Santa Clara County

Date reviewed - 10/07

Reviewed by: LionZoo

Fun . . . . . . . . 3
Difficulty . . . . .High
Traffic . . . . . . Medium
Driveways . . . .None to Light
Condition . . . . Fair
Length . . . . . .19 miles

Mt. Hamilton Rd., together with San Antonio Valley Rd. and Mines Rd., forms one of the three legs of a route that will take you through 60 continuous miles of canyon roads connecting San Jose with Livermore. Though Mt. Hamilton Rd. looks great on the map, it is probably the least fun of the three roads as well as the tightest.

Mt. Hamilton Rd. is 19 miles of seemingly constant hairpin curves climbing from its base in San Jose to the top of the mountain at Mt. Hamilton Observatory. It is quite tight for its entire length and there is only three real straights of note where a gear higher than 2nd is necessary. From San Jose, the road starts off in a residential area where the curves start building. After a few miles the houses disappear and the road starts to climb into the hills. It winds for a little bit before passing the entrance to a park. After passing the park, there is no longer any driveways until the top where you reach Mt. Hamilton Observatory and this is where the road starts getting tighter and tighter. The tightest section of Mt. Hamilton is near the top close to the observatory. The road was originally made to bring horse drawn wagons to the summit for construction of the observatory and so the turning radius of automobiles were not taken into account during its construction. Henceforth, where there are several switchbacks at the top that will bog 2nd gear and require you to use the entire width of the road. This is probably also the reason way it is so narrow.

All of this sounds quite fun for someone who is a fan of the very tight stuff, but unfortunately there is quite a lot of traffic on Mt. Hamilton during daylight hours. Because of the location of the observatory on the top of the mountain, cars of all descriptions use it as an access road to get there. In addition, there are many bicyclists out during the weekends and the occasional motorcycle. To make matters worse, the road is quite narrow and can barely fit two cars and visibility is not good. This makes oncoming traffic, which has a tendency to suddenly and unexpectedly appear in front of you, be quite unnerving.

Nonetheless, Mt. Hamilton Rd. can be a lot of fun if driven at the right time, which usually means in the middle of the night. It is choppy in places, but not too bad, though I have seen wild turkey walking in the middle of the road. At the end of the road, you'll reach the observatory and a couple houses. I also see a parked Tahoe that belongs to the sheriff, but I've never seen the car move beyond that immediate area. Past the observatory, the road changes name to San Antonio Valley Rd. and the real fun begins.

- Back to Region

Yellow: Mt. Hamilton Rd.
Blue: San Antonio Canyon Rd.
Red: Mines Rd.
Cyan: Del Puerto Canyon Rd.

It is a State hwy, which means CHP, but it sure does look fun.
Detail of the eastern end.
Climbing east towards the observatory.