Sweeping loop though much of the western half of the park After parking on the street, it is a short walk up to the true park entrance. Head to the right, past the picnic table and port-a-potties. After about 0.2 miles, you will pass the historic settling towers of the Senador Mine, as the trail takes its first steep turn uphill. Another 0.6 miles of steady uphill brings you to a bench where you can enjoy great views, both looking south to Mt. Umunhum and the Santa Cruz mountains, and north to views across San Jose to the Lick Observatory on the Mt. Hamilton Range. From here the trail sweeps downhill to border the Guadalupe creek, then climbs in stages to the reservoir. Continue uphill, past turns to Mine Hill and Randol trails, noticing the remaining scars to the hillside from the fire of 2001. Bear right to take the Providencia trail, whose entrance is shaded by majestic maple trees. The first part of this trail has the best manzanita stands in the park, with glorious masses of white blooms from December into January. Half way along, the trail overlooks the Providencia pond to the right and an old quarry to the left. The quarry really lights up towards sunset. The trail now climbs ever more steeply up to join the Mine Hill trail, where you should take a right turn. After 0.2 miles, make a left turn down the narrow Prospect #3 trail, but make time to stop and enjoy the view at the rocky outcrop at that intersection, which is full of wildflowers in the spring. Afternoon sun colors the very air green, as the light diffuses through the thick canopy that covers the Prospect #3 trail along most of this stretch. All kinds of flowers and ferns decorate the trail, which stays cool and moist longer than most other trails in the park. The junction with the Randol trail is marked by a full picnic bench with fine views of the hills. Take a well-earned break before continuing down the sometimes steep Prospect #3 to the New Almaden trail, where you make a right turn towards home. After 100 yards or so, the trail passes through a rocky area that has just about every kind of bush in the park, then continues on in more typical fashion, winding in and out of canyons for over 3 miles. This section of rather narrow trail is heavily shaded with its large bay laurel and oak trees, and the banks have numerous ferns and wildflowers. Turn right at the junction with the Mine Hill trail and head downhill back to the start.
From the map you can see that there are many options on this hike. You can turn on to the Randol trail to avoid a long climb and 0.6 miles, but you will miss some of the fine views, or you can head back on the Randol instead of the New Amaden.
Wildflower tips: In late March and early April, you should see most of the common flowers of the park somewhere along this tour. Near the start you can see Seep-Spring Monkeyflowers on the right side of the trail just up from the picnic table at the start. Arguably the best displays of California Poppies can be seen all along the rocky slopes, especially as the Senador Mine trail approaches the left turn onto the Guadalupe trail. Furthur along, look for Yerba Santa on the Providencia trail. You may find Spreading Dudleya in the rocky outcrop at the junction of the Mine Hill and Prospect #3 trails; and really sharp-eyed hikers may see Mission Bells and even the Striped Coralroot orchid along Prospect #3. The latter grows on the right bank almost at the end of the shaded section. Heading along the New Almaden trail, you can find the "red-white-and-blue" of Indian Warrior, Milk Maids, and Hound's Tongue.