Alum Rock Park - San Jose, California - Among California's Oldest Municipal Parks


Set within the foothills of the Diablo Range northeast of San Josy, Alum Rock Park occupies a portion of Alum Rock Canyon, where acres of rugged terrain provide opportunities to enjoy nature. "Alum'' refers to deposits of aluminum sulfate concentrated in the area.

Although Alum Rock Park was not formally named until the 20th century, its acreage was set aside as a "reservation'' in 1872. Between 1870 and 1932, many visitors came here to bathe in the waters of 27 mineral springs, giving the park a reputation as a health spa. Crowds of nature lovers from the Santa Clara Valley threatened to harm the natural environs in the 1950s and 60s.

To protect the local ecology, Alum Rock Park was converted from a multi-use facility to emphasis on the family outdoor activities that can be enjoyed here today. The park supports hiking, biking and horseback riding, picnicking and barbecuing. There is also a playground area for children in the mid-canyon area.

The park's Visitor Center/Ranger Office is at the center of everything, located mid-canyon. It contains a number of educational displays regarding the area's flora, fauna and geological features. This is also the home of the Youth Science Institute, which offers a number of outdoor study programs here.

Some 13 miles of trails have been developed in Alum Rock Park. They include three miles of designated bike trails and six miles for horses. One of the more popular hiking routes is the South Rim Trail, which follows the rim of the canyon and loops back to the Visitor Center via Penitencia Creek Trail, recognized by the Department of the Interior as a "National Regional Trail.''

This loop is a leisurely two-hour hike round-trip, with plenty of lookout points and scenic views of the Santa Clara Valley along the way. It also passes by an old electric railway bed. A shorter hike is the mile-long Woodland Trail to Eagle Rock on the canyon's north slope. And two other recommended hikes are the North Rim Trail and Todd Quick Trail, both of which are to the north of the Visitor Center.

Alum Rock Park has numerous picnic areas available with tables and barbecue stoves, some of which are accessible by car and others only on foot. They can be reserved for groups of up to 300 persons. One picnic area, The Ramada, includes a covered shelter. Trash cans have been placed and restrooms established nearby.

The official park hours are from 8am until a half hour past sunset. Hikers should leave plenty of time for their return treks, so as not to be out after dark. Fireworks and smoking are not permitted anywhere in the park, and motorcycles, mini-bikes, and other motorized vehicles must be operated only on paved roads, not on trails, hillsides, or service roads or within the picnic areas. Pets, other than horses, are not allowed.

As part of the City of San Jose's Budget Reduction Plan, Alum Rock Park is currently closed Mondays until further notice. Visitors, joggers, and picnickers will be unable enter the selected sites. Los Alamitos trail users should use an alternative route. Park rangers still patrol the park on Mondays to enforce closures and park security.

Alum Rock Park is located at 15350 Penitencia Creek Road, San Josy, California 95127-1348. Parking fees may apply year-round, with discounts available for seniors, veterans and disabled persons.

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