South Bay Area day trip?
June 22, 2013 9:08 AM   Subscribe

I have a free day in San Jose, CA tomorrow. Where should I go? Especially interested in redwoods and the coast.

I have an extra day in San Jose after a conference. Originally I was planning to go up to SF, but then I got the idea in my head to rent a car and see some natural beauty. I don't have the shoes for hiking, but I'd love to walk among some redwoods and/or check out the coast. Maybe have a lunch stop in a cute town.

I will probably leave around 10 and have to be at the airport by 5, so nothing too far away (an hour, tops). Is this doable?
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation around San Jose, CA (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You bet.

Take 17 (Santa Cruz Hwy) up into the mountains, head north along Skyline Blvd (35) until you get to Purisima Redwoods Preserve and wander around in there a little; the trails are easy and trees gorgeous, then head to Half Moon Bay for a beach-side stroll and nosh. Head back into SF along 92 and you're close to the airport.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:28 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Santa Cruz is only about an hour from San Jose and would be a nice place to visit.Nisene Marks state forest is gorgeous just south of Santa Cruz along the coast. It has been a long time since I lived there so I don't have any specific recommendations for lunch spots.
posted by apricot at 9:29 AM on June 22, 2013

Easy, take Hwy 17 to Santa Cruz, 40 minutes or so as long as you get off early - the line to get into town can be long if you're not. You can take a drive up the beautiful coast to the north, and/or go out to Felton along Hwy 9 to get among the redwoods.

The weather might not be great tomorrow, weather underground says there's a 30% chance of rain.

(I live in Santa Cruz so memail me if you want more detail.)
posted by anadem at 9:31 AM on June 22, 2013

Head back into SF along 92 and you're close to the airport.
That would be San Francisco airport, fyi; you may be flying from San Jose?
posted by anadem at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2013

Best answer: Absolutely. Which airport are you flying out of, SJ or SFO? Lots of redwoods and a range of trails in the hills west of San Jose. Various county and state parks, too, with Big Basin Redwoods State Park being the crown jewel. Henry Cowell Redwoods is also very nice and its terrain may be a little easier.

My first thought is to suggest you head towards Highway 9 (by passing through the city of Saratoga). Hwy 9 will climb up into the hills, and either take 236 to/through Big Basin, or just stay on 9 to Boulder Creek. I'd personally avoid Hwy 17 because it's kinda horrible, but it is more direct than 9.

Where you go from there depends on which airport you need to get to.
posted by mosk at 9:34 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Flying out of San Jose. Great ideas so far, thanks!
posted by lunasol at 9:39 AM on June 22, 2013

Best answer: Henry Cowell State Park is about 40 minutes from SJC. There are lots of redwoods, and a very easy 1 mile or so loop, with longer options if you're so inclined. It's also very close to Santa Cruz if you want to see the coast. Driving up 1 from Santa Cruz is an option too.

Big Basin State Park is a little better for redwoods, in my opinion, but is a little more out of the way.

If you don't mind winding mountain roads, you could take 17 towards Santa Cruz to 9 and Henry Cowell, then head north on 9 to 236 and Big Basin, and return via 9 to Saratoga. Or do it in reverse. Highway 9 is lined with towns. You'd have plenty of time to do that with a some stops and a short hike.

Be warned of beach traffic on 17 if the weather is nice.

For food, there's the Tyrolean Inn in Ben Lomond. If you like beer the Boulder Creek Brewery is good. There are a few wineries in the area too, but I'm less familiar with them.

I live in the redwoods around here, so memail if you want more details.
posted by unix at 9:39 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everyone up above has great suggestions, so I'll just throw this out there as an alternative to driving 17 or 9: Mt Madonna County Park is about 40-45 minutes from San Jose, with lots of shaded redwood lined trails. I used to live off highway 152, and it's a fairly easy drive, often with less traffic than the highways on the peninsula ( though there may be late afternoon traffic on highway 101). There's some decent grub in Morgan Hill or Gilroy- I think Gilroy qualifies as a "cuter" downtown. Try Garlic City Cafe (closes at 1 on Sunday), Old City Hall (outdoor patio), or Cafe 152.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:54 AM on June 22, 2013

Head to the parking lot at Castle Rock State Park, on Skyline Blvd. 36 minutes from the airport, and walk on the trails in the western direction.
You're on the ridge, so your ocean views are overlook, but you get more walking, less driving.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:06 PM on June 22, 2013

Response by poster: Wound up driving to Henry Cowell SP, which was nice, although there was a lot of noise from Roaring Camp Railroads next door. But still, it was a lovely walk through the redwoods.

Then I headed down to Santa Cruz for lunch and drove north on 1 for a while before heading back to San Jose (no beach, but it wasn't really a beach day after all). Anyway, it was a great day - thanks again for the tips!
posted by lunasol at 11:07 PM on June 23, 2013

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