I’ve been running all around the San Jose area since I was a young lad attending my dad’s high school cross-country practices. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to run and hike all over Santa Clara County and we are truly blessed with tons of options. So take the following top-ten list with grain of salt, but I definitely recommend you check them all out as each has a little something different to offer.
10. The Guadalupe Trail. While the County of Santa Clara, led by Supervisor Ken Yeager, is eagerly trying to connect numerous trail systems through out the San Jose we have yet to put it all together. Currently we are left with a sporadic web of solid, but un-connected bike paths through out the city. From the North, the Guadalupe River trail runs near Alviso and continues with a mix of gravel/pavement past Mineta Airport, through Guadalupe River Gardens, and ends near Children’s Discovery Park at 280. It’s a good trail and if you live near downtown this is your baby.
9. Hellyer Park & Coyote Creek Trail. Some of my earliest running memories bring me back to Hellyer Park watching my dad’s Leland Cross Country teams compete. This is a great San Jose park offering south siders a respite from suburbia with calming lakes, quiet trails and beautiful nature in the heart of San Jose. Further it can quickly connect you to the Coyote Creek Trail heading south. Coyote Creek allows the ultra marathoners and cyclists some long rides/runs connecting towards Morgan Hill.
8. Joseph Grant Park Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The worst part about Grant Park is getting to Grant Park. It requires a long curvy drive up Mt. Hamilton (or bike ride if you’re the Tour de California) and it takes a chunk of time. However, once you get there it is one of the most desolate and wild parks in San Jose. Meadows, animal sightings and the views from the top put this place in my top ten.
7. The Los Gatos Damn Trail. Ok, admittedly this trail is not in San Jose, but the route is so popular I had to include it. Plus, it can be reached (technically) from San Jose if you’re crazy enough. The damn trail is easily accessed from the end of the Los Gatos Creek Trail or downtown Los Gatos. It offers numerous loop runs along the Los Gatos Creek, with views of the reservoir, and lots of good climbing. I recommend the seminary loop that provides an awesome view of all of San Jose, not to mention most of the Bay Area.
6. The Baylands. The Baylands combines a series of trails running along the southeast shores of the San Francisco Bay. We’re talking Alviso, Baylands Park, and Mountain View…aka Google Land. Admittedly sometimes these trails smell. There are some dumps and water treatment in the area, but often times it’s a great way to get out and run along the bay. There is some incredible bird life and dirt trails that loop and swoop all over. If you work in the area this is a great place to run on the lunch hour. Great place for a tempo and a moment of silence in the hustle of Silicon Valley. Oh and watch out for errant softballs.
5. The Los Gatos Creek Trail. This trail starts in San Jose near Willow Glen, rolls through Campbell, flows through Vasona Park, and ends with aforementioned damn trail. I don’t know what makes this trail so popular, but it provides a great mix of most flat paved (with side dirt options) that brings out tons of runners. Groups meet here, teams meet here, and moms definitely meet here. For those of you mileage hogs and serious tempo runners it’s well marked with ¼ mile notifications through out. Watch out for bikes and hot moms. Both dangerous.
4. Stevens Creek Park. Technically located in the Cupertino/Saratoga area this place offers some secret single track, some technical climbs and great loops. It’s close to Rancho San Antonio, but the crowds are diminished with less parking and minimal groomed trails. Hopefully the Steven’s Creek Park runners don’t hate me for unveiling this little nugget.
3. Rancho San Antonio. Uh oh, another non-San Jose Park…maybe I should have said Top 10 Places to Run in Santa Clara County. Oh well we’re too far along now. This place rocks and the crowds prove it. The farm, the loops, the power poles, the creek and the climbs make this place one of my all time favorites. Almost completely dirt trails and incredible memories of running these trails with great friends put this place higher on the list than I expected.
2. Alum Rock Park. Now this ranking system starts to get dicey because on some days there is no better place to be than Alum Rock. The east side brethren will certainly claim this as the best place to run ever. It’s beautiful, it climbs, it’s mossy and it’s even shady on a hot day. I ran some high school country here and there is magic in those hills. In fact, some old trail tiger friends used to tell me that there are secret tribes of albinos living in the hills that come out at night. Personally I think they were just trying to keep the trail traffic down.
1. Quicksilver Park. Okay we are at numero uno. There is some beautiful terrain in the area of Almaden in South San Jose Quiksilver has a special place in my heart. There are so many trails, incredible variety and weird old mining relics to look at. It’s called Quiksilver because of the old mercury mining they used to run in the area. I remember Leland runners telling me they’ve seen wild boars and even felt phantom Mountain Lions in the area. I’ve only seen a few bobcats, but I like to think these sightings make this park the most wild trails in San Jose. For long runs I like to park at Almaden Lake, run the Almaden trail towards the Mockingbird entrance and just get lost.