Ron Horii's Bay Area Back Pages - Bay Area Biking
Los Gatos Creek Trail in downtown Los Gatos Los Gatos Creek Trail
Part 4 - Camden Avenue to Leigh Avenue
Los Gatos Creek Park main pond

Central route of Los Gatos Creek Trail from St. Joseph's Hill
View from St. Joseph's Hill of Los Gatos Creek Trail Route: Hwy 85 along bottom, Los Gatos Creek Park and Hwy 17 at lower left, Pruneyard Towers in Center, Willow Glen right of center, San Jose Arena at upper right

Summer '99 Update

This section of the trail cuts through one of the busiest commercial areas in the Valley, as well as some densely-populated residential neighborhoods. The creek and trail provide an important recreational resource for the local residents and a lunchtime retreat for the employees at the many businesses along their route. I'll mention some of the businesses along the way, but as a convenience, not as an endorsement (or lack of, if I neglect to mention some).

Los Gatos Creek Trail junction by Lower Page Drop Structure Lower Page Drop Structure
Trail junction and bridge below Lower Page Drop Structure Spillway and bridge at Lower Page Drop Structure

As you cross under Camden Avenue, you leave the Los Gatos Creek County Park and enter the city of Campbell. 3 miles of the trail run through the Campbell. The trail approaches creek level as it runs over the narrow path under the wide bridge, then rises back up again on a long ramp. The creek slows as it approaches another dam. The trail rises on another long ramp after the Camden bridge and overlooks the Lower Page Drop Structure. The 80-foot wide, 34-foot high dam is the highest of the drop dams on this part of the creek. It's a fairly new dam, built in 1971. Unlike the other dams, which are simply vertical gates that can be raised and lowered, this dam has a sloping face. The water flows down the dam face in rippling white sheets. In front of the dam, a fenced-in steel box-frame bridge crosses over the creek. Viewing benches are at overlook points on both sides of the dam. At the westside dam overlook, you can take a short path west to reach a cul-de-sac on Camden Avenue. Camden Avenue here is a small back street, with auto repair shops, a lumber yard, and an entrance to a large mobile home park. Camden eventually hits Winchester Blvd., which is a major shopping and commercial street.

Trail near Canyon Creek Apartments Creek near Canyon Creek apartments
Westside trail near Canyon Creek Apartments, Pruneyard Tower in background Los Gatos Creek near Canyon Creek Apartments

Back to the trail by the Lower Page Drop Structure, the path drops down steeply to the level of the bridge. You can continue on the west side of the creek or cross over the bridge to the east side. This stretch of trail on both sides of the creek is the longest uninterrupted segment of the trail. The westside trail passes by a large mobile home park, then the new Canyon Creek apartment complex, a city yard, and a lumber yard. There are benches and parcourse stations along the way. The creek here wanders through a creek bed filled with tules, vines, and shade trees. As you approach the heart of Campbell, you'll see the imposing black glass monoliths of the Pruneyard Towers, the highest buildings for miles around, looming ahead. If you get lost in the area, look for the towers to get re-oriented

Campbell Park Campbell Park Kiosk and bridge
Trail at Campbell Park with Pruneyard Towers in background Campbell Park kiosk and bridge over Los Gatos Creek

At 5.7 miles, the westside trail ends at Campbell Park, which is a nice green rest or picnic stop. The park has a kiosk with interpretive displays on the trail and wildlife, as well as community information. It also has 2 playgrounds, shaded picnic tables, and the start of the parcourse. (Campbell Park is currently undergoing reconstruction, scheduled for completion in the fall of 1999.) You can exit the park and reach Campbell Avenue, which leads west to downtown Campbell. The historical downtown area has a quaint small-town atmosphere, with stores selling collectibles and clothing, coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. A block south under the water tower is the Water Tower Plaza. This used to be the old Factory retail shopping center, but now houses mostly professional offices. The Komatsu Japanese restaurant and Khartoum bar are there. Across the street is Giuseppe's Italian Food and the King's Head restaurant. Campbell Avenue also leads east under Hwy 17, past the Pruneyard (see below), and intersects South Bascom Avenue.

Los Gatos Creek causeway in campbell Falls near Campbell Ave. bridge
Los Gatos Creek and Trail causeway  passing under Campbell Avenue Small falls by Cambell Avenue Bridge

To continue on the creek trail, you need to cross over a steel arch bridge leading to the east side of the creek. A path leads up to Campbell Avenue near Andy's Oakwood Bar-B-Q Restaurant. An elevated causeway, surfaced with laminated wooden boards, carries the trail under the Campbell Avenue bridge. The causeway surface is a little bumpy, so you should walk your bike here. On the other side, you emerge behind the parking lot of the Campbell Inn. The nicely landscaped inn is sandwiched between Hwy 17 and the creek trail. At the end of the parking lot are some tennis courts belonging to the inn. The creek squeezes under the Campell Avenue Bridge, then drops over a shelf in a small waterfall.

The trail follows along the southeastern bank of the creek. As it nears the Hwy 17 bridge, it runs on the top of creek banks made of concrete-filled sandbags. It takes a long downhill slope, then curves sharply to the right to run under the Hwy 17 bridge at 6.1 miles. Be careful at this point, and stay to the right. No passing is allowed. After the bridge, on the right, you'll see the Pruneyard Towers, the multi-story Pruneyard parking lot, an emergency callbox, and the sign for the Pruneyard Inn. You are now next to the huge and moderately up-scale Pruneyard Shopping Center, located at the corner of Campbell Avenue and S. Bascom Avenue. The Pruneyard is one of the oldest shopping centers in the valley and is one of the few large unenclosed malls left that's still successful. The outdoor nature of the mall allows for a more rustic, garden atmosphere than the newer enclosed malls. One indicator of its success is that it can be tough finding a parking space. There are many good restaurants here, as well as fast-food places nearby, so this can be a good place to stop to eat or go shopping. If you like Japanese food, the Kyoto Palace is a good Teppan restaurant here. The big and busy Tower Records and Video store is across the street on S. Bascom Avenue.

Creek by Creekside Way
Alliance Title building, Creekside Way bridge

Continuing down the trail, you'll pass by the wall of the Alliance Title building, then pass under the low Creekside Way bridge at 6.3 miles. A ramp just past the bridge leads up to the road, which runs diagonally between Hamilton Avenue and S. Bascom Avenue. The ramp ends at the intersection of Creekside Way and Campisi Way. To the left is a shopping center with The Garret pizza and sandwich restaurant and an Erik's Delicafe. Campisi Way leads east and intersects S. Bascom Avenue. On the right side is on S. Bascom Avenue is the Fung Lum Chinese restaurant, which looks like a Chinese art museum inside and out. It's a good places for wedding receptions and to take visitors to impress them. Their lemon chicken is great. There's a Jack-In-the-Box just north on S. Bascom. Across the street and a little to the south is the huge Rasputin Music store, which has a large selection of used CD's. Campisi Way also leads west and deadends at the parking lot of the Alliance Title building. A path at the end of the parking lot leads back down to the trail near Hwy 17. There's a short undercrossing under Creekside Way on west bank of the creek near a huge new high-tech office building. The creek is narrow and channeled, but there's still enough bushes and reeds along the creekbed to give it a natural look. It's not unusual to see large white egrets hunting for fish in the creek in the shadows of multi-story office complexes.

Hamilton Ave. Bridge Creek looking south from Hamilton Avenue bridge
Los Gatos Creek Trail on wall, leading under Hamilton Avenue Bridge Looking south from Hamilton Avenue Bridge towards the Pruneyard

Continuing on, the trail runs on steep concrete walls as it approaches Hamilton Avenue. Just before it reaches the bridge, a concrete stairway leads up to Hamilton Avenue. The trail is fenced in as it ducks under Hamilton Avenue at 6.5 miles. Just ahead is S. Bascom Avenue. These two streets are extremely busy commercial thoroughfares. They have one shopping center after another. On Hamilton Avenue, just west of Hwy 17 is one of the meccas of the Silicon Valley: a Fry's Electronics store. Fry's is the legendary place where all the high-paid Valley techies spend their money on the latest high-tech gadgets, computers, and software. Each Fry's store has a different theme. The Campbell store has an Egyptian theme. It looks like an Egyptian tomb from the outside, and has Egyptian-style columns, fixtures, and furniture on the inside. Hamilton and S. Bascom are usually jammed with traffic, so this is no place for a bicycle. You'll feel like a hamster in a cat show. If you want to go shopping, it's best to cut through the parking lots or get off your bike and walk.

At the northwest corner of Hamilton and South Bascom, next to the Greylands Business Park, is a small shopping center with a Boston Market, Jamha Juice, Starbuck's, and Noah's Bagels. You can buy lunch or a snack and eat it near the small stand of tall redwood trees behind the center. Across the intersection to the southeast is the long Hamilton Center. It has a Fresh Choice, a See's Candies, and a House of Bagels. It also has the Performance Bicycle Shop if you need something for your bike.

Just past the Hamilton bridge, you'll see a carwash on the right side, just above the trail. From the road, it looks like a riverboat. This is one of the Classic Car Wash franchises. Each one has a different theme. Just past the carwash, the fence along the creek ends. There's an emergency callbox and a dirt path leading down to the creek. The creek bed starts to widen out here. The east creek bank has flat stretches at creek level paved with river rocks. The west bank is steeper and has huge riprap boulders at its base. A mobile home park can be seen along the west bank. The trail becomes more open and sunny. As it nears S. Bascom Avenue, a ramp branches off to the right to reach S. Bascom. A gravel-covered ramp on the left leads down to the creek. The creek curves to the right and flows east under the S. Bascom bridge.

Trail north of S. Bascom
Los Gatos Creek in San Jose north of S. Bascom Avenue, looking downstream, Water District road on left has no public access

The trail enters the city limits of San Jose just past S. Bascom Avenue at 6.7 miles. The surrounding neighborhood becomes residential, with apartments, duplexes, and single-family homes on both sides of the creek. Trees planted along the trail make for a shady ride. This is a popular stretch for baby strollers, so watch out. Dirt paths closer to the creek parallel the paved trail on both banks of the creek, with some ups and downs for fun. There are even some paths at creek level. The creek widens out, with sunny earthen banks covered with bushes and scattered trees. There are water district gravel paths along the northwest bank of the creek, but they are currently off-limits.

Just past the S. Bascom bridge, a path leads up next to the French Quarter Apartments to S. Bascom Avenue. Across S. Bascom is the Spoon's Restaurant. If you go north on S. Bascom, you'll pass by the Sequoia Glen Apartments, which line the northwest bank of Los Gatos Creek. Carefully cross busy Southwest Expressway. On the other side is the old Dick's Center, which has a yogurt place, Chinese restaurant, Persian restaurant, and the famous Zorba the Greek. Zorba's serves Greek, Italian, and Armenian food and features belly-dancing. If you continue north on S. Bascom, you'll pass by more businesses, Valley Medical Center, and San Jose City College.

Los Gatos Creek Trail near end in San Jose Leigh Avenue Undercrossing
Los Gatos Creek Trail in San Jose south of Leigh Avenue Leigh Avenue bridge and undercrossing, looking downstream

Back on the creek trail, at 7 miles, a shady path lined with red-berried pyracantha bushes leads out to Hamilton Place. Hamilton Place is a circle lined with duplexes. It hits Greylands Drive, which has office buildings on both sides and ends at Hamilton Avenue.

Los Gatos Creek banks near Leigh Los Gatos Creek by Blackford School
Los Gatos Creek near Leigh in San Jose Los Gatos Creek next to Blackford School, with new trail bridge

The trail passes by houses on Weibel Way. The path then splits. If you go straight, you'll end up on Leigh Avenue. If you hook to the left, you'll drop down to the undercrossing under Leigh Avenue. At this point, the dirt trail along the creek intersects the paved trail. At 7.4 miles, the trail used to end at Blackford School in the Willow Glen area of San Jose, on the east side of Leigh Avenue. Now, a new steel bridge leads to the last section of the creek trail completed in June of 1999. You can explore this last completed part of the trail in Part 5.

Eastside trail south of bridge at Campbell Park
View of east bank and trail from Campbell Park Bridge, looking upstream

If you head back to Campbell Park, you can either cross over and ride back to Los Gatos Creek Park on the west side of the creek, or stay on the east side. The east side is a little lower than the west side. It's closer to the creek, and is bordered by shrubbery on the east side, which separates it from Hwy 17. Footpaths wind through the bushes and hillocks between the creek trail and the freeway. The east side creek trail is a littler sunnier than the west side. There are parcourse stations and benches along the way. The trail eventually rises up to the same level as the west side trail and the freeway. At this point, a concrete ramp leads down to the creek. The footpath east of the trail drops down below the level of the paved trail. The trail continues on to reach the bridge at the Lower Page Drop Structure. If you continue straight, you'll rise up to the overlook at the east side of the dam. A paved path continues south and ends at Camden Avenue, near the "Welcome to Campbell" sign. A sidewalk leads east along Camden Avenue under Hwy 17. There is no sidewalk or path west across the Camden Avenue Bridge. Go back down to the creek. Cross over the bridge to get back to the main trail on the west bank.

Continue to the newest section of the Los Gatos Creek Trail, with a preview of things to come:

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

Part 3 - Lark Avenue to Los Gatos Creek Park

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Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 12/30/98, Updated 9/14/99