This hike was actually my second visit to Alum Rock Park. I’d been intending to hike this Bay Area Ridge Trail segment hike a few days earlier, but managed to leave home without my GPS. So I explored that day and resolved to return soon. The segment is described in the official Ridge Trail Guide as 6 miles, but I added a few side trips for a total of 9 miles with a little over 2000 feet of elevation gain/loss. As is typical for me, I was hoping for great views from a hilltop at the end of a spur trail near the turnaround point – and I wasn’t disappointed. The views were spectacular!
The hike begins at the main park entrance on Penitencia Creek Road; there is a trailhead next to the parking lot. The first part of the trail is the Creek Trail, which follows the Penitencia Creek. Since the creek is in a canyon, this section is shaded, cool, and moist, with pretty green ferns growing out of the steep hillside.
While walking along the creek suddenly two wild turkeys appeared on the trail, followed by a third. I watched them for a few minutes, and then they started walking up the hillside through the brush.
After about 0.6 mile the route crosses the creek at another parking lot and, after a couple of short climbing sections, intersects the North Rim Trail.
The North Rim Trail is higher, sunnier, and warmer than the Creek Trail. I noticed several robin calls, usually a sign of approaching spring (though my hike was in late January!). At several points along the trail beautiful spring-green hills were in view. In this picture, the highest one toward the left is the top of the spur trail near the turnaround point.
Looking back along the North Rim Trail, here and there are views of San Jose. This one was near the junction with the Todd Quick Trail.
About 0.5 mile after turning on the Todd Quick Trail there is a picnic table under a large eucalyptus tree, denoted the Todd Quick Rest Area. Here the Ridge Trail route passes through a gate and into the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve. The trail is now the Boccardo Trail, which branches off after 0.1 mile or so and makes a nice loop through the hillsides. The trail climbs fairly steeply, with a 900-foot elevation gain in just over a mile.
I noted several red-tailed hawks in the distance, presumably out cruising and looking for a meal. As the trail passed around to the back side of the hill, I heard a cow vocalizing over and over. After a few minutes I finally could see it walking across the hillside. Then, as I came around a curve in the trail, there was an entire group of cows grazing and resting.
The spur trail to the top of the hill is at a well-marked junction just 0.1 mile or so before the end of this segment of the Ridge Trail. It is well worthwhile to make the short (0.5 mile round trip, 100 foot elevation gain) trip to the top. The views were simply fantastic the day of my hike. There is an informative sign with a panoramic picture annotated with various landmarks. The best views were from the very top of the hill just past the sign. The Santa Cruz Mountains skyline to the southwest includes Loma Prieta and Mt. Umunhum.
Roughly toward the south, row after row of hills could be seen in the distance, perhaps even including Mt. Madonna, currently the southernmost segment of the Ridge Trail.
Looking to the northwest, I was startled – as well as delighted – to see the distinctive shape of Mt. Tamalpais, roughly 55 miles away! The San Francisco skyline is (barely) visible between Mt. Tam and the Bay. I was able to enlarge the picture on my computer to verify the distinctive Transamerica Pyramid.
Almost due north, Mt. Diablo peeked between nearby hills. And finally, to the southeast, Lick Observatory could be seen perched atop Mt. Hamilton across the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve.
Returning down the spur trail I noticed this interesting birds-eye view of the trails surrounding a junction marking the end of this segment. The Boccardo Trail loops across the bottom of the picture and the next segment of the Ridge Trail through Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve heads off toward the upper right across the hill. Finally, an access trail to the upper left goes out to a future staging area on Sierra Road.
After returning to the Todd Quick rest area I took the other part of the Todd Quick Trail to the North Rim Trail, since I was planning to hike to the top end of the park road next to Penitencia Creek, also marked as part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. (On the GPS track this is to the east.) On my way along the North Rim Trail I encountered a deer in the trail ahead of me. I watched her for a few minutes, carefully walking a bit closer. At one point she seemed to be looking at me somewhat quizzically.
After reaching the easternmost parking lot of Alum Rock Park I retraced my way back along the North Rim Trail. I took the short side trip to Eagle Rock to check out the views. While not as spectacular as those from the top of Boccardo Trail, they are nice – and the vista point is only about 0.75 mile from the midway parking lot, so can be reached via a much shorter hike.