Now is a great time to hike and look for autumn colors! Thanks to a friend’s invitation, I explored new trails last week at Almaden Quicksilver County Park, which is located in the town of New Almaden in south San Jose, about 20 miles from Cupertino. It is adjacent to two large open space preserves: Sierra Azul and Rancho Cañada del Oro. The park offers more than 4,000 acres of outdoor beauty with 37 miles of hiking trails, 30 miles of equestrian trails and 16.6 miles of bike pathways. You can also visit Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum to learn about California’s mercury mining history since 1845.
As shown in the map, the park has three entrances: Wood Road, Hacienda, and Mockingbird Hill. All three entrances are accessible for all users including bicyclists, and all trails are dog-friendly as long as they are on leash.
We hiked on Guadalupe Trail and Mine Trail, and took photos of wildlife, golden rolling hills, trees in various colors and types, and breathtaking mountain top views. These trails are wide and partially shaded, and hills are gentle to climb and good for all levels of hikers.
In the 1850s, the New Almaden mercury mine was North America’s largest producer of mercury, also called “quicksilver”, which was used for silver mining in Mexico and gold mining in California.
An interesting story about the origin of “The Mercury News”: “The word “mercury” refers to the importance of the mercury industry during the California Gold Rush. In addition, Mercury is the Roman messenger of the gods as well as the god of commerce and thieves, known for his swiftness, so the name Mercury is commonly used for newspapers without the quicksilver association.”
In the 1970s, Santa Clara County Parks & Recreation Department began purchasing the old mine properties to create the county park and museum. The Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum is now open Friday to Sunday from 12:00 noon to 4:00pm. You may walk the Almaden Quicksilver Historic Trail using this self-guided brochure and explore 15 sites of mining structures along a 5.1 miles loop. The museum also offer ranger-guided field trips and group tours and organize monthly history hikes.