Lexington Reservoir Loop
7% SINGLETRACK27% FIRE ROAD4% PAVED62% ROAD
This is an easy road ride that traces the outline of Lexington Reservoir near Los Gatos. No hidden gems are to be found along this ride, and there is no special bonus for mountain bikers. It's just an easy ride option that's removed from heavy traffic and that offers some "lake views". If you'd like to bring along a rider who's a beginner or is out of shape to one of your weekend rides, this is a good option to suggest. There are at least a couple of good mountain biking trails that connect to this route, but you'd be better off planning to ride those on their own, since any rider who'd be interested in the ease of this ride would find those too challenging, and any rider who'd think of those side trips as the main attraction wouldn't see any interest in the rest of this reservoir loop.
The ride starts in Los Gatos by parking in the downtown area. That's not your only option. You can also park much closer to the reservoir. There's some parking near Lexington Dam. Actually, that one has most of its spaces reserved for trailers, though you'll still find a handful of parking spaces for cars. However, it's a paid parking lot. The fee was $6 as of 2013. Alternatively, you'll find some roadside parking straight across the road from this lot, but it has space for only eight or so cars. There is also a gravel clearing next to the road on the other end of Lexington Dam, but I'm not certain if that one is kosher for public parking. The reason I park in Los Gatos is out of habit more than anything else, and it also provides the benefit of not having to drive more and park again if you want to grab a bite at the end of the ride. The choice is yours. You might opt to shoot for parking closer to the entrance first, and leave the downtown Los Gatos parking as a backup option, for instance.
The suggested parking location I've linked to on this page is just street parking in town. There are multiple free public parking lots around downtown Los Gatos, though they fill up quickly on nice weekends. You'll find a few of them sandwiched between N. Santa Cruz Avenue and University Avenue near Main Street, for instance. With metered parking, watch out for time limits. Basically, you might have to circle around a little bit before you find a place to park.
The ride initially takes the Los Gatos Creek Trail up toward Lexington Dam. This is a wide gravel path that is hugely popular with a wide variety of trail users. You might need some patience as you cover this portion of the ride on a crowded weekend. There's only a single notable burst of climbing along this stretch of the ride (beyond the gentle ascent of the trail on average). It's a short slope where the grade reaches something like 20% for a couple of hundred feet. There used to be a "walk your bikes" sign for this stretch in the downhill direction, which disappeared a while ago and hasn't been replaced since. But, the steep spot is over before you know it.
Another short climb that will nonetheless make itself felt is the portion of Los Gatos Creek Trail that climbs in almost a straight shot diagonally across the "face" of the Lexington Dam. This section is less than a quarter mile in length but reaches grades around 13% and, therefore, is not exactly negligible.
When you reach the top of Lexington Dam, you start a clockwise road loop of the reservoir. The reason for doing the loop in this direction is a weak one: It will put you on the side of the road closer to the water and may, therefore, let you catch views of the lake a little more easily; and it also might mean that it will come more naturally to catch the brief singletrack portion along the highway (see below) since you'll already be on the side of the road where the singletrack begins and ends. If those don't matter to you, feel free to do the loop in the opposite direction.
There is little that stands out during the majority of the ride from this point on. As you can see from the elevation plot, it mostly fluctuates around a constant level with numerous minor climbs. The only "real climb" along the ride is as you approach the farthest point of the reservoir. There's a half-mile climb here that averages 8% grade. You then descend back to the same base level over about the same amount of distance.
In the last quarter of the loop around the reservoir (about a quarter mile before the Bear Creek Road interchange), you'll notice that the route starts to follow a trail right alongside the paved road instead. This doesn't add much to the ride but (to me) is better than riding on pavement. It adds a nice little bit of singletrack seasoning to the ride. Don't miss its entrance from a wide roadside "parking area" that's shortly before the Bear Creek Road interchange.
As I mentioned, there are a few other ride options that connect to this route. One of them is to take Jones Trail near Lexington Dam into St. Joseph's Hill. Another is to take Limekiln Trail or Priest Rock Trail off the eastern shore of the reservoir into Sierra Azul Open Space to explore the many miles of fire roads in that park. One final option that I'm aware of is to follow Montevina Road west of Highway 17 from Lexington Dam up to El Sereno Open Space, though that option takes you over a lot more climbing on pavement before you reach any dirt trail. And, with the exception of a couple of short connecting trails in St. Joseph's Hill, none of these will satiate any craving for singletrack. Pretty much everything in the immediate vicinity is a fire road, except, perhaps, for some parts of Limekiln Trail that are technical enough and occassionally narrowed so much by vegetation that it could pass for "singletrack".
© Ergin Guney
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