Mount Hamilton Loop + ADD NEW ROUTE
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Start out on Alum Rock Ave, near Highway 680 in San Jose (at 2227 Alum Rock Ave is A Bite of Wyoming coffee shop & restaurant - a good place to meet) Go NE on Alum Rock (which is route 130), toward the hills. Just as you get up into the hills, you'll see a sign for Mt. Hamilton Road (which is also route 130) directing you to the right. Take that right and you'll be climbing up all the way to the top on that same road. The Observatory is at the peak (see Amenities)
Up and over the top, Mt. Hamilton Road changes into San Antonio Road (it's still Rte 130, the same road, though)until you get to the turnoff to the right (which is where Rte 130 continues into Patterson) and it changes into Mines Road. This is where you'll see The Junction Bar & Grill (Amenities again.) Stay on Mines until you drop down out of the mountains into Livermore. Left on Tesla Rd, left on Concannon Blvd, then left again onto Isabel Ave. (Rte 84) which will take you back to Highway 680. Go South on 680 back into San Jose and at Alum Rock Ave, you'll be back where you started.
Scenery is fantastic! The route goes up a mountain then back down the other side, so you have an array of different landscapes you travel through: Meadows, forested areas, a bit of farmland, and the views as you ascend just keep getting better and better until you reach the top where you have a panoramic, 360 degree view of the surrounding area. Breath-taking!
The road quality gets 5 plus stars for the downhill section but I gave it an overall 4 because of some of the hazards (described ahead). It begins as steep and windy, then levels and smooths out as you descend down the back side. On the first leg (ascent) there are three things to watch out for. First is small amounts of fallen rock and gravel in the road, easily avoidable if you're not flying up the road. Second is the potholes. There are many and some are not easily seen until you're right on (or sometimes IN) them. Finally, watch out for the bicyclists. There are a LOT going up (slowly) and going down (sometimes approaching Mach 4!) Fortunately, being on a motorcycle makes it easier to share the (sometimes narrow) road with them.
There are only two amenities on the way up the mountain and then back down, and neither of them is a gas station, so fill up before you head up. At the top (and highly recommended) is the James Lick Observatory, where one could probably spend the better part of an entire day checking out all the displays they have to offer in the visitor center. The 30 minute tour is informative and interesting. The other landmark is The Junction Bar & Grill on the back side of the mountain. Good food, good people and a good place to grab a bite or just take a break.
he peak of Mt. Hamilton is 4,196 feet, so it may get snow in the Winter. I suggest making this loop in the Spring or Summer, depending on your personal weather preference.
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