City Escape: San Jose, California

Text: Geoff Drake • Photography: Geoff Drake

San Jose may be the epicenter of Silicon Valley madness, but it’s also surrounded by some of the best moto roads in the Bay Area. This City Escape focuses on the western side, featuring the newly opened Mount Umunhum State Park, which has become one of the great Bay Area summits for motorcyclists.

Length

Approximately 118 miles

Meet-up Spot

Peet’s Coffee, 798-1 Blossom Hill Rd, Los Gatos, CA. 

Lunch Stop

Corralitos Market and Sausage Company, 569 Corralitos Rd, Watsonville, CA, is the go-to local source for steak, sausage, and gourmet foods. Ask for a cooked sausage sandwich and enjoy the shaded picnic table across the street.

Scenery (4 out of 5) 

The view includes Mount Hamilton, Mount Diablo, Fremont Peak, Monterey Bay—and Mount Tamalpais, 80 miles to the north, on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. On a clear day, you even can glimpse the snow-capped Sierra mountains. 

Traffic (3 out of 5) Once out of downtown San Jose, the traffic is generally light. If possible, travel the Mt. Umunhum summit road on a weekday, as the park is quickly becoming one of the most popular in the region. 

Difficulty (4 out of 5) 

The ride includes plentiful tight, second-gear turns on small roads—perfect for motorcycling. The road to the Mt. Umunhum summit is quite precipitous, so not for the faint of heart.

Road Conditions (3 out of 5) 

The newly paved Mt. Umunhum Road is excellent, and the curves are intoxicating (though watch for our pedal-powered brethren). The other roads along the route are equally serpentine but may include rough sections and occasional potholes.

Points of Interest

  1. Mt. Umunhum
To those who are familiar with its looming presence on the horizon, it’s known simply as “The Cube:” a giant cement block atop 3,486-foot Mt. Umunhum that appears ready to disgorge space aliens at any moment. This 1962 Air Force radar tower from the Cold War is sealed up tight (due to lead waste), but the surrounding grounds are spectacular. They’re also newly accessible to the public—the result of an eight-year, -million restoration project. www.tinyurl.com/umunhum

  2. Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum
“Quicksilver” (mercury) mining began in this area in 1845, and this beautiful “Casa Grande” housed the mine owners and executives. www.tinyurl.com/almadenquicksilvermining
  3. Mt. Madonna County Park
This 4,605-acre park includes glimpses of Monterey Bay and Watsonville far below. It also includes picnic areas and hiking trails. www. tinyurl.com/mtmadonnacountypark