Alum Rock Park – San Jose CA


Alum Rock Park is California's oldest municipal park and occupies 720 acres within Alum Rock Canyon just east of downtown San Jose. Though in the late 1800s it held many commercial attractions, including an aviary, a restaurant, a carousel and a zoo, today the park has been returned to a more natural state and most of these man-made structures are gone.

Much of the evidence of mankind that remains dates to the extensive work in Alum Rock Park undertaken by the WPA and the CCC in the 1930s. These agencies improved park trails, removed railroad tracks and built stone bridges, picnic areas, barbecue pits and a lodge. A dam was built in the east of the park in 1936.

Source notes

William R. Lawson. "Achievements, Federal Works Agency. Work Projects Administration, Northern California." 1940: 60.

For excellent photos of the WPA bridge on the Mineral Springs Trail see

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Location Info

Alum Rock Park
San Jose, CA 95127

Location notes:

Coordinates: 37.398441, -121.800741

5 comments on “Alum Rock Park – San Jose CA

  1. Barbara Cory

    I grew up in east San Jose, and how we loved Alum Rock Park. I loved all the WPA work; the bridges, the mineral spring grottoes, the trails. I had day camp there every summer with Girl Scouts, caught frogs in the creek, and back when I was little (the sixties), there was a bandstand, a zoo, and a public indoor swimming pool (a Nautatorium), along with a wonderful playground. My sister and I used to go horseback riding up there in our teens; there was a stable up there. So many picnics, so many happy summer days! Catching frogs, wading in the creek! In high school I saw an old film about the Santa Clara Valley, from the 50’s, called ‘The Valley of Hearts’ Delight”, which included a section on how a public railroad ran from like Saratoga to Alum Rock Park so people could ‘take the waters’. Fond, fond memories. They took all the trees out of San Jose and I couldn’t afford a house, so I’ve lived in Portland OR for almost 28 years…

  2. Maryann Colbeck

    I have the same fond memories of “our” park. Remember the carousel that used to be inside the building that housed the snack bar? How about Jerry and Nelly, the lions? I’m glad to see you mention the bandstand. I’ve been unable to find much mention of it anywhere. I believe it was a “clamshell”. Orchestras would come to play on Sundays. I understand why they took the park back to its natural state, but sad that my child and my grandchildren never got the chance to experience the wonderful times that were. Thanks for the memories! I’m still in San Jose. In fact, my husband was a park ranger for many years at Alum Rock and other city parks. Yes, the city has changed, but the park is still a place I love to visit often.

  3. Harry Zones

    When the City of San Jose took over the parks maintenance and care, just like everything the City gets their hands on, it collapsed. The deer were killed to feed the bear and lions and everything got run down……………..I am probably the foremost authority of Penitencia Creek today and it has been my backyard playground forever. Dr. Moytoso (sp) at the Youth Science Institute YSI was one of my mentors where I studied,worked, and volunteered my time back in the 60’s. Not many people know how to find Joaquin Murrieta’s hide out cave and I think the park disallows this trail but I’ve seen it hundreds of times as well as hiking from my house to the falls and back by the creek many times.
    When they demolished the merry go round and facilities I found many old coins and relics from the old days.

    Sadly like today the City doesn’t much care about saving history like it should be done or maintaining infrastructure so future citizens can enjoy what others worked so hard for. Just think what Alum rock Park would be today had they done the correct thing to preserve and maintain this historical site.

  4. John Johnson

    Alum Rock does need help! Talk to your Council Member! The city is working on a 150th anniversary for 2022. I to know Alum Rock and most of its history as far back as when Barney Bute was it’s first resident and Eber Munn was it’s first Superintendent. I have been in Murrieta’s cave, the Dynamite storage caves, and many trips to both falls. The deer in the paddock were actually killed by a pack of dogs and the Bear and several other animals went to Happy Hollow. The carousel is still operating in British Columbia and the 1915 Natatorium was literally falling into the basement. The park had 3 separate bandstands in it’s history. Things in the city get run down because they get forgotten! Nobody is at city hall complaining about the condition of the park… so, it gets no attention. Like you, many people “used to” volunteer there… these days, not so much. Alum Rock defiantly needs a voice. With Google (and its cash) on the way, Guadalupe River Park is to “new” flagship park.

  5. Colin Jung

    I am relearning my experiences in Alum Rock Park, which I visited as a child with my parents in the 1960-1970’s. I remember an idyllic, wonderful retreat from the city. The pungent aroma of half a dozen different mineral springs, playing in the creek and hiking around the park. I still live in the area and am trying to do some research about the railway that use to run up to the park. If anyone can direct me to some historical resources that would be excellent.

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