Mount Umunhum to open to the public next week

(KRON) — A spectacular part of the South Bay landscape until recently known only to indigenous people and the military is about to become open to the general public.

Mount Umunhum is one of the highest peaks in the Bay Area.

And it’s now part of the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, which is just 45 minutes from downtown San Jose.

The radar station is a five-story concrete box where the Air Force once watched for Russian war planes over the Pacific. You can’t go inside but ‘the box’ is only part of the appeal of this place.

“It was an opportunity to make a place for the public to come and enjoy and get away up into the clean air at 3500 feet and look around and take a deep breath,” said Steve Abbhors, of Midpeninsula Regional Open Space.

Accessed off Hicks Road in Los Gatos and just 45 minutes from downtown San Jose, the drive up through the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve winds through stunning vistas of the Santa Cruz Mountains, topping out at 3,486 feet above the valley floor.

A visitor center explains the history of the Air Force Station and what plants and animals to watch for as you hike three and a half miles of newly cut trails, among the highest in the bay area, through stands of knob cone pine, madrone, live oak and chaparral.

“My sense is that people are interested in this because it gives them a sense of place, they see that box and it reminds them of where we are so they can now come up here and get up close and personal,” Abbhors said.

Financed through measure a tax dollars and a federal grant, it’s a new life for an old mountain that is also a sacred site to the Ohlone people who were among the first but by no means the last to recognize what is now one of the Bay Area’s most breathtaking public destinations.

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