First ride to Mt. Umunhum Cube — Legal or otherwise

The concrete cube at Mt. Umunhum, up close and personal.


Mt. Umunhum summit, bathed in warm December sunshine and light winds to push away the smog proved too much of a lure, so I set out from Santa Clara and headed for New Almaden and the southwest climb of Horrible Hicks.

As I had planned, there was virtually no traffic, just the occasional car and a few bicycles. Hicks from New Almaden is less of a grind with sections of 16 percent. It goes on for a mile to the Mt. Umunhum Road intersection.

Riding on the newly paved road, I would appreciate the improvement during the descent, one of the most dangerous I know of in the Bay Area, after Hicks Road, where a cyclist died in 2004.

Summit shelter offers views of the Bay Area that can’t be beat.

The first mile climbs relentlessly with long stretches of 13-15 percent. It lets up at the Bald Mountain Trail parking area for a half mile before resuming its leg-burning grade of 13-15 percent for a mile. Beyond the point where the road was closed to the public for an eternity things get more civilized with the grade of 7 percent.

I stopped at Loma Prieta Road junction to pay tribute to past rides there. One of these days.

From here it’s a delightful downhill and flat ride with the blue waters of Lake Elsman visible far below in the deep redwood canyon where Los Gatos Creek originates.

At a junction I turned right and started climbing steeply once again, the final assault to the summit and the now ugly concrete cube. Surrounded by the elegantly manicured hilltop it truly does look out of place.

As I walked around enjoying the spectacular views of Santa Clara Valley and San Francisco’s building spires I could appreciate why this mountaintop offers a better view than Mount Hamilton. It has the shining blue waters of the Pacific to its credit, but also it’s much closer to the valley, making for a more memorable view.

Contemplating my past rides here, I came to realize that this was my first time to the cube. In 1982, 1985 and other times we rode through the lower base, never up to the cube.

As my cycling days wind down, I can take satisfaction in making it to the summit. Best done on a weekday, or leave early in the morning on the weekend.

Jobst Brandt shows good form on Mt. Umunhum in 2007, age 72.He started riding there in 1957.

That sign on the road. Now a memory.

3 Responses to “First ride to Mt. Umunhum Cube — Legal or otherwise”

  1. Random Biker Says:

    Glad that you got up to the summit finally. Don’t forsake the historic tower. It’s only that way because it’s being willfully neglected by the upper management of it’s malicious owner.

  2. ted Says:

    Thanks for the update Ray…..overall it was more exciting when you had to avoid getting shot at by the unruly land lords…ride bike!

  3. Ray Hosler Says:

    Random: That thought came to me as well. Maybe a nice green camouflage.

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