

Sunset from the Mount Umunhum summit

Abutting Almaden Quicksilver County Park on the south side of the city, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve encompasses one of the highest peaks in the Santa Cruz Mountains. At 3,486 feet in elevation, Mount Umunhum provides a defining view of the South Bay and entices hikers with a moderate climb to the top. A steep and narrow paved road accesses a parking area at the top of the summit, but the best way to earn the views is along the 3.4-mile Mount Umunhum Trail.

Beginning at the Bald Mountain Parking Area, the Mount Umunhum Trail gains just over a thousand feet on its way to the summit. Beautiful views only get bigger as you make your way up the trail, and on clear days, hikers can see as far as the Monterey Peninsula.

Significant cultural attractions are also found at the summit of Mount Umunhum, including a dedicated Ceremonial Space that honors the indigenous peoples whose cultures are tied to the region.

Official site: https://www.openspace.org/preserves/sierra-azul

10. Lisa Killough Trail, Calero County Park

Lisa Killough Trail

On the southeast edge of the city, Calero County Park is home to the popular Calero Reservoir. A hot spot for motorized and non-motorized boating, Calero County Park also has nearly 19 miles of trails spanning its "backcountry" region. Starting from the Rancho San Vicente Entrance in the parks northwest corner, the five-mile Lisa Killough Trail is a great way to get into the heart of this wilderness area.

With less than 750 feet of ascent, and an optional stop at Lisa's Lookout picnic area, this point-to-point hike finishes at a junction with the Cottle Trail and an overlook of the Calero Reservoir. Hikers can travel much deeper into Calero County Park from here, with immediate access to the Serpentine Loop. Hikers can also take the Cottle Trail back along the banks of the reservoir for an approximately eight-mile loop.

Address: 23205 McKean Road, San Jose, California

11. Coyote Creek Trail, Hellyer County Park

Ducks on Cottonwood Lake adjacent to the Coyote Creek Trail | Don DeBold / photo modified

When fully completed, the Coyote Creek Trail will ultimately connect the San Francisco Bay to the southern end of San Jose. Currently, a 15-mile paved portion of the route extends south from Hellyer County Park to Anderson Lake County Park. Popular with hikers and bicyclists, the trail passes by numerous park attractions in Hellyer, including an Olympic size velodrome and the scenic Cottonwood Lake.

The Coyote Creek Trail also extends north from Hellyer County Park and passes through the Los Lagos Golf Course.

Address: 985 Hellyer Avenue, San Jose, California

12. Los Gatos Creek Trail

Los Gatos Creek Trail

Spanning for 10 miles between the city of Los Gatos and San Jose, this paved pedestrian path is well utilized by hikers, bikers, and anyone looking to get outside. Alongside forested corridors and scenic wooden bridges, the Los Gatos Creek Trail also passes through several outdoor spaces like Vasona County Park and Los Gatos Creek County Park. Networks of dirt hiking trails branch away from the paved path in these public green spaces. Numerous access points and public restrooms also line the trail.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

Hiking and Camping in San Francisco: The best hiking trails near San Francisco lead to views of redwood forests, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the rugged edge of the continent. Similarly, the best campgrounds near San Francisco offer tent and RV sites with quite the view.

Exploring the Outdoors near Santa Cruz: Farther south along the coast, the sunny weather of Santa Cruz affords adventure throughout the year. The top-rated campgrounds near Santa Cruz have overnight guests waking up to either the ocean or magnificent redwoods, and the top-rated hiking trails explore these diverse and magnificent environments.

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.

More on California