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Length 18.5 miles
Time 5.5 hours
Total Climb 2800 feet
Fun Rating
9
Scenic Rating
4
Aerobic Difficulty
9
Technical Difficulty 
8


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Annadel (Suggestion 1)
59% SINGLETRACK41% FIRE ROAD






THE PARK

If the Peninsula has Skeggs Point and the South Bay has Henry Coe and Demo Forest, then the North Bay has Annadel State Park. In fact, there may be many who claim that Annadel is superior to all of those. Personal preferences aside, at least purely in terms of the technical nature of its trail network, I think I would have to agree. For advanced riders, this must be as close to riding heaven as it gets in the Bay Area.

There are no killer climbs at Annadel. Most of the slopes are of the kind that riders in good shape (who are still sporting triple chainrings) would consider middle-chainring climbs. That doesn't necessarily imply that all of them can be cleared in the middle chainring in practice (at least by me), but that usually has more to do with the technical nature of the climbs than their slope.

Make no mistake: The trails at Annadel are technical. In many places, very technical. The name of the game is "rocky". There are rock gardens galore, boulders to negotiate, and plenty of opportunities to go over the bars or damage your rear derailleur, if you're not careful. What's also true, however, is that, at least on this particular route, the trails are hardly "dangerous". Since there are few if any steep trails and hillsides, what awaits you past each technical obstacle is usually more or less level ground (where you can reasonably get your momentum under control), if not yet another set of rocks jutting out of the ground. For the same reason, none of the narrow stretches of hillside singletrack are particularly treacherous, because there is never a steep drop-off on the downhill side of the trail.

According to what I've read, there was a time when this park was an out-of-control mess of haphazard unsanctioned trails, some of which were good, but many badly built and deteriorating. Friction among advocates of hiking, biking, and equestrian interests was progressing along lines that are so familiar from other locations around the Bay Area today. Then, some sort of a turning point was reached through diplomacy and, rather than fighting trail users, the Park Service decided to accommodate mixed trail use and an effort was started to adapt the better examples of the existing trails to official use, close the ones that are beyond redemption, and start on a path of enlightened trail construction and use that embraced all types of trail users. The result is the current network at Annadel adding up to about 35 miles of trails, most of which is singletrack—gorgeous, technical, juicy singletrack—, and almost all of which is open to biking. As far as I understand, the trail network here is still evolving. In time, you might find that some trails are closed, re-routed, or sanitized. But there should be little to worry about; given the current policy of the Park Service, it's equally expected that new and perhaps even better trails will keep being built in their place.

Trail intersections at Annadel are marked well. There are still some illegitimate trails. A reliable rule of thumb is, "if a trail here is unsigned, it is illegal." And considering the history of trail use in this park and the inclusive, forward-looking trail use policy currently being followed, if you ride any of the illegal trails, you'd be doing a disservice not only to yourself but to all mountain bikers in this area, because you'd be sabotaging such a wonderful and promising experiment in bike-legal trail use.

Parking is subject to a fee at Annadel State Park if you park somewhere past the entrance booth. This ride happens to start at a trailhead that's before that, so you won't have to pay if you find parking available at the suggested parking area right at this trailhead.


THE RIDE

This ride strings together several of the notable trails in the park, like Ridge, Marsh, and South Burma; although, it seems like you can hardly go wrong with any of the singletrack trails in the park. The route is a long one, especially taking into account how much you'll be struggling with technical patches over many trails. However, the ride follows a very "elongated" loop shape, allowing multiple opportunities to shorten it via shortcuts. Feel free to examine the park map to make whatever routing changes may suit you. You'd be hard pressed to pick a route that would result in a bad ride.

For this ride, you start out on Cobblestone Trail near the northern tip of the park. The frequent technical spots along the climb on this trail provide you with an immediate introduction to the nature of riding at this park. I've read that quarries that used to operate within today's park boundaries supplied the cobblestone used during the building boom in San Francisco in the late 19th century and again in the (post-earthquake) early 20th century. Knowing that, it's hard to guess whether Cobblestone Trail gets its name from those old cobblestone quarries, or from the fact that it's a pretty rocky trail.

The climb on Cobblestone Trail is the closest thing to an extended climb that you'll find on this ride. It lasts for just over a mile and gains just over 500 feet. After Cobblestone Trail, a short sampling of Rough Go Trail follows. I haven't yet been on the rest of Rough Go Trail (which is not included on this ride) but, judging by this portion, it certainly deserves its name. It's one of the rockiest trails I've seen near the Bay Area.

After briefly taking in refreshing views of Lake Ilsanjo, a little fire-road riding brings you to the start of Marsh Trail. If there ever was a singletrack trail with a reasonable climbing grade, this must be it. The grade of this trail doesn't seem to exceed 6% by very much until it meets with Ridge Trail, and Ridge Trail doesn't change that trend either. On another ride, these two trails strung together in the opposite direction would make up a nice and long, gently meandering descent. The final stretches of Ridge Trail even in the direction on this ride provide just that kind of a gentle descent, in fact.

The "tip" of the loop in this ride (from the first point where you meet Marsh Trail to where you return to it over Pig Flat Trail) could potentially be left out. That short portion provides not much more than just under half a mile of singletrack riding. You wouldn't miss much by skipping this, other than an up-close look at some residences right at the park's boundary.

Around Ledson Marsh and until the junction with Two Quarry Trail, you continue on fire roads. You promptly return to singletrack at that intersection though, which is initially flat on Marsh Trail and then climbing moderately for a little while once you get on South Burma Trail. If you're fond of technical singletrack, one thing you will have to try and control as you descend the downhill portion of South Burma in this direction will be the smile on your face. This stretch is a continuous easy descent (in terms of slope) sprinkled with plenty of challenging technical spots.

The trend continues mainly downhill or flatly through another brief fire-road segment on Warren Richardson Trail and then on North Burma Trail (another excellent singletrack). You'll be pedaling a little through Live Oak Trail, but it could hardly be called "climbing"; it's mostly to negotiate the technical trail features. You do still have to contend with the brief, flat, but very technical portion on Rough Go Trail again, which you also traversed earlier in the ride. There's little climbing for the remainder of the ride, other than about a quarter mile on Orchard Trail. After that, you have a pleasing, occasionally technical singletrack ride to look forward to until you return to the parking area.



© Ergin Guney


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