With the year-round temperate weather and plethora of nearby green spaces, Bay Area locals love their time outdoors. That’s especially the case in San Jose since it’s further inland and thus not as susceptible to fog and the chillier weather up north. The aspect that’s most impressive about San Jose parks though is how they make you feel miles away from the city while still being within a densely populated area. Whether you want to get away from it all or come together with friends on a beautiful day in nature, these are the best parks in San Jose, California.
Best park for sightseeing
Frequented by families, joggers, dog-walkers, locals on their lunch break and tourists exploring the various sights within its leafy confines, if there’s one park to see in San Jose, it’s Kelley Park. Spanning 172 acres, this is not only one of the largest urban parks in the area, it’s the most versatile; bringing together the best aspects of city parks in one scenic space.
Don’t miss Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, History Park, Trolley Barn and the Japanese Friendship Garden, which is a peaceful oasis complete with bright orange koi in the pond. Spend time taking it all in or simply find a quiet corner to relax and enjoy a break from the city.
Almaden Quicksilver County Park
Best park for hiking and history
Step back in time on the trails at Almaden Quicksilver County Park, where you can hike past remnants of what was once the richest mercury mining operation in California in the 1840s. From rusted relics to closed-off “Quicksilver” mines, it’s a unique way to get a glimpse of Santa Clara Valley’s mining past, all to the backdrop of oak woodland, rolling hills and open meadows.
Head to the more rugged southern end of the park for uncrowded trails and solitude. On sunny, clear days, take in the sparkling Guadalupe Reservoir and views of Mount Hamilton, Sierra Azul and the Valley. There’s no potable water at the park so bring plenty with you.
Emma Prusch Farm Park
Best park for toddlers and school-aged kids
When you arrive at Emma Prusch Farm Park, you’ll be welcomed by the chickens and peacocks that roam free at this peaceful 47-acre space. It’s the perfect introduction to what lies ahead: animal encounters, educational experiences and sustainable agricultural practices.
Bring the whole family to experience this agricultural haven in the middle of a busy urban area, all thanks to Emma Prusch, who donated half of her dairy farm to the city in the 1960s. Spend a day walking around the community garden, fruit orchard and the largest barn in San Jose. Hop on a hay wagon ride and have a picnic while kids run around in the wide-open spaces and playgrounds around the park. If you have more time in the area, sign up for one of the classes, such as beekeeping, animal care, or basic gardening. There is also a fall music festival and a summer camp for kids.
Alum Rock Park
Best parks for a picnic
As the oldest municipal park in San Jose, Alum Rock Park’s history is one of convenient relaxation and rejuvenation. In the early 20th century, it was a bustling natural health spa with mineral springs, a swimming pool, tea garden and dance hall. There might not be as much soaking and dancing these days, but it’s still one of the most popular parks to visit in San Jose for a peaceful, leafy paradise within the city.
Nestled in the quiet foothills of the Diablo Range, enjoy a picnic here in the spring. The weather isn’t too hot yet and bright orange poppies make an appearance to level up the scenery. As a protected wildlife sanctuary, it’s also a great place for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. Keep your eyes peeled for black-tailed deer, brush rabbits and quail that call this park home.
Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve
Best park for photography
This massive 1611-acre park is all about panoramic valley views and wildlife, making it the perfect spot for sunset strolls and various types of photography. Come here at golden hour to take in the orange and yellow hues, made even more vibrant in the spring when California poppies are in bloom. With just 10 miles of trails, you don’t have to walk far to get some of the best views in San Jose.
Vasona Lake County Park
Best park for socializing
Located just outside of San Jose, Vasona Lake County Park makes this list because of its manicured beauty and large, open spaces that are ideal for hosting birthday parties and get-togethers on sunny days. There’s a lot to see and do at this vast 152-acre park, but an activity that can’t be missed is renting paddle boats on the glistening Vasona Reservoir during the spring and summer.
Other park features include the Viola Anderson Native Plant Trail and scenic Los Gatos Creek Trail that cuts through the park and heads all the way back up to San Jose. If you have little ones, take them to Oak Meadow Park next door where they can ride the historic carousel and kid-sized steam train.
Hellyer County Park
Best park for dogs
With how dog-friendly the Bay Area is, there are a lot of dog parks to choose from in San Jose. The dog park at Hellyer County Park, however, is one of the best.
There’s a huge section of real grass, dog toys galore, shaded areas, responsible owners, water buckets and a freshwater source to keep your dogs hydrated and happy. Avoid the after-work crowd that comes during the week from 6-8 pm if you want a calmer experience.