Easy Bike Rider

Aerobic pleasures on local bike paths

The Los Gatos Creek Trail in Vasona Lake County Park

Photograph by Victoria Alexander

The region surrounding San Jose may go down in history as the focal point of the dot-com boom and bust, but those who see it from the seat of a bicycle know it for its rolling inland hills, acres of farming lands, and soothing wealth of open spaces. These three South Bay and Peninsula rides are relatively flat, blissfully free of car traffic, and suitable for any kind of rider on any kind of bike, from a $100 beach cruiser to the latest carbon fiber frame. Pump up your tires, saddle up, and prepare to feel the wind in your hair.

Los Gatos Creek Trail
For a family outing that includes plenty of options for your kids besides just fresh air and a bike ride, head to Vasona Lake County Park. The park features a section of the nine-mile-long Los Gatos Creek Trail, plus a miniature train, carousel, and children's play area. Ride north from the park for 4.6 miles to Blackford Elementary School near the Campbell/San Jose border or, for a more scenic trip, ride south to downtown Los Gatos and beyond to Lexington Reservoir. Heading south, skinny-tire riders will have to turn around at Los Gatos’ Forbes Flour Mill, making a six-mile round-trip, but mountain bikers can continue for another couple miles on dirt to the top of the dam at Lexington Reservoir—a healthy climb. Info: , parkhere.org

Coyote Creek Trail
If you’re looking for a high-mileage ride, head south of San Jose to the Coyote Creek Trail, where you can pedal nearly 30 miles round-trip on a smooth, paved path. The trail travels 14.7 level miles from Coyote Hellyer County Park, home of the only velodrome in Northern California, south to Anderson Lake County Park. This rolling stretch of trail makes it easy to crank out some fast miles without concern over car traffic or trail junctions. Just stick to the main path and ignore the numerous side bridges over Coyote Creek, which access San Jose neighborhoods. You'll have to put up with the steady hum of road noise from nearby U.S. 101 and Monterey Highway, but you'll also enjoy the fine companionship of shady sycamores, cottonwoods, and live oaks along Coyote Creek, plus occasional scrub jays and ground squirrels. Info: , parkhere.org

Sawyer Camp Recreation Trail
It’s hard to find a parking place near the Sawyer Camp Recreation Trail on sunny days, but it’s not without good reason. The paved six-mile trail travels the length of Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir, then leads through marshlands to San Andreas Lake and slightly beyond to Hillcrest Boulevard in Millbrae. Deer and other wildlife are commonly seen along this scenic, view-filled path. A highlight is the Jepson laurel tree, the oldest and largest living California laurel at more than 600 years old. Near San Andreas Lake’s dam, a plaque on a boulder notes that this spot was Captain Gaspar de Portola’s first camp after his discovery of San Francisco Bay on November 4, 1769. Info: , eparks.net

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