Copernicus Peak is the highest point in Santa Clara County. Hiking is the only way to get to the summit of Copernicus Peak but biking up Hamilton Road to Lick Observatory is a challenging addition to the hike. Copernicus Peak is clearly visible from Lick Observatory which houses the Shane Telescope. In the fifties a transmitter was set up on Copernicus Peak. The transmitter was part of a group of transmitters used as a dispatch which had about 40 frequencies, including police, fire, health and medical, Department of Transportation, and paramedics. The main landmark of Copernicus is the firetower on the summit. If you climb the stairs you can get some great views. Copernicus Peak, being the highest point in Santa Clara County, is a good hike for county highpointers.
From I680, exit and head north-east Alum Rock Avenue. Continue approximately 2 miles and turn right onto Mt. Hamilton road. Drive the 19 miles up to Lick Observatory and park there. From Lick Observatory, follow San Antonio Rd east, pass the water tanks and head for the lookout tower. There will be a gate just off the left side of the road about 0.25 miles from the observatory. If you have permission go through the barbed wire (the barbed wire has a huge gap in it that anyone can get through) and continue up the steep road. It's about another 0.25 miles until you will get to the base of the stairway that leads to the summit building.
Copernicus Peak isn't legally accesible. Warning signs are often disregarded because it's a county high point. Actually getting in trouble up there is a rare occurence. If you go into Lick Observatory's main building you can ask where the officer on patrol is and ask him for permission. There are no fees or permits required to get to any part of Mt Hamilton. There is free parking at Lick Observatory and no passes are needed.
When To Climb
The seasons in the area around Copernicus Peak are fairly mild. Winters usually stay above forty or fifty degrees. Summer can be in the nineties and that could be a problem if your biking up Mt Hamilton Rd. It snows often in the winter and the roads do close sometimes.
Camping on Copernicus Peak is not allowed but there are campsites run by the Joseph D Grant County Park, which is about 10 miles from Copernicus Peak. April through September campsites are open daily and in March and November they're only open on weekends. The campsites are closed for winter from November to February.
Copernicus Peak weather conditions can be found on the Mt Hamilton Weather Site. You can check pretty much anything about the weather you'd like, some being temperature, wind speed, and humidity. At Lick Observatory there is a Mt Hamilton Webcam that is updated every hour and has daily movies.
"My mama raised ugly kids, not stupid kids."
--Cody Police Officer