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Grant

Grant is located in the hills to the east of San Jose on the road up to Lick Observatory.  This is a large park with lots of opportunities to ride, but it is mostly fire roads (with a few exceptions).  There are very few people out here, so it is a good place for a bit of peace and quiet.  On clear days, ride up to the observatory (on the road unfortunately) for a great view and a sense of accomplishment.

Park: Joseph D. Grant County Park
Date: Multiple
Distance: 11.01 to 23.87 miles
Ride Time: Varies
Total Ascent: 1,719 to 4,224 feet
Map: Detailed trail map
Overall Rating: 5

Grant Park contains 9,522 acres of open space, almost all of which is undeveloped. Adam Grant first bought acreage in what would become the park in 1880 with proceeds from his dry goods store that supplied gold miners. His son and grandson, J.D. Grant and Joseph Grant, became successful businessmen controlling several power companies and they continued to expand their holding to what is now the entire park. Joseph Grant entertained people like Leland Stanford and Herbert Hoover at a mansion on the property. Herbert Hoover spent a month there after losing the election to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. To get the the park, take the Alum Rock Road exit off of Interstate 680 and head east. Turn right on Mt. Hamilton Road, which passes through the park. Continuing on Mt. Hamilton Road will take you to the Lick Observatory.

Grant Park contains 40 miles of trails with about half of them accessible to mountain bikers. The terrain is a central valley formerly used to graze cattle surrounded by rather steep hills (it seems like it is no longer formerly based on the number of cow pies to be found...maybe this is a sign of the new economic situation). Most of the bike accessible routes are rarely traveled fire roads, so there is a lot of uphill riding (somehow it seems like there is more uphill than downhill). We are continually surprised by how few people take advantage of this park since it is uncommon to see other riders or hikers, especially compared to other local parks.

The South Side

To get the proper mental perspective, you can start with a climb up Edwards Loop Trail (fireroad) or Quimby Road (paved). Both are about a mile of 9% grade, but either is enough to get the blood pumping. Edwards connects to the upper part of Heron Trail which descends down to Quimby. Heron continues on the downhill side of Quimby (this is the trailhead if you ride up Quimby) after going through a horse gate. It is clear that not too many people had been out here as the trail is covered with a low growth of grasses and other vegetation, but sometimes the ground is pretty chewed up by deep cattle hoofprints. Heron trail was relatively flat, a nice break after climbing.

From Heron trail, continue onto Dutch Flat trail. Once when riding here on a rather hot day we paused to observe some birds flying overhead. We started to get concerned about this climb when the bird turned out to be a rather larger turkey vulture and kept circling lower and closer as we watched until he was about 40 feet away. He was joined by several other vultures. Taking this as a sign, we decided to push on before we became their breakfast. Continue your uphill climb to the peak at 2,457 feet (this is erroneously signed as 2,004 feet on the trail). This is a 0.8 mile segment at about an 8% grade. You can see the top of The Villages trail from Dutch Flat but there is no legal connection.

At the end of Dutch Flat trail, take Canada de Pala up to Hotel Trail. As an alternative, you can take Eagle to Corral, but Canada de Pala is more interesting.

From either Canada de Pala or Corral, take Hotel trail south. This is a long unshaded continuous uphill (about 1 mile at a 10% average grade). At the top of Hotel, the trail becomes Foothill Trail. This starts out with a bit of refreshing downhill. There is an interesting section of about 250 yards where the trail is actually a creek bed that sometime contains a small flow of water. The water and rocks provided a nice technical change. At the end of this creek section, there is a short but very steep section (30% grade on loose dirt). The creek does not permit much of a flying start, so it is likely you may have to hike-a-bike up this short section. There are two more steep sections on Foothill that may or may not require short hikes. After this section, Foothill comes to a 4-way junction.

If you are up for it, you can explore Manzanita Trail. This trail heads south and up the hill. After the initial climb there is a relatively flat section followed by several ups and downs as the trail follows the ridge line. The trail ends in a locked gate to a private ranch, so you will have to turn around at this point.

You can ride up Bonhoff Trail from the junction. This is a steep climb followed by ups and downs along the ridge with a final fast descent to the Twin Gates trailheads. This is a tough route, so I recommend following Foothill to the bottom, going through two gates and going around the California Department of Forestry station on Mt. Hamilton Road. If you don't want to go to the observatory, turn left on Mt. Hamilton on what must be the only uphill portion of the road when traveling north (just your luck!). The observatory seems very close, but we know from previous rides that it is farther than it looks.

The North Side

Rather than returning all the way from the fire station on the road, return to the trail at the first opportunity by going into a small parking lot on the right and heading up Canada de Pala trail to "enjoy" a bit more climbing (11% grade) that feels like the brakes were on. This connects into Pala Seca trail to directly take you to the top and Antler Point. The view from Antler Point is great and you are usually the only ones there. You can also start at park headquarters or the Lake parking lot and climb up Halls Valley, Los Huecos, or Yerba Buena trails to link into Canada de Pala. I would recommend Halls Valley as the preferred route up since there is some shade, the grade is manageable, and bikes are only allowed to go uphill on this trail.

Ride down Canada del Pala to Los Huecos which take you all the way to the bottom. When you ride this trail, look for the two signs that say, "Caution Steep Downhill! Control Your Pee". You can also descend on the Yerba Buena trail. Both trails are nice ways to end the ride. An alternative is to continue on Pala Seca to Washburn, climb up and over the hill and back down near headquarters.

Lick Observatory

After riding your chosen combination of trails in Grant and ending up at the CalFire station, you can start a road ride up the hill on Mt. Hamilton Road to the Lick Observatory. While pretty much a continuous climb, it is much easier than most of the trails you ride up in Grant. It is a 7 mile climb to the top and you will probably feel like you are maintaining a pretty good pace until a road rider zooms past you. Keep going in spite of the humiliation!

On a clear day, the observatory offers great views of Silicon Valley and beyond. There is a water fountain and a vending machine inside. While you are inside, take a look at some of the celestial photography and the history of the observatory since this is pretty interesting and gives you a chance to rest.

When you leave the mountain-top observatory, you will start a long downhill ride. Watch your speed on this road because it is steep, there are lots of tight corners (some covered in gravel), and not all of the car drivers are highly skilled (to say the least!). You will make it down to the fire station without really needing to pedal at all. In fact, it is easy to go faster than the cars can go on the way down. If you are not tired from your climb to the observatory, ride up Canada de Pala to Antler Point (see above).

General

While Grant can be pretty hot in the summer, it is gorgeous in the spring when the entire park is covered in a green velvet as the grass sprouts, the trees start to grow, and the wildflowers bloom. The riding is nice and the trails have no dust on them. In the fall, you can find tarantulas crawling about (not to worry, they are much more interested in female tarantulas than in you, so take a picture of them and leave them alone).

A clear day, especially after a rain, is a good time to ride up to Lick Observatory to enjoy the view.

Park fee policies seem to have changed. Until recently, there was no free parking in Grant or along the road and you had to pay for parking at the ranger station at the park entrance. It now seems like parking in the Lake or Twin Gates lots is free while parking inside the park (where the picnic areas and facilities are) is a $6 fee.

In the rare event that it snows, Mt. Hamilton Road will be closed at the park entrance due to snow and/or ice on the road. A huge number of terrible drivers that want to drive up with their families to experience the snow, the CHP closes the road and aggressively enforces the closure, including bicycles.

This is a fun ride at the right time of year.

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