Mt. Umunhum, one of Bay Area's highest peaks, open to public

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A mountain with Cold War ties and an historic tower in unincorporated Santa Clara County opened today to the public 31 years after an open space district bought an Air Force station at the top from the U.S. government.

Mount Umunhum, one of the highest peaks in the Bay Area at 3,486 feet, opened at 7 a.m.

"Everyone was thrilled with what they saw," said Steve Abbors, general manager of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

The district purchased the Air Force station in 1986. The mountain has often been referred to as "the resting place of the hummingbird" and is located within the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve.

The word umunhum contains the root word for hummingbird in five different Ohlone languages and some say the word is similar to the sound a hummingbird makes.

The mountain will be open each day for free to visitors who want to see great views of Silicon Valley and other parts of the Bay Area as well as participate in other activities or just relax.

While $25 million has been spent to open the mountain, one group is concerned that the historic radar tower at the top may face demolition through neglect.

The radar tower was part of the Almaden Air Force Station, which opened in 1962 and closed in 1980.

The Umunhum Conservancy has been working to preserve the tower but was not invited to the opening of the mountain, conservancy president Sam Drake said.

Santa Clara County planning manager Rob Eastwood said it's possible the open space district could neglect the tower so that it would be demolished, but said the district has made some improvements to it.

Besides learning about its history, the mountain now is a place where people can also exercise or be contemplative.

While a road goes all the way to the top, people can drive partway up and hike 3.7 miles to the top.

Bicyclist can make their way up while the less ambitious can hike a quarter-mile trail at the summit.

The summit's biology and botany is different than other places in the area because of its elevation and the mountain has a Native American past that goes back 10,000 to 15,000 years. Interpretive signs on the mountain connect people to that history, according to the open space district.

If you're planning a visit, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space has more information.