Original (South) (PDF)
Original (North) (PDF)
Los Gatos Creek Trail
98% PAVED2% ROAD
This is a flat ride on a paved trail that is easy enough to be undertaken by the entire family (at least in portions) and long enough to constitute a reasonable option as a light workout for experienced riders. Los Gatos Creek Trail follows its namesake creek from Lexington Reservoir near Los Gatos all the way to the vicinity of Fruitdale. When you think about it, it's actually fairly remarkable that you can ride your bike into the heart of Silicon Valley on an uninterrupted trail for eight miles without having to encounter motor-vehicle traffic (with the exception of two minor street crossings, both of which will be left behind by the time you're past Vasona Park). The route shown on this page is an out-and-back ride on this trail starting from downtown Los Gatos and turning back from its northern end point.
The ride starts in Los Gatos by parking in the downtown area. The suggested parking location to which I've linked 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. Parking in Los Gatos brings with it the benefit of not having to drive more and park again if you want to grab a bite at the end of the ride, although that can be true for other potential starting points along this ride route, such as the Pruneyard Shopping Center in Campbell.
Los Gatos Creek Trail also continues south from the starting point of this ride. It leads all the way to Lexington Reservoir. The portion of the trail south of Los Gatos has a gravel surface, though. While it isn't anything that road bikes can't handle, those with really fancy wheels may shun that portion of the trail. This particular ride only covers the portion of the trail north of Los Gatos, which is the paved portion.
One important word of warning is about the popularity of the trail. This trail is heavily used. It's more popular with joggers and strollers than it is with bikers, though it has no shortage of bikes either. However, what bikes there are often are townies or have training wheels installed. So, anyone with ambitions of "getting in shape for the next crit" or doing interval training should consider other options. On this trail, you'll be more likely to polish your track-standing and crowd-weaving skills instead. Moreover, the trail doesn't lend itself to high speeds anyway. This goes beyond a prudish compliance with the official bicycle speed limit (which is 15 MPH). The vegetation is frequently thick around the trail and there are a moderately high number of turns and curves, which means that the possibility of encountering a biker approaching from the opposite direction around a curve at 25 MPH while you're trying to pass to the left of some pedestrians while doing 25 MPH or close to it yourself is made a prospect scary enough to discourage you from high speeds on this trail.
There is no climbing on this ride. You'll notice on the elevation profile above that you actually lose about 250 feet in the first half of the ride and then gain it back on the return, but this is mild enough to be unnoticeable even for casual bikers. This doesn't mean that the ride is completely pancake-flat, though. There are dips and their accompanying climbs as the trail follows underpasses to cross major roadways, and step-ups/step-downs as the it traverses the elevation changes of the creek bed past some dams. It's true that you'll be doing more uphill pedaling through these in the return half of the ride than you do in the first half. So, completely out-of-shape riders may need to take this into account when picking their turn-around point for the ride, but the difference is still not enough to be really challenging to most people in any kind of reasonable physical shape.
The setting of the trail is very green and often follows a shallow "ravine" along the parts of the trail closer to Los Gatos. Not long after leaving Vasona Park behind, the vegetation grows less dense; while there's still plenty of it on either side of the trail, it's no longer thick enough to provide shade over the trail itself in the "northern" half of the trail.
There aren't many distractions along this trail. The one exception that stands out is the Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos. This is a decent-sized park arranged around a reservoir lake that offers a wide variety of activities. It's a very popular destination for picnics and other kinds of low-intensity outdoor fun. Among other things, it contains a historic miniature railroad and a vintage merry-go-round, and the reservoir lake allows boating and fishing. It's an ideal venue for a suburban family picnic on a sunny weekend. In fact, this entire ride could be done as part of just such a day at Vasona Park. Another thing you'll pass by on the ride is some percolation ponds near Campbell. These not only provide some water scenery for trail users, but also allow the use of radio-controlled model boats, in addition to regular boating and fishing. The only other thing along Los Gatos Creek Trail that stands out in my mind is the tiny Los Gatos Creek Dog Park. There are always plenty of sweet dogs to be seen playing and socializing in this tiny, fenced-in patch of land.
If you feel up for extending this ride, your best options will be at the southern end of the ride route. If you're okay with riding the 1.5-mile gravel portion of Los Gatos Creek Trail that is south of Los Gatos, this can be connected to an easy and fairly pleasant 8-mile road loop around Lexington Reservoir. If you don't mind riding in traffic, one nice and easy option would involve taking Route 9 (Saratoga Los Gatos Road) from Los Gatos toward Saratoga, while most other road route options you can improvize are likely to involve more traffic, more elevation change, or both. There are also plenty of trail ride opportunities around Los Gatos, but the difficulty level of those rides are much higher and they may, therefore, not appeal to the typical audience for this particular ride option.
© Ergin Guney
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