Penitencia Creek Trail actually extends significantly outside the park, as a lovely greenway through much of San Jose. Portions are in disrepair (and should be repaired soon), but when linked up, the trail goes for miles! The trail outside the park is very popular with residents as a dog-walking trail. For more information about the trail outside the park, see the San Jose Website about the trail, above.
The portion of Penitencia Creek Trail in the park begins just East of the first parking lot. Ascend a small hill of coarse gravel and continue straight. The coarse gravel gives way to dirt and fine gravel, after a few hundred feet, but there are some jagged rocks poking through the surface of the trail that can make it a bumpy ride for a small-wheeled stroller.
Enjoy the view of the creek along the path. Occasionally, a beach to the creek enables creek access, for those looking for snails, insects, or wanting to float a leaf. The trail continues alongside a steep hill that recently gave way; the landslide narrows the trail somewhat and adds some bumps. Small trails uphill (often with stairs) to view platforms or locations like Inspiration Point (a bit farther East) are fun excursions for those with a baby backpack.
Penitencia Creek Trail crosses the stream via a bridge, then the road, resuming East along the hill that runs parallel to the road. You can climb a steep path to resume it, or walk along Eagle Rock Picnic Area’s paved parking lot, resuming the trail at a gate with a less steep and finer gravel path. The trail will continue and cross the road again, eventually reaching the park at the main park office.
Take a break here in the ample shade of oak trees on a bench or picnic table, play in the playground, linger on a lawn, or take advantage of the bathrooms or water fountains. The trail continues East to the mineral springs that were once the epicenter of a popular spa. Enjoy the beautiful stone work and take a tour of the area along the very narrow footpaths to the left of the creek, if you have a baby backpack. The trail eventually becomes fine gravel again as you continue East of the mineral springs. The trail will eventually end at the junction of Aquague and Penitencia Creeks, where there is an option to return West along a smaller trail (South Rim Switchbacks) or hike uphill to the Upper Meadow Rest Area, along the same trail (but veering left when given the option). Do this smaller trail only with a baby backpack. Turn around whenever it suits you, and return the way you came.