Mount Hamilton Century

Sunday, June 2, 2013

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Click here to view a short video of today’s ride

Since we’ve done Mt Diablo and Mt Tam, we might as well climb up Mt Hamilton to complete the 3 Bay Area peaks this weekend! To avoid the pavement reconstruction and resurfacing work being done on Tesla Rd in Livermore, we opt to do an out and back route starting from Pleasanton to Sunol and Calaveras Rd to Milpitas and up Mt Hamilton Rd from San Jose.

We begin by heading south on Foothill Rd for the 7.4 easy flat rolling miles along the residential neighborhoods, high-end estates, Castlewood golf course and the Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park into the town of Sunol.

From Niles Canyon Rd, we take Calaveras Rd for the gentle climb through the Sunol Regional Wilderness up to the reservoir. We stop for a moment to observe the bald eagle and its nest atop the transmission tower. If you magnify the picture below, you can see the blurry image of the eagle-what a sight!

The road descends and weaves through the woods and opens up to gorgeous views of Calaveras Valley. The steep descent from the top of Calaveras drops down into the city of Milpitas on Piedmont Rd.

The next 6+ miles on the city streets of Milpitas and San Jose leads to the climb up Mt Hamilton Rd/CA-130 from Alum Rock Ave. Mt Hamilton stands 4200′ and is the tallest mountain overlooking Santa Clara Valley. The road leading up to Lick Observatory at the Mt Hamilton summit is 19 miles long; it’s three climbing segments with each section separated by descents of 2 miles and 1 mile.

The first climb on Mt Hamilton Rd up to the top of the first ridge is about 6 miles long with an average grade of 4.7%. This section of Mt Hamilton Rd offers impressive views of the wide urban sprawl of Santa Clara County. The road levels out for a short bit when you pass the Mt Hamilton Grandview Restaurant and continues to climb; you’re near the top when you see the power lines. The 2 mile descent drops to Joseph D Grant County Park at Halls Valley. We stop at the Yerba Buena Trailhead a quarter-mile away from the main entrance into the park. Water and a porta-pottie are available-this is the last chance to get water before continuing up the mountain.

The second climb begins at Grant Park, the base of Mt Hamilton. The climb up to the second ridge is 3 miles long with an average grade of 4.8%. This segment of the climb offers stunning views of the mountains in the Diablo Range, expansive grasslands and majestic oak woodlands. Flocks of wild turkeys can also be seen around the golden hillsides. I make gobbling noises at them to make sure they stay out of the road! You’re at the top of this climb when you see the Twin Gates Trailhead sign. There is a porta-pottie available near the gate but no water. The mile long descent drops down to the bridge crossing at Smith Creek and to the CAL Fire Station.

The last climb up to Lick Observatory from Smith Creek is 6.4 miles long with an average grade of 6%. This segment of the climb has more sun exposure with a few sections going under a canopy of trees; on a very hot day like today; it’s brutal! The eastern views of the Diablo Range of the Coastal Mountains are outstanding! When you get sight of the summit and the end seems near, you’ll come upon the sign that reads 5 miles to Lick Observatory-just keep pedaling!

The last few steeper switchbacks lead up to the junction at Mt Hamilton Rd/CA-130 and San Antonio Rd/CA-130 east.

The steep narrow driveway takes us up to the parking lot of Lick Observatory. The mountains views are spectacular; it’s amazing to look down and see that you’ve actually climbed up “THAT ROAD” to be up here-WOW! There’s a snack and soda vending machine located near the rear access of the building with water and restrooms available inside. Take the time to enjoy the magnificent views and revel in the accomplishment of getting up here!

Now it’s time to descend Mt Hamilton Rd back down to San Jose; it’s not all downhill though, remember the descents? There are two separate climbs up to the first ridge before the long descent to Alum Rock Rd.

We return north along the city streets to Piedmont Rd for the stretch up Calaveras Rd; it’s a short steep 9-12% climb up the wall followed by easier grades of 5-8% up to Ed Levin County Park. Water and restrooms are available at the park.

The climbing continues on Calaveras Rd pass the Laguna Cemetery and several horse ranches and arenas up to the intersection at Felter Rd. The climb up “Calaveras Wall” begins at the foot of Felter; it’s a short 0.3 mile climb with steep grades of 11-15% up to the summit.

Calaveras Rd continues along the upper ridge of the foothills of Diablo Range with gorgeous views of Calaveras Valley and its reservoir. The gentle rolling terrain and short little climb brings us back to the false summit followed by a fun sweeping descent all the way down to the bridge crossing at Welch Creek.

We stay on Calaveras Rd back to Paloma Way and Niles Canyon Rd to Sunol. The 6.1 flat miles on Foothill Rd leads us back to Muirwood Dr and Muirwood Park in Pleasanton.

What a day to be out climbing Mt Hamilton-this completes our 3 Bay Area peaks weekend-fabulous! Once all the road work is completed around Livermore, we’ll have to do a loop and climb up Hamilton from the “dark side” up Mines Rd and San Antonio Valley.

If you’ve never gone up Mt Hamilton, be prepared for a long climb-mentally and physically. Having a Camelbak is highly recommended as there is no water once you pass Grant Park. Most of all have fun and enjoy the views!

Garmin Stats:
100.09 Miles with 8681′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 4200′
Avg grade: 4%
Max grade: 14%

Weather: GREAT! Sunny and hot with mild NW winds. Temps ranged from the mid 50’s to the mid 90’s

Because it’s there.  ~George Mallory


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Follow this route for today’s ride:



  1. Love the post Nancy. Love the video. Wish I had been there. Later this summer I will!


    Brain, you’ll enjoy it; the long climb and spectacular summit views from the Observatory! Nancy


  2. To do the Calavaras Wall after Mt. Hamilton is terrific. You two are terrific. Carole

    Thanks Carole! Nancy


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