The Los Gatos Creek Trail Part 2: Oak Meadow Park and Vasona Parks

Old Los Gatos Creek Trail Pages

Los Gatos Creek Trail Map, south

Los Gatos Creek Trail Map, north

Youtube Video: Lexington Dam Spilling, 3/27/11

The Ghosts of Lexington

Santa Clara County Parks


  Outdoor Activities

  Healthy Trails

Lexington Park

  Los Gatos Creek Trail

Vasona/Los Gatos Creek


  Villa Montalvo

  Almaden Quicksilver

  Santa Teresa

Santa Clara Valley Water District

   Lexington Reservoir and Lenihan Dam

   Vasona Dam and Reservoir

Mid-Peninsula Open Space District

   St. Joseph's Hill OSP

   Sierra Azul OSP

   El Sereno OSP

   Bear Creek Redwoods OSP

Bay Area Ridge Trail

Los Gatos Parks and Trails

Campbell Parks

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  San Jose Trails

  Los Gatos Creek Trail

  Three Creeks Trail

  Guadalupe River Park and Gardens:

   Guadalupe River Trail

   Guadalupe Creek Trail

Valley Transportation Authority

San Francisco Bay Trail

Ron Horii's Park and Trail Pages:

Los Alamitos Creek Trail

Guadalupe River Park

Guadalupe River Trail to Alviso

Coyote Creek Trail

Penitencia Creek Trail

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail

Stevens Creek Trail

Shoreline Park, Mountain View

Palo Alto Baylands

Stanford Dish Trail

Ravenswood Bay Trail

Port of Redwood City

Bay Area Biking

Bay Trails, South Bay

Bay Area Parks

Santa Teresa Park

Almaden Quicksilver Park

Bay Area Back Pages

SF Bay Rec & Travel

The Los Gatos Creek Trail
  Part 1: Lexington, Novitiate Park to Blossom Hill Road

Los Gatos Creek from the Sierrra Azul Mountains to downtown San Jose, where it joins with the Guadalupe River. The Los Gatos Creek Trail runs along Los Gatos Creek continuously for over 11 miles from Lexington dam to Meridian Avenue, with an isolated segment from Lonus Streeet, under I-280 to Auzerias Avenue. Starting in 1998, I made web pages on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Most of the old pictures on those pages were taken with a film camera and scanned at low resolution. The pictures were kept small due to memory and bandwidth constraints. This page is meant to update the pictures. These are higher resolution digital photographs, taken recently. Many are processed using High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging techniques in order to accommodate the wide range of light and shadows.

This tour begins at Lexington Reservoir County Park, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains above the Town of Los Gatos. The reservoir and park are accessible from State Highway 17. From Santa Clara Valley, take the Bear Creek Road exit and proceed over the overpass and re-enter Highway 17 north. Take the Alma Bridge Road exit. From Santa Cruz, take the Alma Bridge Road exit. Follow Alma Bridge Road to reach the dam, boat launch area, and the Los Gatos Creek Trail entrance.

This is Lexington Dam, constructed in 1952 and officially named the James. J. Lenihan Dam, after the Santa Clara Valley Water District's longest-serving director. The dam is 195 feet high and 1000 feet thick. This is a view from the west end of the Alma Bridge Road bridge over the dam's spillway. Near the far end of the dam is the start of the Los Gatos Creek Trail. In the hills to the left is St. Joseph's Hill Open Space Preserve. To the right is the parking lot for the boat launching ramp (currently closed to boats due to zebra mussel concerns).

Looking across Lexington Reservoir to the east, the Sierra Azul mountain range forms a steep wooded backdrop. Over 17,000 acres of the mountain range are part of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, the largest of the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District's preserves. The Limekiln and Priest Rock Trails originate in Lexington County Park off Alma Bridge Road. They climb up the west side of the Sierra Azuls and reach the Kennedy Trail at the summit of the ridge. The Kennedy Trail ends at the Woods Trail, which descends the east side of the ridge to Hicks Road. On the other side of the road is Almaden Quicksilver County Park, and the Wood Road Trail, which leads into the heart of the park.

This is a view looking down the length of Lexington Reservoir as seen from the boat launching ramp parking lot. Lexington is a drinking water reservoir owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. The reservoir covers 475 surface acres and is the heart of 914-acre Lexington County Park. It is 2.5 miles long and holds 19,044 acre-feet of water. It was formed by damming Los Gatos Creek. When the reservoir filled, it drowned the small towns of Alma and Lexington. The reservoir was named after the town of Lexington. When the reservoir is nearly empty, the foundations of the old towns and old bridges can be seen. Los Gatos Creek flows into Lexington Reservoir where Alma Bridge Road becomes Aldercroft Heights Road. The creek is not publicly accessible above there. It flows out of Lake Elsman, which is owned by the San Jose Water Company and not open to the public.

This steep trail across Alma Bridge Road from the Lexington boat launching ramp is the start of the 1.4 mile Jones Trail. It leads to St. Joseph's Hill Open Space Preserve. It runs through the preserve to Novitiate Park. The Jones Trail is open to bikes and horses. The 0.6 mile Flume Trail is a narrow single-track that follows the bed of a former water flume. It branches off of the Jones Trail and is open to hikers only. It also ends at Novitiate Park.

Across from the end of the dam is the entrance to the Los Gatos Creek Trail. It runs down the face of the dam as a long, paved ramp. The trail turns into a dirt service road at the base of the dam. This part of the trail is open to bikes, but not horses.

The is a view of the trail from the top of the dam. In the background is St. Joseph's Hill.

Below the dam is the outlet structure. Los Gatos Creek flows out of it and down the canyon. The concrete bridge on the left is the trail crossing over the spillway.

From high up on the Jones Trail, you can see Lexington, the dam, Alma Bridge Road, and the Los Gatos Creek Trail descending towards the spillway. Behind the spillway is Hwy 17.

At the base of the dam, the Los Gatos Creek Trail crosses over the spillway on a concrete bridge.

Looking back towards the dam from the trail, Los Gatos Creek is down below at the bottom of the canyon. Old bridge structures can be seen.

The trails descends on a steep, but short section.

Far below the trail, Los Gatos Creek tumbles noisily over rocks in a steep ravine.

The trail is a wide, smooth dirt service road next to a huge water pipe. It's built on an old railway bed. Above it to the west is Hwy 17. The trail is sunny at noon, but becomes shady in the afternoon. Heavy vegetation lines the banks of the creek in this area.

After awhile, the creek becomes confined in a concrete-lined channel. The vegetation next to the creek becomes sparse, and the trail loses much of its shade.

Just before the Main Street Bridge, the bike trail reaches a rest spot where the trail branches into the bicycle-accessible section along the west bank of the creek and the hiking-only section alog the east bank of the creek. The latter begins in Novitiate Park (see next).

This is the entrance to Novitiate Park, at 260 Jones Road. It is run by the Town of Los Gatos. Ahead is a trail sign for the St. Joseph's Hill trails. The Jones Trail is ahead to the left. The Flume Trail is on the right. The entrance to the path to the Los Gatos Creek Trail is out of the picture, but is to the right. Since this part of the Los Gatos Creek Trail is only open to foot traffic, bicyclists who come down the Jones Trail and wish to continue along the Los Gatos Creek Trail must take city streets. Take Jones Road to College Avenue, turn left on Main Street. The trail entrance is on the southeast corner of the Main Street Bridge.

This is the foot traffic-only entrance to the Los Gatos Creek Trail in Novitiate Park. A switchback trail leads through the forest down to the creek.

The east bank of the Los Gatos Creek Trail begins at the bottom of the switchbacks from Novitiate Park.

The shady trail is lined with ivy and blackberries. There is a bench here for resting.

The trail runs close to creek-level.

  The trail crosses a usually dry creek and goes uphill for a short distance as Los Gatos Creek becomes contained in a concrete channel.

This part of Los Gatos Creek flows down a straight concrete channel. The trail runs on a levee at the top of the channel. The sunny bike trail on the other side of the creek can be seen. This side of the creek is shadier.

The east side of the creek soon loses its concrete wall for a short distance. Paths descend to the creek. This is a view looking upstream.

This is a view looking downstream.

The trail rises up above the creek as it approaches the trail junction seen above near Main Street.

Just before the trail junction by Main Street, Los Gatos Creek disappears underground in a concrete culvert as it passes under the trail, Main Street, and Hwy 17.

Looking back from the trail junction at Main Street, this is the trailhead for the east bank trail that is for walking only.

This is a view looking west from East Main Street. To the left, a ramp leads down to the Los Gatos Creek Trail. To the right is the Main Street Bridge.

A short distance to the east of the bridge on East Main Street is College Avenue, which is the bike route to Novitiate Park.

Two blocks east of the Main Street Bridge is the Los Gatos Civic Center, surrounded by tree-shaded lawns with sculptures.

The Civic Center complex houses the Town Hall, Council Chambers, Police Department Library, and Planning and Finance Departments.

Another block east and north of East Main Street is Los Gatos Union High School. Behind the school are playing fields. A path leads from the fields leads west to Church Street and the Forbes Mill Museum (see below).

Heading back to the the Main Street Bridge, under the bridge next to the trail is this mural of an Ohlone village scene, with benches for contemplating the artwork. The mural shows what the area looked like when the Ohlone lived here before the arrival of European settlers.

Closeup of the Ohlone village.

These are signatures of the artists who painted the mural.

The trail (left) approaches the Forbes Mill Museum. A rock drain is on the right.

This is the Forbes Mill Museum at 75 Church Street, Los Gatos. It is housed in a storage annex of a former flour mill built in 1853 by James Alexander Forbes. The annex was built in 1881. The museum has permanent displays on the history of Los Gatos, as well as special exhibitions.

Opposite the Forbes Mill Museum is the ramp up to the Forbes Mill Bridge, covered with children's art. From this point north, the Los Gatos Creek Trail is paved or on boardwalks, with parallel unpaved trails in some places.

The middle of the Forbes Mill bridge over Hwy 17 and Los Gatos Creek is covered with children's art.

At the end of the Forbes Mill Bridge, a wooden elevated boardwalk begins. To the left of this junction is the back entrance to the Old Town shopping center in downtown Los Gatos on University Avenue.

At the end of the boardwalk is a steel bridge crossing Los Gatos Creek.
The trail crosses Miles Avenue on an at-grade crossing. This is the view of the bridge looking upstream from Miles Avenue.

This is a downstream view from Miles Avenue of the Los Gatos Creek channel and the Los Gatos Creek Trail on the right. To the right of the trail is Balzer Field, which hosts Little League games. The field has restrooms, drinking fountains, picnic tables, and a snack bar used by Little League teams.

Behind Balzer Field is an historic building housing the main office of the Los Gatos Parks and Public Works Department. In back is a water tower.

The trail follows the creek channel on a straight stretch with sparse shade and goes under Los Gatos-Saratoga Road.

North of Los Gatos-Saratoga Road is this partially shaded, winding section of trail next to a large privately-owned field covered with giant reed plants.

The trail turns and runs straight along this section next to Hwy 17, seen through the fence on the right

The bench here provides a shady rest stop.

The trail runs along an elevated concrete causeway above the creek. Hwy 17 is on the other side of the sound wall on the right.

Between the causeway and Roberts Road, the trail runs behind the backyard fences of homes.

The Roberts Road bridge was recently reconstructed and dedicated on Dec. 21, 2010.

The new bridge has art reliefs on the walls of the trail undercrossing.

Past the Roberts Road undercrossing, there is another bench for resting in a shady section.

The trail reaches the Blossom Hill Road under-crossing. On the other side is Vasona Lake County Park. On the other side of the bridge, the trail falls under the jurisdiction of the Santa Clara County Parks. See Part 2.

Created by Ronald Horii, 9/13/10, updated 6/4/11