In the foothills above the affluent San Jose suburb of Almaden Valley lies dozens of mercury mines and the ruins from nearly 140 years of mining operations. The area features several furnaces, dozens of shafts, bunk houses, offices, equipment, railroad trestles, and more. A mining/ghost towner’s delight. Mining of mercury began a few years before the Gold Rush in 1845 and continued until 1976 when the County of Santa Clara began converting the are to a park for hikers and mountain bikers.
Huell Howser featured the park as what he called the ‘New Almaden Mine’ in episode “California’s Gold #801 – QUICKSILVER”.
The mines are among the earliest in California as well as the most profitable. 84,000,000 pounds (not ounces) were extracted worth $700,000,000. The mining camps like English Camp and Mexican Camp housed up to 1800 miners.
The county claims that all shafts have been sealed but the USGS Topo (see below) shows quite a few to choose from, some of them very remote. Mindat.org shows 34 localities (see below). One popular mine shaft is referred to as the “San Cristobal Mine” or “St Cristobal Mine” (photos below) but I believe this to be the mines nick name as it doesn’t appear in any historical maps or documents I could fine.
The roads within the park are gated at several entrances so leave your 4×4 behind and bring your hiking boots or mountain bike.
Comment below if you have been!