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San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail near Great America


The San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail is an important feeder trail to the San Francisco Bay Trail. It brings people from residential and industrial areas in Santa Clara to the Bay Trail that runs between the Sunnyvale Baylands and Alviso.

Saratoga Creek feeds into San Tomas Aquino Creek. Farther south, trail segments have been built and are being planned along Saratoga Creek, but as yet they are not connected. A completed section is in San Jose and runs next to Lawrence Expressway from Bollinger Road to Prospect Road.

The San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail has been built gradually over the years, starting from the north and moving south, with isolated trail segments being connected by bridge under-crossings. Currently, it is nearly continuous from the Bay Trail to Cabrillo Avenue as a paved Class 1 (off-road) multi-use trail for bicycles and pedestrians. There are only two on-grade street crossings required along the route. South of Cabrillo Avenue, the trail is an on-street bike route, with marked bike lanes along the streets. These are the trail segments and their lengths:
  • Reach 1 (Bay Trail to Agnew Road) - 1.76 miles
  • Reach 2 (Agnew Road to Scott Boulevard) - 0.84 miles, opened May 2006.
  • Reach 3 (Scott Boulevard to Monroe Street) - 1.25 miles
  • Reach 4 (Monroe Street to Pruneridge Avenue) - 4.0 miles (0.2 miles of creek trail section to Cabrillo Avenue opened in October 2009 + 3.8 miles of bike lanes and routes that currently exist)
Here are pictures of the latest trail maps. Click on the images for a full-size version:

This is the overall street and trail map, showing all nearby trails.

This emphasizes just the San Tomas Aquino/Saratoga Creek Trail, showing connecting streets and trails. This is the official trail map.

Access Information

The trail can be accessed from the south end from Cabrillo Avenue or a little farther north at the Monroe Street Staging Area, which has a parking lot. Take Hwy 101 to the San Tomas Expressway exit, head south. To reach the Monroe Street Staging Area, turn left on Monroe Street. The parking lot for the trailhead is immediately on the left. To reach the end of the trail at Cabrillo Avenue, continue on San Tomas Expressway and turn right on Cabrillo Avenue. Look for on-street parking. There are many other access points to the trail along the street crossings. Parking is available on the nearby streets, but heed the "no parking" and "private parking" signs.

The best way to reach the trail by public transportation is to take the VTA Light Trail Train to the Great America Station on Tasman Drive. It is a short walking distance from the trail entrances on Tasman next to Great America and the Santa Clara Convention Center.

The Capitol Corridor/Altamont Commuter Express Train station is on Lafayette Street behind the 49'ers practice field and near Tasman Drive. There is a road that leads from the train station to the parking lot of the Santa Clara Golf and Tennis Club. There is an access point from there to the trail. There are also stairs from the train station to Tasman Drive, which can be taken west to the trail entrance.

Description and Views

The following pictures were taken along the trail route, starting at Cabrillo Avenue and continuing north all the way to the Bay Trail. The pictures may be looking north or south down the trail. The pictures from Cabrillo to Monroe were taken on 7/4/10. The pictures from Monroe to Tasman Drive were taken on 7/19/09. The pictures north of Tasman were taken on 7/19/07 or 7/19/09.

This is the start of the trail at Cabrillo Avenue, next to San Tomas Expressway. This is as far south as the trail will go as a Class 1 trail.

This is looking west on Cabrillo Avenue. The trail route is a marked bike lane along the street. Across the street is  the Walter E. Schmidt Youth Activity Center, which has a gym, classrooms, and skate park. Farther west is Cabrillo Middle School and Bowers Park. The trail route follows Cabrillo Avenue, then turns left to follow Calabazas Blvd., which runs on both sides of Calabazas Creek. The trail route will eventually end at Pruneridge Avenue, at the Santa Clara city limits.

Heading up the trail, the right side is separated from San Tomas Expressway by a concrete wall. The left side is landscaped.

San Tomas Aquino Creek comes into view as it emerges from an underground culvert.

Looking back, you can see San Tomas Aquino Creek disappearing into the culvert. The creek stays underground until south of Williams Road, which is south of I-280. It then runs next to San Tomas Expressway for several miles before turning to run through suburban neighborhoods. The creek originates in the hills above Saratoga on the slopes of El Sereno Open Space Preserve.

The trail is landscaped on both sides as it approaches the Monroe Trailhead.

This is the end of Saratoga Creek as it drains into the San Tomas Aquino Creek channel.

At the south end of the parking lot is a drinking fountain and the entrance to the trail.

This is the large parking lot at the Monroe Street Staging Area.

There is a series of interpretive signs arranced in a semi-circle at the Monroe Street bridge. This type of sign is used at several trail entrances. The signal there is the crossing to the trailhead. There is a perpendicular crossing for pedestrians and a diagonal crossing for bikes. Monroe Street leads to residential areas, so this is the best place for people from the neighborhoods to access the trail.

This is the trailhead at Monroe Street. There is a trail sign here. The trail follows along the west bank of the creek. From here, the creek is a straight storm drain channel. Consequently, the trail is also ruler-straight.

The trail approaches the first under-crossing, which is the Caltrain railroad bridge. North of the Caltrain tracks, the areas on either side of the creek are entirely industrial and non-residential.

This is the next under-crossing at Walsh Avenue.

At the north side of the Walsh Avenue under-crossing is another interpretive sign.

This is a view coming up from the Walsh Avenue under-crossings. All the under-crossings have bas-relief sculptures on the walls.

This is the straight trail north of Walsh Avenue, heading towards Central Expressway.

This is a closeup of the walls of the Central Expressway under-crossing.

This is a view looking south along the Central Expressway under-crossing.

This is a view looking north along the ramp of the Central Expressway under-crossing.

This is the trail leading to Scott Blvd.

This is the interpretive sign at the north Scott Blvd. trail entrance.

This is a view looking south at the entry ramp to the Scott Blvd. under-crossing.

This is the exit ramp looking south from the Hwy 101 under-crossing.

These are fish in San Tomas Aquino Creek at the Hwy 101 bridge footing.

This is a view looking back south from the Hwy 101 under-crossing.

This is a view looking south towards the start of the Hwy 101 under-crossing.

North of Hwy 101 is a pedestrian bridge leading to Intel. This is view looking north along the creek from the bridge.

This is the Mission College Blvd. under-crossing.

This is a view looking back south towards Mission College Blvd. There is another interpretive sign here at the trail entrance.

A short distance north is the only at-grade street crossing north of Monroe Steet. This is Agnew Road. There is a signal there for crossing the street. On the left is the employee entrance to the Great America Theme Park. The trail parallels Great America all the way to Tasman Drive.

This is a view looking south along the trail. The tall buildings at the Intel campus are on the left.

The rides at Great America can be seen to the west of the trail.

Ahead on the right are the twin Hetch Hetchy pipelines.

The huge pipelines carrying water from Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy reservoir emerge from underground, cross over the creek, and disappear underground again.

This is a view looking south at the Hetch Hetchy pipelines and the trail.

Looking north, to the left is the parking lot for Great America. Ahead is the bridge leading to the overflow parking lot for Great America. This is the proposed site of the 49'ers stadium. On the other side of that parking lot is the headquarters for the 49'ers and a youth soccer complex.

Ahead is the Tasman Drive under-crossing. The VTA Light Rail runs along Tasman Drive. The Great America station is just to the left.

On the other side of Tasman Drive to the east is the Santa Clara Golf and Tennis Club. This bridge leads to the golf course's driving range. A trail on the other side leads to the facility's parking lot.

This is a view looking back at the Great America Parkway under-crossing.

Ahead to the north is the Old Mountain View-Alviso Road under-crossing.

This is the ramp of the Old Mountain View-Alviso Road under-crossing.

This is a pedestrian bridge leading to an industrial campus on the east side of the creek.

Ahead is Hwy 237.

This is the trail going under Hwy 237 and its on and off-ramps.

This is the end of the trail, looking back at Hwy 237 and the trail junction with the Bay Trail.

There is a gravel trail that continues along the creek, which is now the Guadalupe Slough. This trail follows the slough and loops back to the Bay Trail at Calabazas Creek.

This is the Bay Trail bridge over San Tomas Aquino Creek. The trail ahead leads to Alviso.

This is the Bay Trail leading west to the Calabazas Creek Trail and the Sunnyvale Baylands.  The trail is an old road, but it is no longer open to vehicular traffic.

This is the entrance to the Calabazas Creek Trailin Sunnyvale. It is accessible, but not developed. The trail under 237 is dirt and can be muddy in wet weather. South of Old Mountain View-Alviso Road, the trail runs on top of the creek levee and is paved. However, the Tasman Drive under-crossing is not. The trail ends at Mission College Blvd. Before it gets there, a bridge leads across the creek to the JW Christian Greenbelt, a parkway that follows the Hetch Hetchy Pipeline right-of-way west and ends at Orchard Gardens Park, a few blocks east of N. Mathilda Ave.

This is the trail leading to Sunnyvale Baylands Park. This is a developed park with picnic areas, lawns, a playground, a garden, restrooms, and marsh viewing platforms.

Along the bank of Calabazas Creek is the Bay Trail leading to the trails along the Guadalupe Slough, the salt ponds, and water treatment ponds of the Sunnyvale Baylands. Eventually, this will connect to the Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View.

Along the Bay Trail gate is a map of the Sunnyvale Baylands.


Web page developed: 8/5/09, updated 7/6/10 by Ronald Horii
Information and opinions expressed here are the responsibility of the author.