Get outdoors in San Jose


By Lucille Howe

Travel writer and frequent San Jose visitor

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January 2018

It may be in the heartland of Silicon Valley, but in San Jose there’s every opportunity to close that laptop and boost your heart rate. The city and its surrounds are rich in possibilities for fun outdoors, from waterparks to scaling Giant Redwoods says writer and frequent San Jose visitor Lucille Howe.

Get board, not bored

You’ll find over 6,000 square metres of rails, ramps and a ride-of-your-life six-metre pipe at Lake Cunningham Skate Park. In fact, with six bowls and a 6.7-metre cradle, it’s the largest skatepark in the state. All the kit you could need is available to hire, from pads and helmet to boards, bikes and scooters, and there’s expert tuition for any ‘kidult’ coming for the first time. Live bands provide the soundtrack to your skate every Friday night during summer, from ska to soul.

In the know… Nailed a great stunt for the first time? Instabrag with the park’s hashtag, #RideCunningham.

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Better than neck-craning, get among the Giant Redwood treetops in a canopy activity trail.

Give it a spin

Challenge yourself and cycle Highway 130 from Alum Rock to the peak of Mount Hamilton – a 40-mile round trip – best suited to experienced ramblers and riders. There’s the promise of stars at the conclusion. Mount Hamilton is the home of the Lick Observatory. Elevated at 1.28 kilometres, there are awe-inspiring after-dark visitors’ tours here, so plan on a dusk arrival. Arrived early? Add on a hike to Copernicus Peak where you’ll find the highest point in Santa Clara County.

In the know… Brush up on your mountain wildflowers before your trip and spot beauties like the Golden Poppy.

  • Zipline through the redwoods of San Jose at Mount Hermon Adventures.

    Enchanted forest

    Try the adventure park’s Sequoia Starlight Adventure, where guests have the chance to brave the high ropes after dark amongst hundreds of twinkly lights.£315 return

    Fly to San Jose
  • Ride horseback through stunning Californian vineyards from Garrod Farm.

    Love thy neigh-bour

    On the last Sunday of the month, the farm hosts a group ride followed by a winery tasting and buffet in the beautiful Saratoga Hills.£534 pp

    Book a stay in San Jose
  • Drive to the top of Mount Hamilton to visit the Lick Observatory © Christopher Schodt.

    Did you know…?

    The Lick Observatory was founded by James Lick, an eccentric Californian millionaire who dreamed of creating the world’s most powerful telescope.£410 pp

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Make a splash

Scream if you want to go faster – and likely even if you don't – in the 22-acre Raging Waters, which is open May to September. Thrill-seekers can get their adrenalin fix on Bombs Away: a trapdoor drops you into an enclosed inverted looping flume for more than 60 metres. If you prefer simply bobbing around in the deep there’s a 1,590,000-litre wave pool – swan inflatable optional.

In the know… You needn’t get wet if you don’t want to. Book a Slide Creek Premium Cabana and you’ll get your own chill-out area with astroturf and white picket fence to keep cool with a Margherita.

Tree’s a crowd

Famously, Northern California is home to Giant Redwoods. Better than the usual neck craning, though, is getting among the treetops yourself, in a canopy activity trail. Mount Herman Adventures hosts an aerial course that includes cargo nets, rope bridges and zipwires, 24 metres in the air (there’s a junior trail at seven metres). You can also hire a GoPro for $35 to record the time Dad wouldn’t go down the zipwire without throwing a wobbly.

In the know… Look out for the Giant Redwood ‘fairy rings’. Baby Redwoods sometimes sprout in a circle around the base of the parent tree using its roots for nutrients.

  • Skate up a storm at Lake Cunningham Skate Park © San Jose Tourist Board.

    Later skater

    Lake Cunningham Skate Park is the largest skate park in California, featuring the world's largest cradle, tallest vert wall, and largest full pipe.£410 pp

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Horse around

Saddle up in the Saratoga foothills for a guided horseback ride, for around $65. The trail takes in the Cooper-Garrod Estate vineyards and oak chaparral forests, climbing to Garrod Farm. There are hour and a half ‘early bird’ trails at the weekend, beginning at 08.30.

In the know… On the last Sunday of every month there’s a special hour-long trail that ends with wine tasting and mini buffet at the winery.