Alum Rock Park is a large outdoor recreation area in San Jose, California. This park is the oldest municipal park in San Jose, dating back to 1872. It’s located on the eastern side of San Jose and offers playgrounds, picnic areas, multiple hiking trails, and a visitor center with camps and activities where visitors can learn more about the wildlife in the area. In addition to being a great place for outdoor fun and education, there is a historic aspect to the park!
The Alum Rock Mineral Springs were very popular in the early 1900s. While the mineral springs are now defunct, the remnants can be found along the hiking trails and provide a beautiful addition to the natural surroundings.
The hiking trails in Alum Rock are not too difficult, and are perfect for families. We enjoyed hiking through the park and occasionally stopping to take pictures of each other with the ruins from the springs. It was extremely relaxing and beautiful. I cannot believe we hadn’t visited Alum Rock Park before! It’s perfect for a day of fun, exercise, and a little education.
If you are local to the Bay Area, I highly recommend visiting Alum Rock Park; especially if you have children. The park gets very busy, so I recommend going early; before 9am. This way you can enjoy the park stress-free. Love that!
Have you been to Alum Rock Park before? What are your favorite spots? We parked by the visitor center and went on the hiking trails from there.
One of things I love about the San Francisco Bay Area is all of the history you can find; in almost every corner. While our history is not as deep as other areas, we still have pockets with remnants of our past; and it is important to learn about it as well as share it with the next generation.
The Marin Headlands is rich with history. While exploring the area, you may come across sites from around 1900, WWII forts, and Cold War relics. This is in addition to beautiful views, nature, camping grounds, trails, wildlife, beaches, and more. It’s truly a destination you cannot see all in one day. When we visit, we choose one little spot, and explore it.
We decided to explore the Kirby Cove area of the Marin Headlands. This area is normally overrun by tourists; but during the cold winter months, we are able to park easily and explore stress-free.
PRO TIP: Arrive before 9am during the off-season so you can park where you want to, and avoid crowds.
The points of interest we explored were Battery Spencer, Ridge Battery, and Battery Wagner. We also hiked along the Kirby Cove Road. This road leads to an amazing beach which is less busy than beaches such as Stinson and Muir; as long as you follow my pro tip above.
Kirby Cove Road is wide, which makes it a great trail for hiking right now when social distancing is so important. It’s really easy to keep your distance from others. We enjoyed the unparalled views of the Golden Gate Bridge, beach, ocean, bay, and general nature. It really is a must-see hiking area; especially if you are local to the Bay Area!
The Marin Headlands is really easy to find. If you are coming from the north on 101, take the last exit off the freeway before the bridge, and follow the road into the headlands. If you are coming from the south, take the first Sausalito exit off the bridge and follow the signs; they will take you right into the Headlands.
Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring a backpack filled with snacks, water, and lunch. Always bring your trash back out of the trail. There are plenty of trash and recycle cans in the parking areas.
I hope you enjoy exploring the Marin Headlands! Remember, the best time to visit is in the off-season, when tourism is down. Also, arrive before 9am so you can easily park.
Have you ever been to Drawbridge, California? I had no idea it existed until my husband suggested we take the kids there, and explore the area. Apparently his Mom took him there when we was a child!
Drawbridge is a ghost town. The only abandoned town within the boundaries of the San Francisco Bay Area. It was originally a little vacation spot where people enjoyed duck hunting. It also had a train station, which made it fairly easy to get to in the late 1800’s through the late 1970’s. As the salt industry changed the landscape of the Bay, the landscape of the town began to erode, causing the town to begin sinking into the Bay. This was the main reason the town was abandoned.
Drawbridge sits at the bottom of the Bay, adjacent to Milpitas, San Jose, and Fremont. It’s slightly hidden from view, until you hop on an Amtrak train which speeds by the town. Although there used to be tours of the town, which is how my husband visited it several decades ago, it is now fenced off; with plenty of “no trespassing” signs around the area.
We parked at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in San Jose. This area offered a flat hiking trail filled with wildlife, which has returned to the area after massive restoration efforts over the past few years to bring the Bay back to life when many of the salt flats were removed. It’s incredible to be able to see so many different types of birds, and plants, in the area; which used to be desolate when I was a child. It makes the long hike into Drawbridge both pretty and educational.
Initially I was excited about this hike. Since it was flat, I assumed it would be fairly relaxing and easy. Apparently I was wrong! While wearing a mask helps cut down on the bottom-of-the-bay smell, it did nothing to shorten the length of the hike. The trail looks easy, but the surface is hard, and it’s roughly an hour and a half down the trail to get to Drawbridge.
Our kids were fine for the first two hours of the hike, the last hour was a little tough on them, and on me. Keep in mind, if it’s ninety minutes to get from the parking lot to Drawbridge, it’s ninety minutes to get back. The three hour, round trip trek was tough on a hot summer day. Thankfully I packed snacks and water, so we were at least fueled and hydrated-just really tired!
I don’t recommend bringing small children on this hike. My kids are teenagers, so they could handle it with a little grumbling. I did see people biking, and one person on a scooter. Those are great alternatives to navigating the trail and making it easier. I highly recommend being prepared, and going out to see Drawbridge at least once in your lifetime if you live here in the Bay Area. If you don’t live around here, and you love ghost towns, check it out!
Drawbridge can be viewed from a lookout which has a bench and signs detailing the ghost town’s history. It’s a fun little part of our local history, and it’s interesting to see a ghost town!
Have you visited Drawbridge before? What did you think? Do you enjoy visiting ghost towns?
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