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Almaden Quicksilver County Park

Almaden Quicksilver County Park

November 6th, 2004

4.5 miles
830 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:10

Rating: 6/10

Directions: From Highway 85, take the Almaden Expressway south. Turn left onto McAbee Road. Follow it to the end, where it intersects Whispering Pines Drive on the left. Park on McAbee or Whisperine Pines.   View Driving Map


The McAbee Road access area is right across the street from a residential area. As you park your car on Whispering Pines Drive and prepare for your hike, you'll be looking right into people's front yards. Have no fear, though -- from this humble beginning, the park trails provide ample distance between you and civilization.

After passing a gate, you'll have to walk another 200 yards on a gravel road to the actual start of the park. There's a map display here, though there weren't actually any maps for us to take from here. I suggest doing what I did, which is to print a map from the web beforehand. You can find a map at http://www.parkhere.org.

We continued straight onto the now dirt road, the Senator Mine Trail. You'll also see this written as the Senator Mine Trail in some places. All of the trails we hiked in the park were wide dirt roads. It had rained a lot the past couple weeks, but there wasn't much mud to speak of. There was a note on the map display board that said the New Almaden Trail (which we weren't taking, anyway) had been closed for several months due to a damaged foot bridge.

Though it had rained earlier in the week, it was sunny and clear on this day, and a bit warm even. The trail climbs gradually past brown hills (sure to be green and covered with wildflowers in the spring) and a forest of oaks and other trees. After about a half mile, we reached two large concrete towers with a sign in front of them. These are remnants from a mercury mine that was used until the 1920s.

Remnants of the mercury mine

The trail climbs some more, reaching an intersection with the Guadalupe Trail. Instead of taking a left turn back to the trailhead, we turned right and were quickly rewarded with some nice views of the Santa Cruz mountains, including Mount Umunhum, one of the highest peaks here at 3500 feet. Unfortunately, at this time of day (early afternoon in November), the scene was backlit and any picture I were to take would have been washed out. If you want to come for this view, I suggest arriving in the morning.

Some fall colors

Looking up

The Guadalupe Trail winds gently downhill, until it reaches Guadalupe Creek. You'll hear the creek on your right as you stroll along the trail here. Just on the other side of the creek is Hicks Road. We shortly came upon a picnic table next to the creek, just off the trail. This is just before the trail starts climbing. If you brought a picnic lunch (and we did), this is the perfect place to stop.

More fall colors

Yellowing leaves over gentle Guadalupe Creek

The picnic table is completely shaded, and just a few yards from the creek. While Hicks Road is just on the other side, it is lightly traveled and the creek drowns out most of the car noise. We had the place to ourselves (there's only one table). After eating, I wandered over to the creek and looked up at a large tree which I'm guessing is a maple, with stunning yellow leaves. Almost every other tree in the park we saw was completely green, but here was this one tree burning brightly with fall colors. There were a few other such trees in the area, but this one was at peak color. To add to the drama, the leaves were backlit, which is a good thing since I was using slow film. I did lament the fact that this would have been a perfect situation for the soon-to-be-released Minolta Maxxum 7 Digital, with Anti-Shake. If only I had an extra $1600 lying around somewhere...

Guadalupe Reservoir

After taking lots of pictures and enjoying the scene, we continued on up the Guadalupe Trail. The trail climbs steadily up past the Guadalupe Reservoir dam. We then turned left onto the Mine Hill Trail. At the top of the trail, there's a spur trail to the left up a small hill with lots of oak trees. It looks like a perfect place to lie down and take an afternoon nap. But, having just taken a long break, we decided to continue.

Mount Hamilton overlooking the fall colors of San Jose

As we continued along the Mine Hill Trail, views opened up to the right. Mount Hamilton, with Lick Observatory gleaming white on top, is clearly visible. What surprised me was that I could see lots of fall color scattered throughout the residential areas of San Jose. It was quite a pretty sight.

Tree nuts

The trail continues a gradual descent back to the trailhead. As we headed out the first gate, I noticed a sign that trails can be closed at times due to muddy conditions -- so if you're planning to do this hike in the winter or early spring after heavy rains, do call ahead.


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