Staffers Rate Local Trails

by Sofia Rossi & Sasha Ryu

Local News Editor, Editor-in-Chief

Although COVID restrictions are slowly lifting, there are still limited opportunities to go outside. If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy the great outdoors, here’s a list of local trails for you and your friends to visit over the summer!

Los Gatos Creek Trail  

The Los Gatos Creek Trail connects Vasona Park to the Los Gatos Creek County Dog Park. Depending on how far you’re willing to explore, you can get in well over five miles on a round trip. There are lots of bug clouds hovering over the path, but if you wear long sleeves and pants, you’ll probably be able to avoid any bites. The trail has almost zero elevation, so it’s very child-friendly — even wheelchair friendly! Be sure to go out earlier in the morning or a bit into the evening for optimal walking temperatures. We also recommend saving at least one Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me Episode! on your phone to keep yourself entertained. 

Difficulty Rating: Easiest

Overall Rating: 8/10

John Nicholas Trail

To walk the John Nicholas Trail is a rite of passage for anyone living in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Unfortunately, some city folks insist on making the treacherous drive up to the trailhead and parking on the side of the road with half their car sticking out into oncoming traffic. If you’re able to find a “parking spot” — and we use that term lightly because it’s more a question of how close you’re willing to get to the edge of a mountain to park — and make it onto the trail, you have a satisfying walk ahead of you. One of the things we love most about this trail is the fact that it has a clear destination: a massive reservoir a couple miles down the trail. The journey is fairly flat, but make sure you bring lots of water because the sun doesn’t quit until 7pm when the mountain lions start to come out. And, God forbid, if you’re not from the area, make sure you pull all the way off the road when you finally find a parking spot, or risk your car getting totaled by any oncoming vehicle.

Difficulty Rating: Moderate

Overall Rating: 9/10

A wooden sign introducing visitors to the John Nicholas Trail (Flickr).

Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Reserve – Upper Lake Loop

The Upper Lake Loop Trail is so easy, it almost doesn’t feel like you’re exercising! At first, the brown murky water in the lake at the center of this trail loop seems unappealing, but after your third or fourth time walking around it under unrelenting sun rays, it starts to look just as good as a chlorinated pool on a hot summer day. We recommend applying lots of sunscreen before you embark on this circular journey with no real end. (Get it? Because it’s a loop!) We also recommend finding a lighthearted folk playlist to really immerse yourself in the experience. Half Moon Run’s “Full Circle” is a great place to start!

Difficulty Rating: Easiest

Overall Rating: 6/10

Just three miles south of Los Gatos, these majestic redwoods tower over the rest of the forest (Wikimedia Commons).

St. Joseph’s Hill

Walking St. Joseph’s Trail for the first time was honestly one of the most terrifying experiences of my life — the closest thing to a near-death experience that I’ve ever had. If you make the mistake of starting up the trail that says “One way,” at least make sure someone knows where you are in case you fall off the side of the literal mountain you’re climbing. The best thing about this trail is that it’s virtually impossible to turn around and go back the way you came because the walkway is so narrow, so you have no choice but to finish the often unbearable uphill trek! We highly recommend bringing a large water bottle with you, but not too large that it offsets your balance and you, once again, find yourself falling off the edge of the mountain. 

Difficulty Rating: Strenuous

Overall Rating: 7/10

Vasona Park Trail 

The Vasona Park Trail is always busy after 10:00 AM, but for good reason! It’s scenic, shady, and relatively easy to navigate. You’ll be able to walk by the lake, the boathouse, and a couple of playgrounds. Be sure to watch your step — there is bird poop EVERYWHERE! Another heads up — the animals like their space, but don’t let that scare you away. After all, you can’t call yourself a real Los Gatos resident until you’ve been hissed at by a Vasona goose. Consider packing a set of chess pieces and a light picnic because there are plenty of places to stop and play a game. Over the summer, it’s also popular for people to fish in the reservoir. 

Difficulty Rating: Easiest

Overall Rating: 9/10



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