Santa Clara: Uvas-McKean-Hicks-Mt Umunhum

Saturday, January 17, 2015

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Ride #4-South Bay Ramble: This scenic double loop goes along five South Bay Reservoirs: Uvas and Calero on Uvas Rd and McKean Rd. Gaudalupe and Almaden on Hicks Rd and Alamitos Rd and Oak Glen Rd to Chesbro. The route includes the steep back to back climbs up north Hicks Rd to the summit at Jaques Ridge and Mt Umunhum Rd to the Bald Mountain Trailhead and onwards pass the gate to the end of the public road on the boundary line of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve at Mt Umunhum.

We exit Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park and head north on Watsonville Rd to Uvas Rd.

Uvas Rd continues north on rolling terrain for the next 9 miles; it runs along the west shore of Uvas Reservoir from Uvas Dam into Eastman Canyon.

Enjoy the wonderful lake views!


The road continues along Uvas and Llagas Creeks through wide open country ranches with beautiful views of the rolling grasslands and oak woodlands around Manzanita Ridge.

At Casa Lomas Rd, Uvas name changes to McKean Rd; McKean stays north with a short climb up towards Calero County Park followed by a drop into Pine Tree Canyon. The road continues on flat-rolling terrain along the shore of Calero Reservoir.

From the reservoir, McKean Rd rolls for another 3+ miles through the flat valley ranches with views of the Santa Teresa Hills to Harry Rd.

Harry Rd goes along the SE edge of a San Jose’s Graystone neighborhood to the entrance onto the Calero Creek Trail. The trail follows Calero Arroyo along Camden Ave and cuts across Alamitos Creek onto the Los Alamitos Creek Trail. Turn right onto the bridge to stay on Los Alamitos Creek Trail through Pfeiffer Park; it goes on for 3 miles along Alamitos Creek to Almaden Lake Park. Trail riding can get a bit confusing with many splits; follow the trail signs to Almaden Lake Park. The trail comes to a Y at the picnic area-stay right onto the Lake Almaden Trail; this goes along the east side of the lake to the underpass onto the bridge crossing at Guadalupe Trail along Coleman Rd.

Coleman Rd cuts across Almaden Expwy and becomes a much quieter stretch of road through the Almaden Meadows neighborhood to Camden Ave and Hicks Rd into the town of Los Gatos.

Hicks Rd is a quiet back road that winds up gently for the first 3.2 miles along the east residential neighborhoods around Blossom Hill to the scattering of homes along Guadalupe Creek.

The road narrows at the Horse & Ped Xing signs and tilts up to steep grades of 12-14% for the next 0.4 mile to the first high-point the Guadalupe Dam.

Hicks Rd continues on flat-rolling terrain along Guadalupe Reservoir for 1.4 miles to the switchback crossing over Guadalupe Creek.

Get into your lowest gear; the next section on Hicks Rd is a VERY STEEP Billy Goat climb! The road dramatically kicks up to grades of 16-17% for 1.2 miles with about 750′ of elevation gain! The road drops to lesser grades of 7-9% on the approach to the summit at Jacques Ridge on Mt Umunhum Rd.

Before taking on Mt Umunhum Rd, stop for a breather at the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve-Jacques Ridge parking lot.

Mt Umunhum Rd can be a two-part climb: 1) it’s 1.7 miles from Jacques Ridge to the gate at the Bald Mountain parking lot. 2) it’s 1.2 miles from the gate to the ” No Trespassing” sign at the Preserve boundary. Of course, the entire climb is optional, but the mountain vistas are spectacular-I encourage you to make the extra effort and do it once!

The first 1.7 miles winds up to the Bald Mountain Trail Trail-head at Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve with an average grade of 10.1% and steep pitches of 12-14%. The road up to the cattle guard:

Each curve offers gorgeous views of the rugged Bald Mountain and Mt Umunhum-WOW!

The road continues winding up to the Bald Mountain Trail at the upper parking lot!

Take a moment to enjoy the phenomenal mountain views!

You’re here already-cross the gate and continue for another 1.2 miles on Mt Umunhum Rd; the false flat section at the beginning leads to a climb with an average grade of 8.9% and steep pitches of 11-13%.

Look around as you wind up the mountain-you can see Lick Observatory and the Mt Hamilton range to the east-WOW!


The public access road ends at the STOP sign at the Preserve Boundary. Pay heed and turn around, although it looks tempting to continue on, you will be trespassing on private property! The steep climb up Mt Umunhum also means a steep bumpy descent back to Hicks Rd-USE CAUTION!

The ride continues south on Hicks Rd; it’s a fairly fast and steep 1.8 mile descent along Jacques Gulch to Almaden Canyon. The turn east on Almaden Rd goes through Almaden Canyon along the shore of Almaden Reservoir; the gentle flat-rolling terrain offers great views of the lake and the surrounding low mountain peaks.

At Almaden Dam, the road drops down into the rural community of New Almaden and name changes to Almaden Rd at Almaden Quicksilver County Park. On the roll through town, you can see some of the old family homes of this once famous mining community and the historic Casa Grande. Almaden Rd continues along Alamitos Creek and the SE edge of Almaden Quicksilver County Park to McKean Rd.

McKean Rd is a connecting line between the double reservoir loops; the rolling terrain heads south along the valley of the Santa Teresa Hills back towards Calero Reservoir onto Uvas Rd to the Oak Glen junction.

Oak Glen Rd continues heading south on the west side of Morgan Hill; the gentle flat-rolling terrain rounds the shore of Chesbro Reservoir with wonderful views of the lake and hills.

Oak Glen Rd crosses over Llagas Creek into the quiet ranching community along Paradise Valley with beautiful views of the open meadows and vineyards; the road comes to a T at Sycamore Dr.

Sycamore Dr continues south from the valley floor with a surprising short steep climb; it’s 0.4 mile with gradient ranges of 11-13% followed by a nice descent onto Watsonville Rd.

Watsonville Rd rolls back through the valley to Chitactac-Adams County Park.

This is a gorgeous scenic ride that loops around the edge of the Santa Clara County’s suburbs out to the rural country with rolling grasslands and fabulous lake views-five at that! Throw in a couple of Billy Goat climbs and it’s a rewarding challenging ride! There are no markets anywhere on this ride, so bring plenty of food, snacks and fill up your water bottles at the designated stops.

Garmin Stats:
63.22 Miles with 4649′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 2846′
Max grade: 17%
Terrain: Rolling-extremely hilly with a couple of very steep climbs

Weather: Cool morning fog with afternoon sun.  Temps ranged from the mid 40’s to the mid 60’s. NW winds with 82% humidity.

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Hicks Mt Umunhum

Follow this route for today’s ride:


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