Almaden Quicksilver Park
100% FIRE ROAD
Almaden Quicksilver Park is a large county park. It doesn't have too many bike-legal trails, and all that are bike-legal are fire roads. This ride does the biggest bike loop that is possible in this park. Optionally, you can augment this with a few extra spurs off the main route and with an alternative segment for part of the loop.
The park covers territory where intensive mining for cinnabar has taken place from the 19th century until the 1970s. Cinnabar being the ore of mercury ("quicksilver"), the area has high levels of mercury. For this reason, for example, the fish caught in the Guadalupe Reservoir in the park is considered contaminated and inedible. To this day, this park is named as the single biggest contributor to the mercury contamination in the San Francisco Bay.
The high levels of mining activity in the park also mean that there are plenty of historic remains here. These include some abandoned towns and town sites as well as many mine entrances, one tunnel, a couple of cemeteries, and a few mining facilities/equipment. The highest number of things to be seen are at English Camp and its immediate area. This ride passes near but not through English Camp. You could turn off the main route onto Castillero Trail to take a side trip and visit this site during the ride. Even without that, this ride allows you to see a couple of mine sites, a few mining equipment remnants, the ruins of a couple of small wooden cabins/structures, and even a couple of early-20th-century-model car wrecks. You still might want to come to this park to explore more of its remnants on foot on another occasion though, because a lot of it isn't accessible by bike.
The ride starts from the Hacienda (southeastern) entrance of the park. First comes a fairly long and uninterrupted climb, which makes up the majority of the elevation gain of the entire ride. Starting virtually right at the trailhead, this almost unbroken climb lasts for just under 2 miles at a nearly constant grade around 8.5%. The trail begins a gentle descent after passing the hilltop area that is most densely packed with historic remains.
The descent quickens toward Guadalupe Reservoir and nice views of the reservoir lake open up as a short series of descending (extremely wide) switchbacks begin. Shortly thereafter, you'll have to make sure you don't miss the right turn onto Randoll Trail. This marks the beginning of the return portion of your loop.
Randoll Trail weaves in and out of the creases of the hillside and gently undulates over minor humps once in a while. On average, it very gently gains elevation, but you might not even notice this. Overall, Randoll is a pleasant hillside fire-road ride under partial oak tree cover. Once you reach the first multiway intersection near the beginning of the ride, you'll know that all that's left is the short-but-fun steep descent back to the parking lot.
© Ergin Guney
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