Go to the Shoreline at Mountain View
Go to the Palo Alto Baylands Tour
Go to the Sunnyvale Baylands Tour
Return to the Bay Trail Guided Photo Tours page
Most of the city's open space land has been developed. The largest area of open space left in the city lies along the Bay. The land along the Bay itself is mostly private salt pond levees that are not open to the public. However, public parklands do lie along the inland side of the salt ponds and along the area's creeks.
The Bay Trail through Mountain View runs from Stevens Creek in the southeast
to Adobe Creek in the northwest. It primarily runs through Shoreline at
Mountain View Park, but connects with several preserves and recreational
areas. On the east side, it connects with the Stevens Creek Trail and the
Stevens Creek Shoreline Nature Study Area. A proposed segment of the Bay
Trail will run past Moffett Field and Lockheed Martin to connect with Sunnyvale
Baylands Park. On the northwest edge, the trail connects to Palo
Alto Baylands Nature Preserve. (See here for a map
of the Bay Trail in the South Bay .)
Though not a part of the Bay Trail itself, the Stevens Creek Trail is a heavily-used feeder trail and an important gateway to the Bay Trail. The Stevens Creek Trail, which follows along the banks of Stevens Creek, is not a long trail, but it is one of the best-developed and most ambitious trails in the Bay Area. The existing trail cost around $10 million to build, with funding from a wide range of public and private sources. Building the trail required the construction of several bridges and underpasses, the planting of thousands of trees and shrubs, and the installation of numerous amenities, like benches, signs, and drinking fountains. South of Hwy 101, the trail was built through already-established suburban neighborhoods and along busy major roads, including State Highway 85, the Stevens Creek Freeway. However, because of the extensive landscaping and amenities, the trail is like a natural linear park. It can serve as a model for how to turn previously-unused land into an attractive and vital recreational resource.
The Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View was built in sections called "Reaches." Reach 1 was completed in 1991 and runs from Shoreline at Mountain View Park to L'Avenida Avenue. Reach 2 was completed in 1996 and runs from L'Avenida Avenue to Whisman School. Reach 3, dedicated in 1999, runs from Whisman School to Landels Park. The latest section, which was dedicated on October 12, 2002, is Reach 4, Segment 1 , which runs from Landels Park, over busy Hwy 237, to Yuba Drive, a few blocks away from the bustling commercial road, El Camino Real. (See " Stevens Creek Trail, Opening of Reach 4 Segment 1 " below.)
Plans are being made to extend the trail farther through Mountain View. The 1.7-mile trail segment will run from Yuba Drive to Mountain View High School. Currently, there is an undeveloped section of land zoned as parkland along the creek south of El Camino Real to Hwy 85. There is a meadow here that was the homestead of the Sleeper family. This area is known as "Sleeper Park" or "Sleeper Open Space" and is a likely future route for the Stevens Creek Trail. The routing is undergoing environmental review . The creek crosses to the east side of Hwy 85 and forms the Mountain View-Sunnyvale border. The creek is hidden behind sound walls. South of that, it crosses under Hwy 85 again and runs along the Los Altos-Sunnyvale border to Homestead Road. It then runs through Cupertino , passing several parks and golf courses. At the time of this writing, Sunnyvale did not have plans for extending the Stevens Creek Trail through its city limits because of private property issues. Los Altos and Cupertino were studying it.
Stevens Creek enters county land at Stevens Creek Reservoir County Park . Trails run along the creek in the park. Stevens Creek Reservoir occupies 93 acres of the 1095 acre park. Fishing and boating are popular here. Above the reservoir, the creek runs up Stevens Canyon through private land along Stevens Canyon Road. After the road ends, the creek enters Upper Stevens Creek County Park and Monte Bello Open Space Preserve. These adjoining parks comprise 4664 acres of rugged forested open space along the flanks of the Santa Cruz Mountains. In Monte Bello, trails lead along the upper reaches of spring-fed Stevens Creek, which runs year round. Stevens Creek follows along the rift of the San Andreas Fault in this area.
The long-range goal is to extend the Stevens Creek Trail all the way up the creek to its headwaters in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There, it will intersect the Bay Area Ridge Trail . Like the Bay Trail, the Bay Area Ridge Trail is a 400-mile proposed trail network that runs around the Bay Area, except it runs along the Bay Area's ridge tops. The Stevens Creek Trail can thus form a connector between these 2 huge trail networks, which together will form over 800 miles of recreational trails.
At the moment, the Stevens Creek Trail starts at Landels Park in Mountain View, then follows Stevens Creek all the way to the Bay Trail, which runs to Shoreline at Mountain View Park. Between Landels Park and Hwy 101, the Stevens Creek Trail runs through densely-populated suburban neighborhoods and by several neighborhood parks and schools. From 101 to Crittenden Lane, it runs past a series of high-tech business parks, mobile home parks, and NASA's Ames Research Center. Beyond that it reaches the trails at Shoreline at Mountain View. There, 2 bridges lead over to the east bank of the creek, where a gravel levee road runs by NASA, the Stevens Creek Shoreline Nature Study Area, and private salt ponds to the creek's mouth on San Francisco Bay.
The trail provides a safe and scenic escape for thousands of city dwellers to reach the parks and nature preserves by the Bay. The trail crosses over and provides access to the VTA Light Rail line and the Caltrain line along Central Expressway. The Light Rail line serves hundreds of thousands of people in the Santa Clara Valley. Using the Light Rail and the Stevens Creek Trail, people from as far away as the Almaden Valley in San Jose can access the Bay Trail in Mountain View. Using Caltrain, people from as far away as Gilroy can reach the Bay through the Stevens Creek Trail, as well as people from up the Peninsula and San Francisco. The Stevens Creek Trail is thus a strategic place to begin this tour of the Bay Trail in Mountain View.
For further information on the Stevens Creek Trail, call (650) 903-6392. The Friends of Stevens Creek Trail is a community group working to promote the trail. They are at: McClellan Ranch Park, 22221 McClellan Road, Cupertino, CA 95014, (408) 255-5780, (415) 903-6067.
NASA conducts aeronautics and space research at its Ames Research Center Facility here. Over 4000 people work at the center. Research aircraft are housed and take off from here. Several enormous wind tunnels are used for studying aircraft aerodynamics. Facilities also include aircraft simulators, a centrifuge, and the world's largest computer facility. NASA Ames Research Center has a visitors center that is open to the public on weekdays. They have an educational program for grade school students, called the Aerospace Encounter, that is housed in a supersonic wind tunnel building. Guided tours are provided to individuals and groups with reservations. The Moffett Field Museum is housed in the giant former dirigible hangar, Hangar 1. Future plans for Hangar 1 call for it to house the California Air & Space Center . (See the Bay Area Backroads story on Moffett Field .)
The Bay Trail route is planned to go past NASA Ames, Moffett Field, and Lockheed Martin to Sunnyvale Baylands, but there are many issues complicating the completion of this route. A publication is available from the Bay Trail Store on the plans for this area ("South Bay: Bay Trail Alternatives and Implementation Procedures").
The Stevens Creek Trail can also be accessed from several other points along the trail, including the Caltrain and VTA Light Rail stations on Evelyn Avenue/Central Expressway. Trail entrances are also at Creekside Park, Central Avenue, Middlefield Road, Whisman Park, Moffett Blvd., L'Avenida, and Crittenden Lane. These will be discussed below. The Stevens Creek Trail can also be accessed from Shoreline at Mountain View .
NASA Ames, Moffett Field, and Lockheed Martin form a wide gap in the
Bay Trail between Mountain View and Sunnyvale Baylands. There is no off-road
route between these two segments of the Bay Trail. Roadside routes run
far inland and are generally busy and not pedestrian or bicycle-friendly.
The safest way for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel between these two
segments is to use the Stevens Creek Trail and the VTA Light Rail.
The trail begins at the Landels Park trail entrance on W. Dana St. The mileage readings begin here. Landels Park is adjacent to Edith Landels School. The park and school grounds have basketball and handball courts, lawns, playing fields, picnic tables, benches, and playgrounds. Stevens Creek runs along the east edge of the park. This neighborhood is the Whisman area of Mountain View.
A landscaped path runs through the park, paralleling the creek, but the exit at the south end of the park is for neighborhood access only.
The trail entrance path runs on a concrete walk alongside the Dana Street bridge. The path is shaded by redwoods. The path reaches the bank of Stevens Creek. The Stevens Creek Trail begins here.
Turn left and go under the Dana Street bridge. A path on the other side of the bridge leads to the north side of Dana Street.
Immediately after going under the Dana Street bridge, the trail crosses over the first of many bridges over Stevens Creek. (See the picture at the top of this page.) These bridges are teal-painted steel frame structures with decorative flagstone bases. This same color scheme is seen on most of the bridges south of Hwy 101. It is also seen in new buildings on Evelyn Avenue.
At 0.1 miles, just after the creek bridge the trail turns left next to the Hwy 85 sound wall. The trail enters a shady area. The left and right sides of the trail split to go around a small grove of trees. The trail speed limit is 5 mph in this area.
At 0.2 miles is the base of the soaring 1100-foot Central Expressway pedestrian bridge. At the base of the bridge is a plaque commemorating the Reach 3 dedication on April 24, 1999. At the base of the bridge, there are stairs for pedestrians and a ramp for bicycles and wheelchairs.
A path at ground-level leads to Evelyn Avenue, which can be taken to the east for 0.2 miles to reach the Evelyn Avenue Light Rail Station or to the west for 0.4 miles to reach the new Downtown Mountain View Transit Center, which consists of bus stops and the Mountain View Light Rail and Caltrain stations. Immediately west of the transit center is Castro Street, which runs through downtown Mountain View , with its many shops, restaurants, and other attractions . Though the Evelyn Station is closer, the route east crosses the busy on-ramp and off-ramp to Hwy 85, and there are no sidewalks for most of the route. The Light Rail sections were added to the line in 1999 as part of the Tasman West Light Rail Extension. The Light Rail can be used to reach the next segments of the Bay Trail to the east at the Sunnyvale water treatment plant and Sunnyvale Baylands Park by disembarking at the Borregas or the Crossman stations.
Back to the Central Expressway over-crossing, the bridge arches up and crosses over West Evelyn Avenue, then high over Central Expressway. In the middle of Central Expressway are the CalTrain and VTA Light Rail train tracks. The bridge drops down to another set of stairs and a ramp. There is no direct access to Central Expressway from here.
Just past the bridge, the trail runs by landscape plantings on the sides of the trail and in an island in the middle of the trail. Pines line the side of the trail. The Hwy 85 sound wall is to the right. Stevens Creek is to the left.
Along the upper banks of the creek, kids can be seen riding dirt bikes on a makeshift dirt stunt track. At 0.4 miles, the trail turns left and crosses over the creek on a bridge.
Just past here is a trail entrance at a cul-de-sac at the end of Central Avenue. The trail turns right past the bridge to go under the Hwy 85 undercrossing. The creek is separated from the trail by a long bridge support. This undercrossing is lighted at night. Guard rails line the side of the trail along the undercrossing ramp.
On the other side of the undercrossing, the trail emerges under a shady grove of trees.
At 0.5 miles, a bridge leads to the right off the trail to cross the creek. On the other side is Creekside Park, at the corner of Gladys Avenue and Easy Street. The compact new park, completed in October, 1998, has a playground and picnic areas.
At 0.7 miles, the trail reaches a fork.
A ramp to the right leads up to the Middlefield Road trail entrance. The road has bike lanes and limited roadside parking near the trail entrance.
Back at the fork, the trail goes to the left under the Middlefield Road overcrossing. The sound wall next to Hwy 85 opens up to a chain-link fence, revealing the speeding traffic on the freeway. It's a brief, noisy reminder that the trail runs through a busy city.
Just after the overcrossing, the sound wall begins again, and the roar of traffic fades. The creek is on the right. Informal paths run through the trees along the creek bank. Pines line the sound wall to the left of the trail. The trail meanders along through lazy S-curves.
The sound of children playing can be heard from across the creek. At 0.9 miles, a bridge leads over the creek to Whisman Park and School. A plaque near the bridge commemorates the Reach 2 dedication on June 1, 1996.
Whisman Park is a large park next to Whisman School The park's main entrance is on Easy Street south of Walker Drive.
The park has broad shady lawns, playing fields, tennis courts, walking paths, and picnic areas.
At 1.1 miles is the only street crossing on the trail. The trail crosses Moffett Blvd. next to the Hwy 85 off-ramp. Watch for cars turning right from the off-ramp when crossing the street. On the other side of the street is a small grove of redwood trees to the right of the trail. A short path behind the trees leads back to a locked gate on Moffett Blvd.
The creek soon comes into view again. The trees are farther from the trail in this section, so the trail is more open and sunnier.
At 1.3 miles is a small dam with a fish ladder to allow migrating fish to swim upstream. Below it, the creek flows into a concrete-lined channel. The trail drops down on a long concrete ramp, with rails separating it from the creek.
The trail runs under the wide Hwy 101 bridge, then rises up on a long ramp on the other side. It runs close to the creek and may be closed in the rainy season during times of high water. Read the trail signs for the latest status. At 1.5 miles, the ramp ends. The creek banks turn from concrete to sandbags, then to dirt. The trail runs on a levee between the creek and a new industrial park on the left. A gravel ramp leads down from the trail to edge of the creek, then runs back up to the trail. This area is wide open and sunny, with trees only along the edge of the creek and low bushes along the trail. Access paths lead from the parking lot of the industrial park to the trail, providing lunchtime recreation for the workers.
At 1.6 miles, the ramp along the creek joins the trail, then another ramp leads down to the creek again. There is a wide gravel path along the creek. The trail runs behind apartments at Moffett Field. These are part of the Onizuka Air Station Housing Annex. Onizuka Air Station is an Air Force satellite surveillance complex located on the Sunnyvale side of Moffett Field, next to Lockheed Martin. The station is scheduled for closure and reuse .
At 1.7 miles, the ramp comes back up to the trail. The side of the giant wind tunnel , the largest in the world, at NASA Ames Research Center can be seen behind the apartments. NASA Ames has several wind tunnels, but this is the largest. The largest part is named the "80X120 Foot Wind Tunnel," which refers to the cross-sectional area of the test section. This is big enough to test a full-size Boeing 737 aircraft. The wind tunnel became operational in 1987 and can test large or full-scale aircraft models with a wind velocity of up to 190 mph. The wind is created by six huge 40-foot fan blades driven by six giant electric motors. The motors can move 1 million pounds of air per second. The 80X120 foot wind tunnel is part of a larger facility, the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex, which also includes an older closed-circuit 40X80 foot section that can test models at up to 345 mph. This closed circuit part of the wind tunnel has a circumference of a half mile.
To the left is the new L'Avenida Trail head at the end of a cul-de-sac.
To the right are rows of new flagstone-covered benches arranged in amphitheater-like arcs.
Another ramp leads down to the broad creek bed again. Trees at the edge of the creek hide the creek. An RV lot and mobile home park are on the left.
At 2.1 miles, the huge intake for the NASA 80X120 wind tunnel can be seen. This intake is 363 feet wide and 161 feet high. Overhead power lines lead to the wind tunnel complex. The fan motors that power the wind tunnel require 106 megawatts of power at full-speed. This is 135,000 horsepower.
To the left of the trail is a nursery yard full of trees belonging to a tree-moving company.
The large frame structure in an open field at NASA is an outdoor engine test stand.
The trees along the creek begin to thin out. The creek is wide open and more visible.
Buildings can be seen that are part of Moffett Federal Air Field and NASA Ames Research Center . Particularly prominent here are the giant hangars, including the monstrous 21-story tall dirigible hangar, Hangar 1 , at Moffett Field and the wind tunnels at NASA Ames. Hangar 1 is 1133 feet long, 308 feet wide, and 198 feet high. It is constructed of galvanized sheet steel on top of a steel girder frame. Its floor covers 8 acres. Its 2 huge doors weigh 500 tons each. The hangar was built this size to house the giant airship U.S.S. Macon, which was lost at sea in 1935.
The East Bay hills and salt mounds can be seen ahead.
At 2.6 miles is a meeting of several trails. The ramp along the creek joins the main trail. To the left, the Crittenden Lane Trail Head drops down steeply. Crittenden Lane leads past new industrial parks and towards the tent peaks of the Shoreline Amphitheatre.
To the right is a massive concrete bridge over Stevens Creek, obviously built to carry heavy vehicles. The bridge belongs to NASA. Straight ahead is the beginning of the Shoreline at Mountain View trail.
To continue along Stevens Creek, cross over the concrete bridge. The trail here is a gravel-surfaced dirt road. Ahead, the trail splits into a high road along the levee above the creek and a low road at the creek level. For now, take the high road. A fence runs along the edge of NASA property, with no trespassing allowed. The fields here are dry uplands.
The trail to the south along the creek is open, but signs indicate that only government employees are allowed. Stevens Creek starts becoming a tidal slough in this area. It is known as Whisman Slough.
At 3.0 miles, the trail passes the last of the NASA buildings. The lower creek-level road comes up to meet the levee road. Here a steel-frame bridge crosses over the creek to provide access to the trails along the west side of the creek. For now, continue on.
To the left, the tidal influences on Stevens Creek are more apparent. At high tide, the creek is a full slough. A large pickleweed marsh begins to the right of the trail.
Across the creek is the outlet of the Stevens Creek Tidal Marsh. This is favorite feeding spot for wading birds.
At 3.1 miles, a large shallow pond begins on the right. This is Crittenden Marsh, which makes up 3/4 of the 55-acre Stevens Creek Nature Study Area , run by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District . (Click here for a map .) The marsh is brackish, receiving its water from Moffett Field's freshwater runoff. This results in a habitat suitable to a wide variety of wildlife and bird life, both freshwater and saltwater. This makes it a rich area for nature study and research. There are docent-led tours here.
At 3.3 miles, a tiny stop sign marks the end of the open space preserve and the beginning of private property, belonging to the Cargill Salt Company .
The public trail ends here. Venturing past here is at your own risk. To be safe, backtrack from here. This tour continues on for informational purposes. A levee runs along the edge of a salt pond to the right, but is fenced off. The salt pond is often filled with birds, including pelicans.
Duck blinds and boats indicate this pond is used for duck hunting. Duck hunters are allowed to bring their trucks on the road, so watch out for traffic. The dirt levee road continues straight ahead along Stevens Creek unimpeded. There were no gates or "No Trespassing" signs blocking this route at the time of this writing. This may change, however, so be sure to check the posted trail signs and maps. Keep in mind that this levee road from here to the Bay is not a public trail, so don't expect trail amenities. The dirt road may also be deeply rutted from vehicle traffic.
At 3.6 miles, another closed salt pond levee is on the right, with more duck blinds and boats. A narrow finger of land leads into the pond, which provides a resting spot for birds.
At 3.8 miles, broken catwalks lead under a long line of power towers that cross through the salt ponds.
The trail follows Stevens Creek as it curves to the right. The creek is a wide slough, with pickleweed marshes along its edges.
Finally, at 4.2 miles the trail reaches the mouth of Stevens Creek on San Francisco Bay.
Broad pickleweed marshes and wide mudflats at low tide line the mouth of the creek.
The road turns to the right as it follows the salt pond levee along the Bay. However, a fence topped by barbed and concertina wire prevents further travel and indicate this is private property, belonging to Cargill Salt, and is definitely off-limits.
Though this levee leads along the Bay and Guadalupe Slough to the Bay Trail at Sunnyvale Baylands, Cargill has been opposed to public access to their levees. However, negotiations are in the works over possible public sale of the Cargill salt ponds. In the meantime, the proposed Bay Trail route runs farther inland near Moffett Field. A number of concerns need to be resolved, however, before the trail can be built past Moffett Field.
Backtrack up Stevens Creek along the trail. Return to the concrete bridge
and cross back over the creek to explore the trails at Shoreline
at Mountain View . The mileage at this point is 5.8 miles, less if
you don't go all the way to the Bay.
The mileage readings below begin from the east end of the bridge over Stevens Creek leading to Landels Park (see the picture at the top of this page).
This is the ribbon marking the entrance of the new trail segment near Landels Park at 0.01 miles.
Here, Mountain View officials are cutting the ribbon, opening the trail to the public.
The trail runs next to the Hwy 85 soundwall, with Stevens Creek on the right. It passes under the Dana Street Bridge at 0.04 miles.
This stretch past Dana Street is shaded by trees growing along the creek and near the soundwall. New landscape vegetation has been planted next to the trail. The creek banks are accessible from here.
At 0.12 miles, the trail begins to cross over an elevated causeway high above the creekbed below. A guardrail prevents users from tumbling into the creek.
The causeway continues along between the Hwy 85 soundwall and Stevens Creek, ending at 0.20 miles.
At 0.22 miles, the trail passes under the Hwy 85 southbound off-ramp to Hwy 237 westbound.
There's a short straight stretch just beyond. Ahead is the Hwy 237 westbound on-ramp to Hwy 85 southbound. The trail passes under this ramp at 0.28 miles.
Just beyond this onramp is the beginning of the switchback ramp that climbs up to the Hwy 237 bridge.
The Hwy 237 bridge begins at 0.35 miles. This is a view looking back towards the start of the bridge and its entry ramp.
The Hwy 237 bridge is a massive concrete pedestrian bridge paralleling Hwy 85. Hwy 237 traffic can be seen rushing below, while Hwy 85 traffic (not always rushing) can be seen on the left.
The bridge ends at 0.42 miles. The path drops down below the level of Hwy 85.
Eucalyptus trees provide shade. A utility yard is on the right.
trail ends at 0.50 miles at the east end of Yuba Drive. A fence blocks
further travel along the Hwy 85 soundwall. There are bike racks and a drinking
fountain here. Parking is available along Yuba Drive, which is an industrial
area a few blocks north of El Camino Real. Yuba Drive crosses over Stevens
Creek on a bridge and ends up at El Camino. El Camino is a very busy, wide
commercial street. There are shopping centers, restaurants, hotels, and
businesses lining the road for miles. Traffic is usually heavy. Crossing
El Camino is the next big challenge for the Stevens Creek Trail. That will
be done in Reach
4 Segment 2 . Have a bite to eat or go shopping on El Camino, then
head back along the trail to Landels Park.
Information and opinions here are the responsibility of the author