Get ready for an onslaught of new camping posts, dear readers. As we said in the last post, it’s Camping Season 2016, and due to some job-related camping and then adding in some personal trips, this site is going to feature CAMPING ALL THE TIME for the next few weeks.
I’m personally convinced that the Santa Clara County Parks Campgrounds are the Bay Area’s best-kept secret. We were supposed to go camping at Joseph D. Grant last October for the first time, but due to a family emergency, had to go back after dinner. However, this brief experience with Joseph Grant was enough to convince me that we needed to spend more time there, and it happened this weekend. I was right. Let me tell you why you need to know about this treasure of a park. (We have plans to visit another one in 2 weeks, so we’ll keep you posted about our ongoing experiences with the SCC parks.)
Joseph Grant is close. If you’re in San Jose, it’s probably 30 minutes from the East Side, which means that from other parts of the Bay, we’re looking at probably 90 minutes or less travel time. Perfect for a weekend romp, as happened this weekend. (Left the East Bay at noon on Saturday, back by 1:30pm on Sunday!)
The campsites are fairly spaced apart. We had a group staying across from us that was, well, not excessively quiet (or sober), but thanks to very present park rangers (see below) and a fair amount of space between campsites, sleeping was not a problem– and I’m not a person who can sleep through anything. If you are looking for solitude at this campground, there are a few sites that could actually let you feel like you have your own space– not out in the backcountry alone, but much more secluded than many campgrounds. The best campsites for solitude are probably 19 and 20; 17 & 18 with another family could be amazing. If the Snell Campground is open, try campgrounds 36 or 37. These campsites may be a bit longer of a walk to the bathroom, but they are more private than the vast majority of campgrounds.
Santa Clara County Parks rangers are also very present. The rangers circulate through the campground on what seemed like an hourly basis but was probably more like every 2 hours or so. Bathrooms are checked and cleaned often and the trash was emptied by 6:30 am this morning. There are even FREE showers! AND it’s dog-friendly!! (Dogs have to be on a leash, but they are welcome in the campground and on the trails.)
Joseph Grant has a TON of trails. We only dabbled in the wealth available– we wandered down to the amphitheater to see/hear the bird boxes (Update– they are BAT boxes! Even more amazing!) nearby. The kids played on the amphitheater but it was not what I would call a hike. The next morning we were going to try to hike to Bass Lake but the trail was closed, so we did a mile wander down the Hotel Trail to the Barn Trail and then back up the Snell Trail. This is but a paltry dip of the toe in the pool that is Joseph Grant, and a reason that it’s on the list of “places we must go back to.” Having said that, the mile ramble that we did was lovely and the number of trails at Joseph Grant means that it is possible to put together a hike of pretty much any length, for any grade of hiker.
Joseph Grant is famous for its wildflowers, and thanks to the rain this year, there are still wildflowers hanging on! If you are looking for a last-minute spring campsite, you could still see some of the bloom that has graced the entire Bay. The open meadows that are filled with wildflowers also mean that there is lots of open space (and darkness, given the relative remoteness of the park) at night for star-gazing. Once a month, Joseph Grant hosts Star Parties on Saturday nights– if you are looking for a Saturday to go camping, you might want to check the dates and go on a night you could learn about stars!
Finally, because this park is so under-utilized, there is often last-minute space available, which is a rarity in Bay Area campgrounds. I looked up next weekend and there are a ton of campsites available.
What’s the rub, then? What could possibly be stopping all of us from rushing out to Joseph Grant? As I said above, not much– I think the park is completely under-utilized. That said, the flip side of amazing wildflower time is that it’s also amazing tick time. Be warned. Especially if you have a dog. If you decide to wait until the height of tick season has passed, Joseph Grant gets hot in the summer. Sometimes very hot. This makes for lovely nights (see Star Parties, above), but it will make for hot and dehydrating hiking, and some of the campsites can be exposed. Even with all that, this is definitely a park to have on your radar– particularly on the “let’s go camping on the spur-of-the-moment” radar.
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