Sunnyvale Baylands

Sunnyvale Baylands Park

Part 3 - Sunnyvale Baylands Park and Nearby Trails


Introduction
Access
Sunnyvale Baylands Park
San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail
Calabazas Creek Trail
West Sunnyvale Channel
East Sunnyvale Channel

Go to Part 1 - The Bay Trail and Hills
Go to Part 2 - The Baylands Ponds
Go to the Mountain View - Stevens Creek Trail Tour
Go to the Alviso Tour
Return to the Bay Trail Guided Photo Tours page

Introduction

Sunnyvale Baylands Park is a popular developed park on the southeast edge of the city of Sunnyvale. It is a Santa Clara County Park that is managed and operated by the city of Sunnyvale. Sunnyvale Baylands Park comprises 105 acres of protected seasonal wetlands and 72 acres of developed parkland, with lawns, playgrounds, picnic areas, and walkways along the marshes. Entry to the park requires an admission fee. Santa Clara County Parks passes are not valid. There are numerous parking lots and restrooms throughout the park. (See here for a park map.)

Around the Sunnyvale Baylands are several trails that are in various stages of development. The most advanced is the San Tomas Aquino Trail, which runs through Santa Clara. It is paved in places and is accessible from the Bay Trail to Central Expressway. In the planning stages is the Calabazas Creek Trail in Sunnyvale. It is not officially open yet, but parts of the levees roads along its bank are accessible near the Bay Trail. The East and West Sunnyvale Channels cross the Bay Trail. The levees along them or near them are partially accessible, though they are not fully-developed trails at this point. They are not long enough to be major recreational trails, but they do provide for short walks for the workers of the industrial parks surrounding them and can provide access to the Bay Trail.

Access Information

Sunnyvale Baylands Park is located on Caribbean Drive, just past the end of the Lawrence Expressway. It can be reached from Hwy 101 northbound from points south by taking the Lawrence Expressway exit and following Lawrence Expressway east. After it crosses over Hwy 237, turn right at the first stoplight. From Hwy 101 from points north, take the Hwy 237 exit towards Milpitas, then exit at Lawrence Expressway and follow the directions above. From the East Bay, take Hwy 880 to Hwy 237 westbound. Exit at the Lawrence Expressway/Caribbean Drive exit and follow the directions above. The Bay Trail can be reached from the road at the east end of the park.

Baylands Park Entrance

The creek and channels mentioned below can be accessed from the Bay Trail (see Part 1). The San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail and Calabazas Creek Trail can be reached by traveling east on the Bay Trail from the east end of Sunnyvale Baylands Park or by travelling west along the Bay Trail from its west end at Lafayette Street. The East Sunnyvale Channel is next to Twin Creeks Sports Complex. The open part can be reached from the Bay Trail bridge over the channel. The West Sunnyvale Channel is next to the parking lot at the west end of the water treatment plant.

Click here for a map of Sunnyvale city parks.


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Sunnyvale Baylands Park

Here are some park views:

This is the Baylands Grove entrance. This is an outdoor amphitheater area that can accommodate 300 people with lawn seating.

This is the long path through the Baylands Grove. Trees line both sides of the path. There are 2 miles of pathways in the park.

Baylands Walk: This has grasses of different types on both sides of the flat path.

The path then turns into a series of undulating waves, simulating the waves on the Bay.

A creek runs along the edge of the large park lawn.

The strong afternoon winds and wide-open lawns make this an ideal spot for kite-flying.

The park has several playgrounds. The main park playground has some unique and colorful play structures.

Near the entrance is a replica of a giant fossil fish skeleton molded in concrete.

This is another view of the playground. The bar in the center is a unique flexible-jointed teeter-totter, called a see-saw snake.

The playground has running water. Here are a simulated stream and turtles.

Between the park and the Bay Trail is a seasonal marsh. Just to the west is the Twin Creeks Sports Center.

This is the entrance to the long observation ramp that leads over the wetlands.

This is a view along the long observation ramp over the seasonal marsh

This is another viewing platform on the edge of the seasonal marsh. Interpretive signs explain the marsh and wildlife.

This challenge ropes course was created as a cooperative project among the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, Fremont Union High School District and the Fremont Union High School District Foundation. It is used by the Fremont Union High School District and is not open for use by the general public.

This is the City of Sunnyvale's Recycled Water Test Garden on the west side of the park. There is a wide variety of flowers, bushes, and trees here, irrigated with recycled water. Each of the plants is labeled.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail

The San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail is a work in progress. It follows along the banks of San Tomas Aquino Creek, starting at the Bay Trail. The source of San Tomas Aquino Creek begins on the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains above Saratoga as Saratoga Creek. It flows through the cities of Saratoga, San Jose, and Santa Clara, meandering by and through several parks, including Santa Clara's Central Park. After Monroe Street, it becomes San Tomas Aquino Creek, a ruler-straight storm drain channel. It flows under Central Expressway, Hwy 101, past the Great America Theme Park, and the Santa Clara Golf and Tennis Club. Finally, it passes by the 3Com industrial campus, goes under Hwy 237 and the Bay Trail, then turns and flows towards the Bay. It joins Calabazas Creek and becomes the Guadalupe Slough, which enters the Bay north of Moffett Field. Ironically, the Guadalupe Slough has no connection to the Guadalupe River. It once did, but the Guadalupe River was re-routed to flow into the Alviso Slough around the turn of the century.

The San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail is open to the public from Hwy 237 to Central Expressway. The portion from 237 to Tasman Drive is paved. The rest is gravel. The west side of the creek is accessible for the whole distance. The east side is technically not a trail. There are several street-level crossings required at this time. In some cases, this requires going a short distance along city streets to the nearest crossing light. Though the trail is open to the public, the Santa Clara Water District's "no trespassing" signs are currently still up, in some cases right next to a Santa Clara trail sign. This is because the trail is not fully developed as a park yet. This can cause some confusion. In general, if there are open gates, the trail is accessible. In the future, there will be separated street crossings, mostly going under the roads. Future plans call for extending the trail from Central Expressway south through Santa Clara to Cupertino. Parts of the route will be on bike lanes on existing streets.

See here for more info. on bird-watching in this area.

This tour of the creek starts at the Bay Trail at Calabazas Creek. At the Calabazas Creek bridge, turn north along the east bank of the creek. The mileage starts here. The trail here is a wide dirt and gravel road. The gravel includes coarse rocks, which can make this a bumpy ride for skinny-tired bikes. On the right is a triangular-shaped pond and marsh, part of Harvey Marsh. This part of the trail is within the city limits of San Jose.

At 0.1 miles, the triangular pond ends and an upland marsh begins. On the left is the stormwater pump station on Calabazas Creek.

At 0.2 miles, a large rectangular ponds begins. The pond is surrounded by cattails. It is often filled with water birds of all types. Herons and egrets can be seen wading in the shallows.

At 0.3 miles, you reach the corner of the pond. On the left, Calabazas Creek joins San Tomas Aquino Creek to form the Guadalupe Slough. The confluence is hidden behind tall reeds.

Ahead is a pier structure that supports the inlet valve wheel, controlling the flow of water into the pond. The pier is elevated, with no easy access. This is not intended as a viewing platform, but there is nothing to prohibit it.

This is a view from the pier, looking upstream at San Tomas Aquino Creek.

The trail turns right to follow San Tomas Aquino Creek upstream. Thick stands of cattails and bulrushes block the view of the creek. Beyond it is the closed Alviso landfill.

This is a view looking back along the trail with the creek on the right.

This is a view looking across the pond to the south. The buildings of the 3Com campus are in the background beyond Hwy 237.

At 0.6 miles, you reach the northeast corner of the pond. The trail and the creek turn sharply to the south. At 0.7 miles, you reach the southeast corner of the pond. Beyond it are dryer upland fields. Pickleweed grows near the marsh's edge. At 0.8 miles, you reach a trail junction. On the right is a small pond. The path branches off to the right to rejoin the Bay Trail.

This is a view looking back along the trail by the trail junction.

The path to the left follows San Tomas Aquino Creek as it goes under a series of bridges. Dirt levee trails run on both sides of the creek and run under the 5 bridges of the Bay Trail and Hwy 237.

The paved trail begins just beyond 237 at 0.9 miles. This is within the city limits of Santa Clara. 3Com Corporation's corporate campus is on both sides of the creek. On the right is a small marsh and the 3Com parking lot. This is a view along the west bank of the creek, looking upstream at the 3Com pedestrian bridge.

After the 237 bridge, the trail is paved and marked. This is a view looking back downstream along the trail at Hwy 237, with the closed Alviso landfill behind it. The trail is gravel for a short distance on either side of the 3Com bridge.

At 1.0 miles, the 3Com pedestrian bridge connects the 3Com Corporation facilities on both sides of the creek. Unless you have business with 3Com, stay on the trail.

This is a view from the 3Com bridge looking towards Old Mountain View-Alviso Road.

Ahead, the trail reaches a gate on Old Mountain View-Alviso Road at 1.1 miles. The trail begins again on the other side of the road. There is no crosswalk here, though the road is not wide here or very busy on the weekends. For safety, cross at the signal on Betsy Ross/Bayfront Plaza and come back. On the return trip, cross at Great America Parkway.

On the right side of the trail is a large fenced-off pond. This is the city of Santa Clara's Westside Storm Station and is not open to the public, at least not yet. There have been discussions about turning it into a park. At 1.4 miles, assuming you crossed at Betsy Ross, you reach the trail entrance.

The pond can be seen from the trail. It is lined with reeds and has some trees.

The trail curves to the left and reaches a gate at Great America Parkway at 1.6 miles. This is a wide, busy divided road, which is not safe to cross except at a crossing light. The nearest lights are at Bunker Hill Lane when travelling south or Old Mountain View-Alviso Road going north. Bunker Hill Lane, which is reached at 1.8 miles, is the entrance to TechMart, the Westin Hotel, and the Santa Clara Convention Center. This is a busy area, so watch for traffic.

The trail begins again at 1.9 miles on the west side of the creek and runs behind the Santa Clara Convention Center.

At 2.2 miles, a bridge leads over the creek to the Santa Clara Golf and Tennis Club.

This is a view looking back from the bridge to the golf club on the east side of the creek.

The paved trail currently ends at Tasman Drive at 2.3 miles. (This is a view looking downstream from Tasman Drive.) Tasman Drive is a busy, divided road, with the VTA Light Rail running down the median. There is no safe direct crossing. You must cross at the nearest stoplight, which is at the Convention Center when heading south and Centennial Blvd. when heading north. Turn right on Tasman. You will go past the Convention Center and the Great America Light Rail station. Cross Tasman at Convention Center, then head back on Tasman.

  You reach the trail entrance at 2.6 miles. The trail now follows along the unpaved gravel levees of the creek. While both sides of the creek may be accessible in places, the west side is currently the most consistently accessible and is the official route of the trail. The trail runs next to the Great America parking lot. Across Centennial Drive, you can see the San Francisco 49'ers headquarters and practice fields.

The trail crosses the connecting road to the Great America overflow parking lot at 2.8 miles. It then begins to run behind the Great America amusement park itself.

Just ahead, crossing the creek are the huge Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct pipelines at 3 miles. Great America Park begins on the right.

You can see the rides and ponds of Great America behind the fence on the right.

The trail runs behind the Great America maintenance yard and employee parking lot and ends at Agnew Road at 3.6 miles. Ahead, the levee along the creek is fenced off, as it goes behind Santa Clara Fire Station #8. To bypass it and get back to the trail, head right down Agnew Road and turn left at Mission College Blvd. Watch out for traffic. At the bridge over the creek, the trail begins again on the right at 3.8 miles.

Levee trails run on both sides of the creek. A wooden pedestrian bridge connects the two sides of the creek at 4.0 miles.

The trail drops down and crosses under the Hwy 101 bridge at 4.2 miles. The path is paved under the 101 bridge. After the bridge, a steep dirt path rises up to the levee.

After the bridge, the trail runs straight along the creek until it reaches Scott Blvd. between Octavius Dr. and Olcott St. at 4.5 miles.

A gap in the median allows crossing the road, but there are no stoplights or stop signs for crossing traffic, so be careful crossing here.

The trail begins again after Scott Blvd., traveling straight along the west side of the creek until it ends at Central Expressway. This is currently the turn-around point at 4.9 miles.

San Tomas Aquino Creek flows under Central Expressway. It is very dangerous to cross Central Expressway except at a crossing signal. The nearest signal is at San Tomas Expressway to the east. Across Central Expressway, the levee trail is not fenced off, but there are "No trespassing" signs posted. The creek from here is not open to the public. The creek next crosses under Walsh Avenue. The levee is fenced off on all sides, preventing access. Ahead, railroad tracks can be seen crossing the creek, presenting another obstacle. After the railroad tracks, suburban residential neighborhoods begin. After Monroe Street, the creek becomes Saratoga Creek. It becomes much narrower, with little room on the banks for trails. The creek runs pass several parks including Santa Clara's Central Park. Plans are in the works to pave more of the trail, starting at Tasman Drive, and continue it along the creek or on streetside bike lanes all the way to Prospect High School in Saratoga.

At Central Expressway, turn around and head back. Cross the streets at the signals mentioned above.

You can take a side trip at Tasman Drive. Turn right and head down Tasman. Go up the overpass over Lafayette Street and the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. You may be able to spot the 49'ers practicing in the fields at their headquarters. At the top of the overpass, a pedestrian stairway leads down to the Santa Clara station on the railroad line. Continue on to Lick Mill Blvd. and turn right.

Soon you come to the Ulistac Natural Area below the levee of the Guadalupe River. This area was used for grazing in the 1800's and was part of Rancho Ulistac. Later it was used for farming and orchards. It was a golf course from 1961 until 1988. The City of Santa Clara purchased the site in 1974 and let it remain fallow during the 1990's.

  Now, the 41-acre site consists of grasslands, wetlands, and woodlands. Dirt paths wind through it.

  Ramps lead up to the levee of the Guadalupe River. The levee trail can be taken north to reach Tasman Drive.

Tasman Drive crosses over the Guadalupe River. (This is a view of the river from the Tasman bridge.) The levees along the Guadalupe River are being developed into public trails and will someday connect to the Guadalupe River Park in downtown San Jose, the Los Gatos Creek Trail, Almaden Lake, the Alamitos Creek Trail, and the Bay Area Ridge Trail at Santa Teresa County Park. Following the Guadalupe River downstream, the levee trails will eventually lead to Alviso and its Bay Trails.

The Calabazas Creek Trail

Calabazas Creek forms the border between Sunnyvale and Santa Clara from Central Expressway to Hwy 237. Like San Tomas Aquino Creek, it is a tamed, straight storm drain channel, surrounded by high levees, with service roads along the tops and sometimes the sides of the levees. The city of Sunnyvale is developing a trail along the banks of Calabazas Creek between Hwy 101 and the Bay Trail. As a trail under construction, it is not officially open yet. Parts of it may be opened or closed without notice. The pictures below were mostly taken from the road crossings over the creek and from the Bay Trail.

Calabazas Creek emerges from underneath Hwy 101 and Wildwood Avenue and heads straight north.

This is a levee road by the side of Calabazas Creek at Wildwood Ave., looking through the locked gate.

This is looking south across the VTA Light Rail tracks at Tasman Drive at the open levee road on the west side of Calabazas Creek.

This is a view looking north from the Tasman Drive bridge down Calabazas Creek.

This is a gate on Calabazas Creek from the Bay Trail, near the creek bridge looking south towards Hwy 237.

This is a view looking downstream along Calabazas Creek from the Bay Trail bridge.

This is the trail north of the Bay Trail between Calabazas Creek and Harvey Marsh and leads to the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail in the previous section.

West Sunnyvale Channel

The levee trails along the West Sunnyvale Channel are not on the Sunnyvale trail map. Though there are no signs (yet) advertising that these are public trails, there are no signs or fences prohibiting access to most of them. The trails are not very long or scenic. They do provide workers at the businesses along the way a place to go for a lunchtime stroll or jog, as well as a shortcut to reach the Sunnyvale Baylands.

The West Sunnyvale Channel flows along the Sunnyvale Baylands on the west side of the Sunnyvale Water Pollution Control Plant. The Bay Trail route crosses over it. Fences block vehicular access to both banks of the channel, but they can easily be walked around.

The channel flows straight along the base of the landfill hills. This is a tidal channel, so the water level varies with the tides.

The channel crosses under Caribbean Drive. There is a gate and a low wall along the edge of the creek levee by the bridge. To reach the other side of the channel, cross Caribbean Drive, but be careful as there is no crosswalk. The closest crosswalk and signal is at Borregas Avenue to the east.

On the other side of Caribbean Drive are business parks. The dirt and gravel-covered banks of the levees along both sides of the channel are accessible from Caribbean Drive and from the back parking lots of the businesses along the way.

The channel runs straight to Java Drive. The channel flows under a bridge, but the levee trail dead ends. Light Rail tracks prevent crossing over to the other side. Reaching the other side requires going down a short distance to the traffic signal at Bordeaux, then coming back to the channel.

Here on the other side of Java Drive, the levee has some shade from nearby landscaping.

The channel turns right, becoming narrower and shallower. Travel on the left bank becomes more difficult due to heavy vine growth. The right bank ends at Bordeaux Drive.

On the other side of Bordeaux Drive, the left bank is impassable due to heavy plant growth, but the parking lot of Cogswell Polytechnic College runs next to it. The right bank is blocked by a low gate. Even though this gate can be easily walked over, the levee trail is blocked by an impassable gate at the other end, as shown next.

The other end of the channel ends at Mathilda Avenue. A fence blocks access to this end. Beyond this, the channel disappears underground underneath Mathilda Avenue. On the other side of Mathilda Avenue is Lockheed Martin, which is restricted private property.

East Sunnyvale Channel

The East Sunnyvale Channel is much shorter than the West Sunnyvale Channel outside the Sunnyvale Baylands. It runs from Hwy 237 and Moffett Drive, then goes under Caribbean Drive, where it enters the Sunnyvale Baylands. It runs between the Twin Creeks Sports Complex and the active landfill at the Sunnyvale recycling center. It then turns to parallel the Bay Trail, which crosses over it on a bridge. It also runs parallel to the east salt pond. Just past the end of the east salt pond, the channel joins the Guadalupe Slough.

This is a view of the channel from the Bay Trail bridge. The landfill hills are to the right. The Twin Creeks Sports Complex is to the left. Straight ahead is Caribbean Drive. Both sides of the channel are unblocked from here, but the entrance on Caribbean Drive is gated on both sides. The gates may or may not be open.

This is the gate on Caribbean Drive on the east side of the channel. At the time this picture was taken, it was open, but other times, I have seen it closed. The gate on the west side has always been locked, but there is a small gap in the left side of the fence that allows walkers to pass through. A sign warns that this is a wildlife refuge and that dogs must be leashed.

This is a view of the center of the channel. The banks are dirt. The channel runs straight towards Hwy 237.

This is a view of the channel on the south side of Caribbean Drive. The levee roads are gated off with "No trespassing" signs.

Below the levee of the channel on the west side is a smaller drainage channel. This channel flows under Caribbean Drive in a pipe and runs into the drainage channel below the landfill hills. There are paths along both sides of this channel.

The path along the west side of the smaller drainage channel runs along the backyards of several businesses. There are no fences blocking access.

The channel ends at Moffett Park Drive, which runs next to Hwy 237. It runs under the roads in a narrow culvert. The levee paths also end here.

Go to Part 1 - Baylands Park and Nearby Trails
Go to Part 2 - The Baylands Ponds
Go to the Mountain View - Stevens Creek Trail Tour
Go to the Alviso Tour
Return to the Bay Trail Guided Photo Tours page


Developed: 10/28/2001 by Ronald Horii

Information and opinions here are the responsibility of the author.