San Jose is known for a few things; Capital of Silicon Valley, center of tech, clean and walkable downtown, the Sharks, and a nice art museum – but a tourist destination?
San Jose is a city of “best kept secrets” including one of the nation’s largest urban trail networks. But don’t wait too long to plan your visit.
The Guadalupe River was site of the city’s first settlements back in 1777. Today, the river travels through downtown, travels northward along Silicon Valley’s many employment sites and concludes in Alviso; an interesting historical community on the edge of San Francisco Bay. Bicyclists and walkers can enjoy the 9-mile journey along paved trails through downtown and a gravel road north of Highway 880. A great tourist agenda is posted on the City’s Trail website.
If starting downtown, take your time to enjoy the well-designed urban scene with a wide variety of restaurants, public spaces, and cultural institutions like the San Jose Museum of Art and the Technology Museum. Both museums are across from Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park – a beautiful green island that serves as the City’s heart and site for Christmas in the Park and other festivals throughout the summer. You can access the Guadalupe River Trail from all downtown cross streets…if you want to maximize your trip, start at Virginia Street or Woz Way by the Children’s Discovery Museum, and follow the paved trail along the river. Along the way, you’ll pass by parks, urban plazas and many interpretive elements that tell about the City’s history and the waterway. The amazing thing about the Guadalupe River Trail is that you’ll only need to cross two streets along the entire journey – a cross-walk along sleepy St. John Street, and a signalized crossing one block north at Julian Street. After that, you are travelling off-street for the entire journey through the nation’s 10th largest city. Meander along the winding trails through the Guadalupe Gardens and take side trips to the Visitor’s Center (Coleman Avenue), see a historic orchard or smell the roses at the nation’s largest heritage rose garden. You’ll ultimately pass beneath Highway 880 where the trail surface turns to gravel. This path leads you northward to the Bay. Keep in mind to cross the trail from west bank to east bank at Airport Parkway (follow the signs).
After a great ride, take time to explore Alviso along the San Francisco Bay – this is San Jose’s waterfront and a great place to find “mom and pop” style restaurants and a very quiet, easy going atmosphere. The nearby County Marina lets you access even more trails along the levees that frame the south bay’s massive salt ponds.
Here’s the thing: Plan this trip soon. San Jose is closing the Guadalupe River Trail in May or June to pave the gravel trail out to the Bay. That work will take about 10 months. If you can’t get there by early summer – add downtown San Jose’s Guadalupe River Trail to your bucket list for 2013! Be sure to visit San Jose’s many other trails in the mean time.
From time to time we’ll be inviting friends of Transit and Trails to share stories, trips and photos here on the blog. This is the first of three from Yves Zsutty of the City of San Jose. They have put over 150 trailheads into Transit & Trails, posted all kinds of pictures, and been a vocal advocate of our work. Stay tuned for more!
Photos by Yves Zsutty, City of San Jose