I had done a fair bit of hiking in the Bay Area to research and write my book, so I was perplexed as to why I hadn't heard about this mountain. When I returned home, I Googled it and realized that Mt. Umunhum had been closed to the public since 1958. Lucky for me, it was set to re-open in September 2017.
|Silicon Valley is somewhere there under the clouds|
Resting Place of the Hummingbird
That gave me some time to learn more about this place. At 3,486 feet, Mt. Umunhum is the fourth highest peak in the Santa Cruz mountains and the highest point on the Bay Area Ridge Trail.
The mountain's name means "resting place of the hummingbird" in the Ohlone language. In fact, at one time, this was a large Native American population centers—with 70 diverse tribal units.
Here's a timeline of what happened to the mountain since then:
- Mid-1800s: the area was part of a nearby mining operation.
- 1870s: German and Austrian immigrants poured into the area to escape the Franco-Prussian War.
- 1957-1980: The US government built and operated the Almaden Air Force Station here. It was part of a network of radar stations used to watch over the area during the Cold War.
- 1986: Midpeninsula Regional Open Space bought the land for $260,000.
- 2009: Federal funding helps restore the peak.
- 2014: Santa Clara County Measure AA provided funding to complete road and trail improvements, parking areas, and weather shelters.
- September 2017: Mt. Umunhum opens to the public!
About the hike
Distance: 8.4 miles
Difficulty: Challenging according to this calculator, but I felt it was moderate.
Trail type: Multi-use (we saw a fair # of mountain bikers on the trail)
Dogs allowed: No :(
Official Map: https://www.openspace.org/sites/default/files/map_SA.pdf
We started our hike in the Mount Umunhum Summit Parking Area at the end of Mt. Umunhum Road. We had initially planned to park in the Bald Mountain Parking Area lower down on Mt. Umunhum Road, but all 20 or so parking spots were already taken by the time we got there....at 9:30 am. So off to the summit we went.
|View from the Summit Parking Area|
The summit parking lot offers some nice views of Silicon Valley below. Once you've explored those views, climb 159 stairs to the actual summit. There, you find "The Cube" a Cold War era radio building. Behind the cube, you'll find the start of the Mt. Umunhum Trail.
Overall, I enjoyed this hike and am glad we did it. I wanted to make sure I saw this peak for its significance for the area, but I might not drive 3 hours each weekend to do this unless it's a spectacularly clear day.
Up for a visit? Visit the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve website for park hours, directions, and info on an audio tour.