Alum Rock Park

Enjoy some time outdoors at one of San Jose’s oldest and prettiest public parks. Just a short drive from downtown, its caves, creeks and wildlife make it feel like a far-off wilderness. 

Alum Rock Park takes its name from nearby rock formations once thought to contain aluminum. This proved untrue, but the name stuck and now defines 291 hectares (720 acres) of woodland, walking trails, picnic areas and creeks.

Choose between scenic woodland and creek-side trails or take the longer options into the hillside. The 2.25-mile (3.6-kilometer) North Rim Trail to Eagle Rock is great for anyone who doesn’t mind trading a steep climb for a good view. From the top you can see much of the Bay Area, but bring a hat and sunscreen as there isn’t much shade. For a milder hike, follow the South Rim Trail’s shaded paths where you’ll see native flora and fauna and catch some stunning views of the creek and surrounding area.

For anyone looking for an easy stroll, the Penitencia Creek Trail is pleasant, easy and dotted with benches and lookout points. Other trails lead to mineral springs, through sycamore groves, and across wood and scrubland. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, squirrels, pumas, bobcats, red-tailed hawks and even rattlesnakes.

Kids will love the playground and Youth Science Institute, where they can get up-close to native animals and explore natural history exhibits. Picnickers looking for a good spot to relax will find tables and barbecue pits all over the park. There are restrooms along most trails, and a visitor center is open for further enquiries.

Alum Rock Park is a great way to discover the Bay Area’s natural beauty without going too far from town. It’s a 20-minute drive from downtown San Jose and is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Buses do service the park from downtown San Jose, but the stop is just over 20 minutes’ walk from the park entrance. You have to pay to park, and a good space can be hard to come by when the park gets busy. The park is less crowded early in the week.