Shall we go for a ride?
The Los Gatos Creek Trail in and around San Jose, CA is an 11-mile trail system that offers a rewarding journey because of numerous side trips and points of interest. The creek extends from Lexington Dam in the lower Santa Cruz Mountains and meanders through Los Gatos, Campbell, and San Jose. The route provides trail users the best of both worlds – access to nature and proximity to urban culture.
We’ll start our journey in Los Gatos where you’ll find convenient public transportation or great neighborhood streets to reach the trail by bike. The town sits at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains and has plenty to offer including coffee shops, a great retail strip (Santa Cruz Avenue) and lots of architectural charm. Make the most of your visit by walking around town before accessing the trail from behind the “Old Town” shopping center (fronts University Avenue). As you enter the trail – take a right to visit the Forbes Mill Museum for local history or stay on the gravel trail leading to Lexington Dam. You’ll be climbing a relatively steep trail to reach the dam, but will be rewarded with great views of the reservoir and surrounding mountains. Heading back to Los Gatos, the trail is paved and remains that way for the remaining journey as you travel past “Old Town”.
The Los Gatos Creek Trail system is characterized by ample tree cover, plenty of other trail users, nice views, and sites to see. After a few miles, you’ll reach Vasona Park – this large regional county facility provides a convenient rest stop and some fun attractions like boating on the lake, plenty of open space for picnics, and trails that permit you to explore the lake’s edge. Continuing north, you’ll see Vasona’s dam as the creek waters return to a more natural riparian setting. After travelling a few more miles, you’ll reach Campbell where you’ll see people fishing in the ponds, enjoying the adjacent open space and side trails that link to surrounding neighborhoods. A bridge across the creek north of Camden Avenue permits you to travel on either side of the creek. The eastern side is near Highway 880 but a wide plant buffer helps to mitigate the view. The western side can be busier, but passes by some open turf areas and a city park at Campbell Avenue with a convenient restroom.
Don’t be in a rush to continue on the trail – take some time to travel west on Campbell Avenue – and experience the city’s charming downtown just a few blocks away. You’ll find 100 shops, cafes and restaurants, and historical landmarks. Returning to the trail, continue traveling north and pass beneath Highway 880. At this point, you’ll find a ramp that takes you to the Pruneyard Shopping Center. The center is another great place for a break or some impromptu window shopping. As you return to the trail to burn some calories, travel beneath Bascom Avenue and enter San Jose’s portion of the trail system. The trail follows the residential neighborhoods for a couple miles to reach Willow Street. At Willow Street – you have a couple options. The trail system is not developed between Meridian Avenue and Lincoln Avenue, so if seeking the longest continuous roundtrip on an off-street trail, you’ll want to cross the pedestrian bridge and travel along the north side of the trail system to reach Meridian Avenue….at this point, you turn around and return to Los Gatos. The other option is to travel onto Willow Street with its striped bike lanes and relatively light residential traffic. Willow Street will take you into Willow Glen; one of San Jose’s great neighborhoods for more retail, food and festivals. From Lincoln Avenue, you can travel north on the street to reach Lonus Street – the trail begins again at the end of the cul-de-sac. The linked map helps you view a number of travel options in the area. You’ll follow another 0.5 mile of paved trail, and right turn onto Auzerais Avenue will lead you to the Guadalupe River Park about 1 mile to the east at Woz Way. At Woz Way, you’ll have entered the downtown core, have access to the Woz Way Light Rail Station and in summer time, you’ll find plenty of festivals in Discovery Meadow.
What a beautiful ride. What do you think? Tell us in the comments.
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 second 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