A light walk in heavy traffic
Los Gatos Creek Trail

Neil Wiley

Some hikes take you back into heavy forest, down into deep canyons, and up to high mountains. This isnít one of those hikes.

The Los Gatos Creek Trail is paved, mostly flat,, and the views arenít breathtaking. On a warm weekend, donít expect solitude. Running through densely populated Los Gatos, Campbell, and San Jose, this nine-mile trail is the most popular in Santa Clara County. Traffic is heavy and fast, with hard-driving bikers, skaters, runners, and power walkers competing for space in a narrow lane.

The wild life is mostly human. The smells, while natural, are not all pleasant. And nearby Highway 17 is a continuing reminder of things we wish to escape.

But for all that, Los Gatos Creek Trail is a trail worth taking. Its paved flatness provides easy going for legs or wheels. On my walk, people rolled by with a wild assortment of wheeled carts, wagons, buggies, in-line roller skates, and other conveyances. They pushed. They pulled. They rode. And most seemed in a terrible hurry to reach fitness, even if it killed them.

Although long views are relatively few, there are many interesting things to see along the way. Historic buildings. Lovely plants and trees. Lakes and ponds. Interesting bridges. And people of every age, size, and description.

Squeezed between Highway 17 and urban neighborhoods, the trail could have been ugly, but good planning and landscaping screen off most of the more objectionable sights. It doesnít hurt that the trail passes through three county parks and several city parks. The Vasona Park section is particularly pleasant, complete with wide vistas, duck-filled lakes, and lots of green grass.

The best thing about the trail is its accessibility. Not only is it close to us, but you can enter the trail at many locations. For example, you can start at Lexington Reservoir Dam, or in Los Gatos via Main Street (not far from the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company), Forbes Mill (off Church Street), Miles Avenue, Vasona Park, or Oak Meadow Park.

In Campbell, you can enter or exit via Campbell Park (Campbell Avenue), Los Gatos Creek County Park (off Dell Avenue), Old Camden Avenue, Campisi Way, Camden Avenue/Highway 17, or Railway Avenue. You can also cross over Highway 17 on the impressive pedestrian bridge to East Mozart Avenue and on to Bascom Avenue.

At the northern end of the trail in San Jose, access is at Blackford Elementary School near the intersection of Leigh Avenue and Willow Street.

The many access points let you choose the length of your trip. You can also do different parts of the trail on each visit. Although a round trip on the trail requires much backtracking, many side trips and loops off the trail are available, especially in Vasona and Los Gatos Creek parks.

Although from our mountains we can look down (sometimes literally) on this urban jungle, it is well worth a walk or ride. Youíll see some interesting sights, and view the Los Gatos area from a new perspective.

For more information and maps, visit www.parkhere.org, then click Find a Park, then Los Gatos Creek. If you donít have Internet access, call Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation, 408-355-2200.


(c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 mountain network news All rights reserved.