Trails of the City: Great and Growing

I preface today’s column with a disclaimer: I am not an “outdoors” person. I have been camping a few times, as a guest of others. I have an appreciation of nature, but I was raised in the suburbs of Santa Clara and San Jose—where I still reside and planning to comfortably spend the rest of my days.

As a kid and well into my teens I spent a lot of time riding a bicycle. It was a means of transportation for my suburban life. Occasionally, some of us Hudson Drive boys would ride off to Stevens Creek Dam or to San Jose Airport, both of which took a few hours and were “adventures” on summer days.

I was once an avid runner and actually didn’t own a bicycle for over a decade. But I injured my foot and had to take care of my fitness needs in another way. In 1985, I purchased a Peugeot bicycle. I still ride that bike, though I also have a road bike. We live in Blossom Valley, so this bike got a lot of use. A ride a few miles south puts me in the rural Coyote Valley and this leads to many other roads, which are largely free of cars and, hence, safer for bicycles.

During those early years, I discovered the Coyote Creek Trail. This trail provides a nice round trip of about 30 miles. If I head north, it goes an additional several miles before ending at Tully Road. Over the years I have discovered many other trails and I suggest that if you have not yet explored them—either hiking, walking, skating, or cycling—you should make it a point to do so.

Thanks to the work of the staff of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, and under the recent leadership of trails manager Yves Zsutty, the entire trail system has undergone an amazing transformation. This work has been done in concert with nearby cities, Santa Clara County staff and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

San Jose has 54 miles of its own trails, with more planned. The Guadalupe River Trail is now paved from downtown to Alviso, offering cyclists a 20-mile round trip. The only problem I have is that there are a few breaks where I need to access the trail that runs along Highway 87 and then negotiate some city streets between Willow Street and Virginia Street, where the Guadalupe Trail begins.

To the west of these trails is the Los Gatos Creek Trail, which connects Los Gatos through Campbell and on to San Jose, where it ends at Meridian Avenue. The best news, though, is that we are very close to connecting all of these pieces to create a transportation and recreation trail network that will rival any American community. In fact, USA Today recently named Los Gatos Creek Trail one of the nation’s best trails. 

James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at [email protected]  or 408.893.PARK.


  1. Most recent discovery?  The St. Joseph hill trails on the east side of Lexington Res.  Access from downtown Los Gatos, hike up to the face of the dam and across.  Tons of mountain biking/hiking trails.  Hiking up to the summit and back is about a 2 hour hike with a 1200 ft elevation gain.  An awesome workout, for anyone.  Just be sure to take lots of water this time of year.  There isn’t any up there.

  2. I only recently (last 6 years of 30 I’ve been here) discovered the extent of all the various trails in this area. 

    After losing a significant amount of weight and then training for a variety of triathlons, 1/2 marathons and 100 mile bike rides, I have gained an immense appreciation for our trail system.

    Prior to any of that,I had little idea of the beauty that was so easily accessible.  It’s truly the best medicine for heart and mind I know.  Whether you bike, run or just walk.  EVERYONE should be out there soaking it up!  The price is right after all, free!

  3. The trails in San Jose are not bad but once you ride the Los Gatos Creek Trail you won’t go back to riding in San Jose.  First things you will notice are no gang graffiti, no broken beer bottles, and nobody smoking marijuana as you ride by.  The biggest thing for me is that Los Gatos feels SAFE!

    • I personally smoked about a pound of marijuana on the Los Gatos Creek Trail during the 1980s & 90s, but its true that times have changed.  You don’t see a lot of that sort of thing, or those other “urban” issues, over on the Los Gatos trail.

      “…USA Today recently named Los Gatos Creek Trail one of the nation’s best trails.”

      Sounds about right.

  4. The biggest physical obstacles to more trail construction are land acquisition and rights of way issues. But these are not a problem when it comes to the stretch of Guadalupe River from Chynoweth all the way up to about Ironwood Dr. as the river parallels Almaden Expwy. There’s a fair amount of flat ground next to the riverbed along this section so construction of a bikepath would be relatively inexpensive. This seems like the most obvious place for new trail construction in the city. Then we’d have a continuous bike path all the way from Willow Glen to the Los Alamitos Creek trail out in Almaden and even hooking up with the trail that skirts along IBM’s property and leads to the west entrance to Santa Teresa County Park.
    More problematic is the Guadalupe north of Curtner Ave. The banks are steep and an engineered, cantilevered path would probably be needed. It would be expensive but probably worth the effort. An uninterrupted trail system along Los Gatos Creek and the Guadalupe, connecting Almaden, downtown, Alviso, and Los Gatos should be at the top of our priority list and affordable housing should be kicked down to the bottom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *