The Los Gatos Creek Trail from the Los Gatos History Museum at Forbes Mill to Lexington Dam offers a flat, easy trail, perfect for casual walking, biking, running, dog walking, and stroller-pushing. The Flume Trail takes hikers up a relatively easy uphill single-track trail from the Los Gatos Creek Trail to the Jones Trail. The Jones Trail provides a wide old road that runs above and parallel to the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Depending on your wants, each of these trails can give you some healthy exercise, but combining all three promises more variety and a richer experience.
The short loop
We begin with a loop of a little more than a mile. The trail begins just behind the Los Gatos History Museum at Forbes Mill (on Church Street). Going toward the mountains, you soon reach Main Street. Here you’ll find a secret treasure—a large colorful mural depicting Ohlone life hidden under the Main Street Bridge. Just beyond the bridge, the trail splits.
Take the left hand branch: the Flume Trail. It follows Los Gatos Creek, and then becomes a narrow single-track as it climbs through forest to the Jones Trail. Turning left takes you down a steep hill on the Jones Trail to Novitiate Park. (Maps are available at the park trailhead.) To the left and middle of the park, you can find the unmarked Flume Trail, which will take you back to Forbes Mill. You can also continue through the park to Jones Road, then College, and back to Main Street.
Going the extra mile
Rather than turning left at the Flume/Jones intersection, you can lengthen your hike by turning right on Jones. This trail takes you to Lexington Reservoir. You’ll see interesting scenic views, some beautiful trees (oak, madrone, manzanita, toyon, and eucalyptus), a large earthen dam you can walk on, and a partially filled man-made lake that you can’t swim in. A short walk west on Alma Bridge Road to a walkway down the face of the dam connects to Los Gatos Creek Trail and Forbes Mill.
Cyclists and stroller-pushers can’t use the Flume Trail, but they can stay on the Los Gatos Trail to Lexington Dam, and then pedal or push east on Alma Bridge Road to Jones Trail at gate SJ03. (Warning: The first section of Jones is steep.)
Extending your hike
About halfway between the Flume/Jones intersection and Lexington Reservoir on Jones Trail, you can see more by turning up on the Novitiate Trail to the 1250-foot summit of St. Joseph’s Hill. It’s a bit of a climb up 1.5 miles of rocky trail, but on a clear day you’ll enjoy the views of Santa Clara Valley, Lexington Reservoir, and the Sierra Azul mountain range.
Another way to extend your visit is to walk or ride east on Alma Bridge Road to gate SA22, your entrance to Limekiln Trail, Lexington County Park, and beyond to the broad expanses of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. It’s a long trip, but you’ll find a different landscape filled with quiet, open spaces and very few visitors.
A little history
For those who enjoy history, the Jones Trail is special. Once upon a time, Jones Road brought people and resources between Los Gatos and the towns of Lexington and Alma, towns that now sleep under the waters of Lexington Reservoir. Now you can walk where horseback riders, stage coaches, and pack teams once traveled. The Jesuits first lived atop St. Joseph’s Hill in 1888. The first recorded travel was by California mission founders in 1791. And long before our recorded history, this route may well have been a favorite path to the sea for native Ohlones.
Discover more local history at the Los Gatos History Museum at Forbes Mill (built in 1854). Rotating and traveling exhibits promise new experiences with each visit.
A favorite display for mountain visitors features a giant painting of Mountain Charley. According to docent Leon Milburn, the painting is by local photographer and environmental activist Andrew P. Hill, a Sempervirens Fund co-founder with mountain local Josephine Clifford McCracken, and the driving force behind the creation of Big Basin State Park. The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.