Full Review: Almaden Quicksilver County Park

The parking lot for the Hacienda park entrance is located very near the corner of Almaden Way and Almaden Road.  Look for the Almaden Quicksilver County Park Sign. The front parking lot is large and there is another equally large additional parking lot behind it.  Parking is free. The trailhead is located at the end of the first parking lot.  The trails are multi-use and shared among leashed dogs, horses, hikers and bikers. 


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         Park entrance sign                           Parking lot 



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View of parking lot from above         Mine Hill Trailhead       




           Mine Hill trail


Almaden Quicksilver County Park is recognized as a National Historic District because of the ruins from over 130 years of mining (1845-1976).  The site is home to the richest mercury mine in North America, producing over 83 million pounds of mercury (quicksilver) during its operations.  The mercury was primarily used for processing gold and silver.  There are interpretive signs along the hike explaining the history of the park.



These pictures were taken during the summer.  Most of the dirt trails are exposed to the sun so sun hats and sun block are advised as well as bringing a lot of water to keep hydrated.  Also, most of the trails are wide enough for a car.  There are three places to stop and take a break at picnic tables so you can bring food and drinks for sustainance along the way.  A basic hike up to the mine ruins using Mine Hill Trail and Castillero Trail and back to the park entrance using the Deep Gulch Trail is about five miles. 



The Mine Hill trail starts out at about 600 foot elevation and is exposed to the sun and quickly proceeds uphill for a view of the hills.  The Mine Hill trail is just that- the hill you take up to get to the mine ruins.  You will pass seven other trails (Hacienda, Cape Horn, Randol, Day Tunnel, Great Eastern and April trails) on your right and English Camp trail on your left on your way up Mine Hill trail.  You may want to take the English Camp trail on your way back down.  This trail is relatively steep and can get rocky on some parts of the trail so we suggest wearing real hiking boots if you use this trail.  The Mine Hill trail has some shady areas and views of Mount Hamilton Observatory on the hillside.


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           Views from trail                    Uphilll climb in the sun



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Uphilll climb with some shade      View of Mt Hamilton 




        First picnic table


There are multiple views of the hills and downtown San Jose along the way.  You also pass shady trees.  Even in the summer, you can find some wildflowers as well as interesting plants and wlld berries (we don’t know if these are edible).


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Fork in the road- stay to your left             Views



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               Shady trees                           Tree roots



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Second fork in the road-stay to your left



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              Shady trail                                Wildflowers


You will come to a fork in the road where Mine Trail stays to the left and April Trail is to your right.  Stay on the Mine Trail. 



Another fork in the road- bear left to stay on Mine Hill Trail




View of downtown San Jose



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                    Trees                                          Shade 






When you reach the top of the hill, there are a couple of picnic tables with a view, a place to tie up your horse and also a place to put your bicycle.  There is also a water trough for horses.  You have now covered almost two miles and you are up to 1600 feet in elevation.


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Picnic tables at the top of the hill         Horse water trough




Views  from the picnic tables


If you want to take a detour, look for the utility poles and the sign that says “Service Road Not A Trail” and you will see that the Mine Hill trail continues to the right of this service road and will take you to the Catherine Tunnel.  After about a half mile, you will see a narrow path to your right.  Follow this to a short loop trail with some shade, a picnic table to sit and drink with a view of downtown San Jose.


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Mine Hill trail to Catherine Tunnel    Narrow trail to tunnel & view



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                Loop trail                     Picnic table with view of downtown San Jose




              Shady area


Head back where you came from and continue on the Castillero Trail. Follow this for about a half mile and it takes you directly to a view of the mine.  You can choose to take a detour on the trail that passes directly in front of the mine ruins. 


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                        Castillero trail to the mine ruins



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        Wildflowers                         Bulrushes



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        Mine ruins close up               Trail past the mine ruins


Just past the view of the mine ruins, there is another picnic table at the fork in the road if you want to take a break.  Bear left at the fork in the road to head down another one half mile to English Camp using the Castillero Trail.  There are views of the valley as you gradually go downhill.  When you reach English Camp, there are interpretive signs and ruins from the school where the miners' children were educated from first to eighth grade.  You can spend some time here looking at the historical artifacts.  There are a couple of picnic tables for taking a rest, drink and/or grabbing a bite to eat.  There is another horse water trough nearby.



Left at the fork in the road to stay on Castillero Trail




Down the Castillero Trail hill


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Picnic tables at English Camp    English Camp ruins


Look for the English Camp Cut off Trail sign if you want to take a detour and visit the English Camp ruins. Just past the picnic tables, follow the Deep Gulch trail which will take you downhilll for 1.6 miles on a rocky wide path.  Walk carefully on the rocks.  The trail drops you off into the far parking lot where there are more ruins in a fenced in area.


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     Rocky Deep Gulch trail                      Wild berries



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Shady part of Deep Gulch trail  Ruins in the back parking lot