Every time I’ve driven down on Hwy 85 for many years now, I would see these beautiful hills to my right and have always wondered what was out there. Turns out Almaden Quicksilver County Park is one of the jewels of the Santa Clara County Park system! With close to 35 miles of crisscrossed trails, this park is mostly undeveloped, but has a rich history in mercury mining that dates back to the Gold Rush Era. And as I would learn through reading a fair bit about this park, the wild flowers here (during spring) are apparently unbelievably amazing. Note to self about going back here next fall.
Almaden Quicksilver County Park
Maybe I’m more consciously looking out for new 50K ultra marathons to run lately, but I didn’t realize until last week that there’s a 50K race right here on this park. I started out at the Mockingbird Hill entrance to the park and ran this 14.7 mile loop with a total elevation gain of 2,565 feet. While the first part of the run was fairly exposed, the highlight was definitely the New Almaden Trail, a 6 mile stretch of single track, with beautiful oak trees providing an almost complete shade.
A majority of the climbing comes in the first half of this run, as you work your way up on Hacienda Trail towards Mine Hill Trail. The English Camp at the top was originally a settlement established by Cornish miners in the 1860′s. From there you can see spectacular views of the mighty Mt. Umunhum (Ohlone, meaning resting place of the humming bird), the 4th highest peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains. My original plan was to take Castillero Trail back on to the Mine Hill Trail, but it was a nice cool day, I was feeling strong and decided to take the slightly longer Guadalupe Trail. With beautiful views of the reservoir, this eventually circles back to New Almaden Trail.
Here’s the route that I took:
- Mockingbird Hill (park entrance)
- Virt O. Norton Trail
- Hacienda Trail (right)
- Capehorn Pass Trail
- Mine Hill Trail
- Castillero Trail
- Mine Hill Trail
- Guadalupe Trail
- New Almaden Trail
As part of my Bay Area Trail Running series, I definitely plan on going back here to run the Sierra Azul point-to-point 12-mile run from Lexington Reservoir to Hicks Road. Or maybe I should wait until spring before the wildflowers show up!
Have you run the Almaden Quicksilver County Park? What’s your favorite route?