Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sierra Azul OSP: the Blue Ten

by Gabe

On November 14, 2010, I decided to accomplish a hike that had been looming over me for my entire life - one I call the "Blue Ten" - named after the 10+ miles over the Sierra Azul (Blue Mountains) of Santa Clara County.  The primary trail follows most of the ridge of the Sierra Azul from the junction of Hicks Rd./Umunhum Rd. to Lexington Reservoir at Alma Bridge Rd. 

Sierra Azul OSP PDF map

View of the Sierra Azul from San Jose
As recent as a year ago, an 10 mile hike was out of the question for me from a health aspect (at least I believed), but after two months of weekly hikes of 6+ consecutive miles, I decided one evening that the next day I would hike it.

I decided to start at an East entrance - the Woods Trail entrance at Hicks rd. and Mt. Umunhum Rd.  From here I stayed on Woods trail, passed Barlow Road trail, and climbed to Mt. El Sombroso (2,999 ft.).  At the junction with Kennedy Trail and Limekiln Trail, I opted to take the less traveled but slightly longer Limekiln Trail.  The Limekiln actually has less views of the Santa Clara Valley, but I don't have many opportunities to take it and so it was in order.  Finally, I took the Priest Rock Trail. 

At this time of year - November - you have to get an early start to make sure you can both hike the entire trail and get your ride back to where you park your car before dark (I parked in the gated lot at the Woods Trail entrance).

Mt. Umunhun from Woods trail
Ultimately, the Blue Ten took me from 1,200 ft., to El Sombroso at 2,999 ft.with gradual dibs and rises over the next several miles until a sharp drop along the Priest Rock Trail to Lexington Reservoir at about 600ft.

My favorite things about this hike?  One, of course, is being able to look at the Sierra Azul range and always know that I hiked it (visible anywhere in the Santa Clara Valley, one can see it rise from the Almaden Area, to it's highest peak of Mt. Umunhum where the large concrete structure is on top.  The ridge travels West until it dips down where highway 17 crosses between it and the Santa Cruz Mountains).

Looking north with San Francisco in view
Another great thing about this hike and the Sierra Azul OSP in general are the incredible views of the south bay.  From one point where I had taken a break near the junction of Priest Rock Trail and Limekiln Trail, I was able to see the downtowns of Los Gatos, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco all at once (weather was great that day).

The final picture was actually an accident. It was taken to show the San Jose International Airport.  Completely by chance, you can see Harwood rd. and Meridian rd., which are lined up directly and pointing North/South at the peak of Mount Diablo - which was purposely done when Mt. Diablo was used as the point to lay out most of Northern California for a grid system to survey with.  The roads point along the right side of the picture from bottom to top, directly at the peak!  The peak is obviously the largest mountain in the background of the picture.  Just follow it down at a slight angle and you will see Meridian and then Harwood.  (Ironically enough, I discovered this picture the same day about two weeks later when I climbed Mt. Diablo, where I had looked south at the Sierra Azul range!

A future Blue Ten hike with accompanying detailed blog will be in the works!  Consider this a general summary.

Notes: If you hike this trail, start early and bring plenty of water.  There are a couple springs that would need to be filtered and are unreliable, so you need to plan enough water for the entire hike!  Also, it can be cold since this is a ridge and wind can kick in even during calm weather.  Save this hike for good weather - that's when you will be able to get the most out of the views!  If you plan on hiking the entire Blue Ten, make sure you know what you are getting into with regards to elevation climbs.  During the warmer months, be prepared for lots of sun!  Most of the trail is uncovered and so it can be difficult during those hot times, and if traveled during the week you may not see any other hikes for several hours at a time. 

Mileage Note: The Blue Eleven hike was actual 10.7 miles according to the Sierra Azul OSP map.  A shorter version is also possible if you park at the driveable end of Mt. Umunhum Rd. and take the Barlow Road trail.  This version would be 9.4 miles, but don't let it trick you!  While it would start at a higher entrance, Barlow Road actually drops over 700 feet before climbing back up to Mt. El Somebroso, making it not much easier than the Woods Trail version in terms of elevation climb.

Sierra Azul OSP PDF map
Sierra Azul OSP website

1 comment:

  1. Mt Diablo - from that peak u can see more of California than any other point. Nice pics.