Tenderfoots need not attempt: This loop hike across parallel ridges of Joseph D. Grant County Park offers sweeping views of the wild, mountainous terrain nearby and occasionally looks out over the southern end of Silicon Valley to the west.
And if 22 miles seems daunting, bear in mind the the most practical place to park for this hike -- next at the Hall's Valley Lake parking area -- adds another couple miles.
You'll see the usual Grant County Park attractions -- wildflowers in spring, tarantulas in the fall, raptors and coyotes all year -- while joining the elite few who have finished one of the Bay Area's most strenuous hikes.
Best done in winter when the weather's cool but the trails aren't muddy (provided you can hike this many miles before sunset). Next-best time is spring, when the hills are green and the wildflowers are out. It's too hot in summer, and probably not worth risking in fall if you can't carry enough water for the entire day.
This route goes to Antler Point, highest in the park; climbs Washburn trail, steepest in the park; and follows a long stretch of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which has some of the best views.
Recommended route: Start from the Halls Valley Lake parking area and go north on Mount Hamilton Road for about a mile to Washburn Trail on the right near the old white barn. The loop, in order:
Washburn Trail > Canada De Pala Trail > Pala Seca Trail (side trip to Antler Point) > return to Canada De Pala Trail > Cross Highway 130 > Continue on Canada De Pala Trail > Dutch Flat Trail (AKA Bay Area Ridge Trail) > Heron Trail > Cross Quimby Road > Edwards Loop Trail.
Note there are many ways to shorten this hike; make sure you have a trail map before you try any detours, however.
Take a minute to read the wildlife warnings -- I've seen a rattlesnake and friends almost bumped into a mountain lion. These animals are very shy around humans and almost never cause any problems, but you need to know what to do just in case.
Wear sunscreen and take enough water and snacks to keep hydrated and energized. You might be able to filter water from springs along this route, but some may be dry in summer, fall and early winter.
Contact: (408) 274-6121
Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset
Dogs: Allowed (leashed)
Driving directions: From Highway 101 or Highway 680, take the Alum Rock Avenue exit eastbound in San Jose. Turn right onto Mount Hamilton Road and drive eight miles to the park. Go past the main entrance and park at Halls Valley Lake just up the road, on the left.