Climbing & Hiking Trails - 16 min read

18 Best Hiking Trails in San Jose, CA (Dog-Friendly Too!)

Nicole Abbott

Nicole Abbott, Updated September 27, 2022

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Whether you’re looking to explore nature, or you want a more challenging adventure, San Jose has plenty of trails you can choose from. These trails range from all skill levels to those with different abilities. San Jose is located in the Southern Bay Area and often doesn’t get looked at because of San Francisco. There are more than a dozen areas in and near San Joe to go hiking.

San Jose is known as the heart of Silicon Valley, but these trails in the Bay Area are amazing too! If you’re a city guy/gal and you want to escape your fast-paced life, what better way than to check out one of these trails? Here are our top eighteen trails in San Jose.

**Please Remember: Before making any hiking trip, call ahead to see what operating hours are and if there is any parking fee. Also make sure you pack your hiking gear which may include plenty of water, food, hiking boots/shoes, flashlight, hiking pole, hat, sunscreen, and bug spray.

18 Best Trails in San Jose, CA

1. Cottle Trail to Calero Reservoir and Lisa Killough Trail

Credit: Ap0013

If you’re looking for a moderately challenging hike, you’ll want to check out Cottle Trail. Cottle Trail is open from 8 AM to sunset and doesn’t have a parking fee. You can bring your dogs along on this trail as long as they are leashed. During your hike, you’ll be able to experience birding, lake views, wildflowers, and wildlife. When you arrive, you’ll have several different ways to enter Cottle Trail.

The best way to enter Cottle Trail is through the Rancho San Vicente parking entrance, hike the Lisa Killough Trail and this will bring you to Cottle Trail. For a little over a mile, you’ll pass through the hillside over flat terrain and be shaded by oak trees. Along your hike, you’ll also pass over a creek a few times so make sure you have a good pair of water-resistant hiking boots. If you become tired and need a break, Cottle Trail has a resting area with picnic tables after making those steep climbs.

Based on reviews, visitors say you’ll have gorgeous views across the lake and valley. This trail also allows mountain biking to take precautions and watch out for cyclists. If you want to go on a more peaceful day, we recommend going early and during the week as weekends can become crowded with bikers.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 8.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 744 Feet

2. Eagle Rock Loop

Credit: BSA Troop 286

The Eagle Rock Loop is an easy hiking trail that will take you a little over an hour to complete. Not only will you be able to hike this trail, but it’s also great for birding and trail running. This is one of the less-crowded trails so if you like peaceful hikes this is the perfect spot for you. Dogs are not allowed on this trail so you’ll need to leave your furry friends at home.

Before you leave home, make sure to have cash on hand as this trail has a six-dollar parking fee. Along your hike, you’ll come across some steep sections on the trail, but it will give you amazing views of the city and peace.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail is perfect for the beginner hiker. It has some incline and parts of the trail are shaded and not shaded. Make sure you come prepared with plenty of water and a hat for sun protection. In the creek part of the trail, you’ll come across wildlife such as hawks, birds, insects, and squirrels.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 498 Feet

Related Read: Best Time To Visit San Francisco

3. Penitenca Creek Trail

Credit: Christina Loren

The Penitenca Creek Trail is located East of San Jose. Before making the trip, you should know that sections of this trail are undeveloped so make sure you have a good pair of hiking boots or shoes. You’ll be able to start hiking this trail at 8 AM when the park opens, and there is also a six-dollar parking fee. Not only can you hike on this trail, but others like to birdwatch and go mountain biking so make sure to look out for cyclists.

This trail is open all year long, but you’ll need to leave dogs at home, no pets are allowed on this trail. Based on reviews, visitors say this trail has great views and is not too steep. You’ll be able to hear the sounds of running creeks, birds chirping, and whistling trees. This is a great warm-up trail for beginners.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 3.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 262 Feet

4. Quicksilver Loop Trail

Credit: Lisandro Luis Trarbach

When you arrive at Quicksilver Loop Trail, parking may be a bit of a pain. This trail doesn’t have a parking lot, but parking can be found in a residential neighborhood. In the beginning, you’ll start at a metal gate and begin on an incline among shades of trees. The trail will start as wide and then eventually begin to narrow the further you get on your hike.

A little more than half a mile on your hike, you’ll come to a wooden bridge that will take you to the top of the valley. Since Southern California has great weather, you’ll get a beautiful view all year long. When you get two miles in, you’ll arrive at Guadalupe Reservoir. Here you will be able to see some great waterfront views and even enjoy some fishing if you wish.

Based on reviews, this trail is known for its wildlife and scenic views. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot some whitetail deer. Whether you live in the city or just want a view of nature, the Quicksilver Loop Trail is a great choice.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 758 Feet

5. Alum Rock South Rim Trail

Credit: Dawn Ellner

The Alum Rock South Rim trail is a moderately challenging trail that is open all year long. It is closed on Mondays, doesn’t allow dogs, and has a six-dollar parking fee. This is a four-point three-mile hike that you can access in the South Bay Area. You will begin this hike with a paved trail, then eventually will get to a dirt path. On hot summer days, you’ll have areas of shade to hide you from the beaming sun and can even take advantage of the mineral spring that is hidden in the bush.

This trail is kid-friendly and even has a playground at the park. Set some time aside for this hike, it will take you about two hours to complete. Based on reviews, this trail is well-maintained and will give you nice views of the canyon and downtown San Jose. Make sure you bring a map ahead of time. These trails are not very well-marked and you’ll have little to no cellphone service.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 770 Feet

6. Santa Teresa County Park Trail Loop

Credit: Jeffrey T. Kreulen

This moderately challenging hike in San Jose California will take you around four hours to complete. Not only is this trail popular for hiking, but it’s great for horseback riding and birdwatching. This trail is also pet-friendly as long as they are on a leash.

Miles one through four are very moderate, but once you get to miles four through seven the trail becomes a rocky ridge. Don’t be surprised if by the end your legs feel like jello! Based on reviews, many visitors recommend going clockwise on this trail. This trail has very little shade so visitors recommend going early or on cooler days.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 8.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,768 Feet

7. Seven Springs Loop Trail

Credit: Adriaticfoto

The Seven Springs Loop Trail is moderately challenging trail just outside the South Bay area. The trail is almost three miles leg and has in and out periods of shade. The trail is wide enough to hike with one other person or to bring your furry friend along. When you hike towards the back of the hill, you’ll get to see some of the mansions in the residential area. Towards the end, you’ll hike along the creek so make sure you bring a good pair of hiking shoes.

If you’re looking for a peaceful hike, you’ll want to go early and on a weekday. This trail gets busy on weekends so parking is limited. You’ll also have to take precautions and watch out for mountain bikers in both directions. Based on reviews, this trail has a lot of elevation changes and has lots of wildlife.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 561 Feet

8. Los Gatos Creek Trail

Credit: Halfpoint

Los Gatos Creek is an easy trail for hikers that takes around forty minutes to complete. This trail is open all year long and is pet-friendly as long as they are on a leash. If you’re planning on a family hike, this trail is suitable for small children so you won’t have any problems bringing your stroller along. If you have limited mobility, you can also bring wheelchairs along on this trail.

Based on reviews, the paved trail is great, but the off-road portion isn’t well-maintained. Parking can become very limited so you may need to park in the street. The trail gives a great view of the creek and trees. Visitors recommend getting to this trail early to avoid crowds.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 39 Feet

9. Montgomery Hill

Credit: 54WilliamGJusto54

Montgomery Hill is an easy trail that takes around 40 minutes to complete. It is an unpaved trail that goes from Evergreen Creek and Falls Creek. From there you’ll pass through grassland and oak trees. While hiking this trail you’ll also see an abundance of wildflowers that your kids will enjoy. This trail doesn’t get very crowded so if you’re looking for a peaceful place this is the one.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a great trail for beginners, but you’ll need to watch out for steep parts. There is little to no shade on this trail so you’ll want to make sure you bring a hat and sunscreen. If you plan to hike after recent rain, make sure you wear a good pair of hiking boots as trails can become muddy.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 239 Feet

10. Aquila Loop Trail

Credit: Zakirov Aleksey

The Aquila Loop Trail is an easy hike located in San Jose and takes around thirty minutes to complete. This is a quiet trail if you’re looking for peace and quiet, and dogs are not allowed on this trail. It has a single scenic track with some rocky areas, a bench at the halfway point, and a picnic table near the end of the trail. It is a great view to see especially in the springtime as you’ll see the green hills and California poppies.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a great hike for beginners with very little elevation. The loop is said to be very well-maintained, but narrow. This trail has very little shade so you’ll want to make sure you pack plenty of sun protection.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 131 Feet

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11. Coyote Peak

Credit: Andy Konieczny

Coyote Peak is a moderately challenging hike that will you to see over seventy miles from the peak on a clear day. This trail begins from the Ohlone Trail near Santa Teresa County Park. You can also get to Coyote Peak Trail by using one of the short trails called Ridge Trail. In the beginning, you’ll find that it has a steep climb continuously. You’ll climb to its high point at Coyote Peak Summit. The summit is a flat trail that will lead you to a lookout area.

After the summit, you will start to descend, then come to a mostly flat trail. Among the scenery, you’ll see wooded and grass hills and even some deer and cows. Based on reviews, visitors say this is a very popular spot for bikers and is unshaded, so make sure you bring a hat and sun gear. It is recommended you bring a good pair of hiking shoes because there are plenty of inclines and rocky terrain.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 705 Feet

12. Arrowhead Loop Trail

Credit: Joshua Resnick

The Arrowhead Loop Trail is a moderately challenging hike that takes around one hour and forty-five minutes to complete. The trail is open all year long but is not pet-friendly, so you’ll need to leave your furry friends at home. This trail is a great warm-up and has plenty of shaded areas. Make sure that you wear a good pair of hiking boots because some parts of this trail have loose gravel.

Based on reviews, visitors recommend hiking clockwise on this trail because of the signs that point to the loop being one way. If you want a peaceful hike, visitors recommend going on a weekday. The trail is well-maintained and if you’re lucky at the right time of year you’ll see the California poppies bloom.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 629 Feet

13. Boccardo Loop Trail

Credit: Alaina Sharpshair

The Boccardo Loop Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you a little over two hours to complete. Not only this is a popular trail for hiking, but many people use it for trail running, birdwatching, and mountain biking. This trail is open all year long, but it’s not pet-friendly, so you’ll need to leave your furry friends at home. The trail is very well-maintained and less crowded on a weekday compared to other trails.

If you’re lucky, you can hike during the springtime to see the wildflowers and experience cool California air. Even for beginners, this trail may still keep you on your toes due to the rolling hills and switchback-like parts. Based on reviews, visitors love this trail for its view of the Bay Area and mountains.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 994 Feet

14. North Rim Trail to Eagle Rock

Credit: Chase Dekker

The North Rim Trail is an easy hiking trail that takes about an hour to complete. It’s open all year long but is not pet-friendly, so you’ll need to leave dogs at home for this hike. Even though it has an easy rate, the trail isn’t very well-marked so we recommend getting mapping directions ahead of time. On your hike, you’ll see beautiful meadows of mustard flowers in the Spring. This is a must-see and photo-worthy moment.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a nice and simple hike with rewarding views. The climb, in the beginning, can be strenuous to start, but after the elevation gain, it’s all downhill from there.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 305 Feet

Related Read: 30 Things To Do In Santa Cruz

15. Mine Hill Trail Loop

Credit: Joshua Resnick

The Mine Hill Trail Loop is a moderately challenging hike that takes around four hours to complete. This trail will give you over eight miles of elevation gain and challenge. This trail is a pet-friendly, as long as your dog is on a leash. There are restrooms located at the bottom of the parking lot, spots with picnic tables, and amazing views. The beginning of the hike has a little of a steep incline, but after that, it’s flat and easy.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail is very pleasant and not crowded. This trail has about half and half shade so make sure you bring enough water and sun protection.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,617 Feet

16. Almaden Lake

Credit: Hank Shiffman

The Almaden Lake Trail is an easy hike that takes you around thirty minutes to complete. This a pet-friendly trail so you can bring your dogs as long as they are on a leash. During your hike, you’ll get to see numerous wildlife such as birds and ducks. Hikers and bicyclists use the same trail so please take precautions when navigating. If you’re planning a family day, this is a family-friendly hike and has two playgrounds for small kids to enjoy.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a great warm-up hike and perfect if you need to hike with kids. They also love that there are benches and picnic tables through the trail for resting.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 29 Feet

17. Joice, Bernal Hill, Norred Loop

Credit: Dudarev Mikhail

The Joice, Bernal Hill, Norred Loop is an easy trail for hikers and takes around one hour and forty minutes to complete. This is a lightly exposed trail with some shady areas from the oak trees. The trail has a nice balance of inclines and flat terrains with amazing views. You’ll go through many hills on this loop so make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks. Since there isn’t much shade, you’ll want to complete this hike early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun isn’t the strongest.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a nice hike with plenty of inclines, and the trails are well-maintained.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 3.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 728 Feet

Related Read: 50 Most Beautiful Places in the US

18. Mayfair Ranch Trail to Serpentine Loop Trail

Credit: Sundry Photgraphy

This moderately challenging hike takes almost four hours to complete for the experienced hiker. Not only is this trail great for hiking, but you can also go horseback riding and mountain biking. Sadly, this trail is not pet-friendly so you’ll need to keep your furry friends at home. This hike is more than a half-day and has two significant climbs. The climbs are on the first half of the trail and then on the second half, it’s virtually all downhill.

Spring is the best time to hike this trail so you will get to see the wildflowers. Based on reviews, visitors say this trail has views of green hills and gives you a whole view of the city. This trail is a great workout and is recommended you hike it going clockwise since Mayfair is one way. There’s not much shade, but you can find small sections under trees that is just short of the summit.

It is recommended to avoid the counterclockwise direction because the uphill is extremely hard. The scenery is well worth it, but you really won’t see a ton of wildlife on this trail. It is also said that the rangers who work at the park are extremely helpful if you ever need help navigating your way.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,607 Feet

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