Ron Horii's Bay Area Back Pages - Bay Area Biking
Los Gatos Creek Trail in downtown Los Gatos Los Gatos Creek Trail
Part 3: Lark Avenue to Los Gatos Creek Park
Los Gatos Creek Park main pond

Bridge over Los Gatos Creek
Los Gatos Creek Trail, bridge over Los Gatos Creek north of Lark Avenue
Lark Avenue Bridge Los Gatos Creek Trail near Charter Oaks Drive
Looking south towards the Lark Avenue Bridge  Trail leading north next to Charter Oaks Drive near the creek bridge

This section of the Los Gatos Creek Trail leads into the area where the creek earns its keep: the Campbell Percolation Basin, where waters from the creek are used to recharge the Valley's underground aquifers. After passing under the Lark Avenue Bridge, the creek trail immediately crosses over to the west side of the creek on a steel box-frame bridge. It runs parallel to and below Charter Oaks Drive next to the large condominium complex of the same name. The creek flows east of the trail behind a chain-link fence through a broad, open creekbed, surrounded by pebbled banks and shielded from view by small hillocks. Log fences line the trail to the west. Several paths lead down to the trail from Charter Oaks Drive, which also has parking areas. Charter Oaks Drive ends is a cul-de-sac, which has a path leading down to the trail. Beyond that is the back parking lot of Lucent Technologies along Albright Way. There's a cluster of other high-technology businesses here in the Los Gatos Business Park.

Los Gatos Creek Trail under Hwy 85 Los Gatos Creek Trail north of Hwy 85
Los Gatos Creek Trail under Hwy 85, looking south Trail north of Hwy 85, looking south

The trail rises, then drops down and passes under the 3 huge concrete bridges of Hwy 85 and its connecting ramp with Hwy 17 at 3.2 miles. The trail passes only a few feet away from the creek. The trail rises up on the other side of the highway and runs behind a nursery and more high-tech businesses. The creek slows down and flows past brush and vine-covered banks, with towering over-arching sycamores providing shade. Planted redwoods line the west side of the trail, behind the businesses. Suburban homes line the east shore of the creek. The creek widens and becomes a small pond above a low dam at 3.5 miles. Fences prevent access to the area around the dam.

Los Gatos Creek from east bank near Knowles Drive View of creek from bridge at Page Dam
Los Gatos Creek near Knowles Drive, looking from the east bank Looking south at Los Gatos Creek from the bridge near the Page Dam

The trail enters the southwestern boundary of Los Gatos Creek County Park. A short path leads west out to a parking lot at the corner of Knowles Drive and Dell Avenue. Knowles Drive is on the border between Los Gatos and Campbell and leads west out to busy Winchester Blvd. Dell Avenue continues north past small businesses to the main road entrance to Los Gatos Creek Park just north of East Hacienda Avenue.

Creek trail near Los Gatos Creek Park ponds 3 ponds at Los Gatos Creek County Park
Trail next to ponds at Los Gatos Creek County park, looking north 3 west ponds at Los Gatos Creek County Park, near south pond
Los Gatos Creek Park Casting ponds at Los Gatos Creek Park
Los Gatos Creek Park main pond looking south from north shore Casting ponds at Los Gatos Creek Park
R/C boat racing North shore of main pond
R/C Boat racing on Los Gatos Creek Park middle pond, main pond in back North shore, main pond

Back to the creek trail, it enters Los Gatos Creek County Park, which is a complex of percolation ponds and water channels. Los Gatos Creek itself runs into a wide channel with a series of dams. Percolation ponds are on both sides of the creek. The largest ponds are on the west side, separated by straight levees. The ponds are lined with reeds. The middle pond is used for radio-controlled speedboat racing. The largest percolation pond to the north is a popular recreation area. Trout are planted in the cooler months in the north pond, providing good fishing. Fishermen, young and old, line the rock wall on the northern shore. Benches and picnic tables line this part of the shore. A boat launching ramp is on the northeastern corner. A fishing pier is near the southwest corner of the pond. Warmer months bring wind surfers. Children come to watch the ducks and geese. Cormorants perch on the power lines over the lake, looking for fish. The developed part of the park has parking areas (fee charged), restrooms, picnic tables, brick barbecues, water fountains, and a broad lawn. 2 concrete-lined casting ponds, built in 1995, draw fly and plug-casters.

Page Dam & bridge Observation platform by pond at Los Gatos Creek Park
Page Dam and bridge over Los Gatos Creek Pond, observation platform, and bridge at Los Gatos Creek Park
Los Gatos Creek Park perc. poind Los Gatos Creek Park pedestrian bridge over Hwy 17
Small percolation pond at Los Gatos Creek Park Pond and pedestrian bridge over Hwy 17 at Los Gatos Creek Park

Adjacent ponds offer warmwater fishing and bird-watching. A couple tenths of a mile downstream from the first small dam, the creek widens out and drops over the larger Page Dam at 3.7 miles. The 10-foot high by 200-foot wide dam, built in 1934, was named in honor of irrigation pioner George W. Page. A long bridge, suspended under a steel arch, crosses over the creek by the dam. On the other side are 4 small percolation ponds. Close to the bridge, on the shore of the southwestern pond, is a wooden observation platform (currently closed to access). The paved path crosses a levee between the two western ponds and runs up the new Mozart Pedestrian Overcrossing, which leads over Hwy 17 near the 2 small, narrow eastern ponds. You can get good views of the ponds and surrounding area from the overcrossing. The overcrossing rises high above Hwy 17, then drops into a suburban neighborhood. The paved path ends up on East Mozart Avenue, which intersects South Bascom Avenue just north of Hwy 85. A dirt path runs from the trail to a cul-de-sac at the intersection of Kilmer Avenue and Longfellow Avenue.

Los Gatos Creek from east bank of Los Gatos Creek Los Gatos Creek, looking east
Looking north along Los Gatos Creek from east bank Looking towards east bank of Los Gatos Creek in Los Gatos Creek Park

Dirt paths run around the ponds and channels east of Los Gatos Creek. One gravel path follows the east bank of Los Gatos Creek north. Along the way, there are two concrete ramps that lead down to the creek. The path ends at a fence at Camden Avenue. A hole in the fence is a strong hint that this isn't an official trail entrance. There's no sidewalk along this part of busy Camden Avenue leading west over Los Gatos Creek, so this is not a safe access or exit point to cross over the creek to reach the west bank. To cross over the creek safely, you should backtrack to the bridge by the Page Dam.

Cormorant on Los Gatos Creek
Cormorant and duck on Los Gatos Creek

Even though Los Gatos Creek itself is a tamed channel with concrete dams, the dirt paths along its banks and trees and reeds along its edges still give it a natural look. Waterfowl and muskrats find it natural enough for them. The view to the east, which includes Hwy 17, isn't much to look at, but looking across the main lake to the south, you can see the soaring green slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains reflected in the calm waters. (On the other hand, the park provides a great scenic view to commuters on Hwy 17.) To the northeast, you can see the Mount Hamilton Range, the highest mountains in the Bay Area.

Dam at Los Gatos Creek Park Camden Ave. Bridge
Dam at Los Gatos Creek Park Camden Avenue Bridge, Los Gatos Creek Trail ramp on the left

Near the north end of the main pond at Los Gatos Creek County Park, Los Gatos Creek spills noisily over the gate of a wide dam at 4.4 miles. Continuing north along the trail, you pass the casting ponds and drop down a long ramp under Camden Avenue at 4.5 miles.

Continue to the rest of the Los Gatos Creek Trail:

Part 4 - Camden Avenue to Leigh Avenue

Part 5 - Leigh Avenue to Confluence Point

Go back to the previous parts of the Los Gatos Creek Trail:

Part 1 - Forbes Mill to Blossom Hill Road

Part 2 - Vasona Lake, Oak Meadow Park to Lark Avenue

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Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 12/28/98