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Length 11 miles
Time 4 hours
Total Climb 2200 feet
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Aerobic Difficulty
Technical Difficulty 

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Joaquin Miller

This is a small (for mountain biking) city park, located conveniently in the Oakland hills. It doesn't have a huge trail network but, of the available trails, most are legal for bikes and most are singletrack. A lot of them, very tight and beautiful singletrack, in fact. Even the ones that are not singletrack are closer to qualifying as "wide singletrack" as opposed to typical East Bay fire roads. What's more surprising to me is that a few of the bike-legal trails have very technical (some, extremely so) and steep segments. On the other hand, there are a few family-grade trails as well.

The parking spot that I point out on this page (on Skyline Boulevard, near the Chabot Space & Science Center) is not necessarily the most typical place people park to ride at Joaquin Miller. I have a habit of parking here because it's also convenient for rides in Redwood Regional Park and for combining rides through both parks. There are actually parking lots available within the park itself, the larger ones of which are reachable through the main entrance of the park off Joaquin Miller Road, and a smaller one that can be entered through a driveway near the parking lot I suggest on this page. Two other trailheads also have some roadside parking available; one further down on Skyline Boulevard (with access to Big Trees Trail) and one even further down on Skyline Boulevard, near Sequoia Point, (which might be more suitable for easier rides) with access to Big Trees, Sequoia-Bayview, and Palos Colorados trails.

Because the park is small, no single loop you can plan through the park will be satisfactory on its own. You'll probably want to retrace some of the trails multiple times, or combine a ride through this park with another section outside the park (such as in Redwood Regional Park, right across Skyline Boulevard). The route represented in the downloadable GPS track linked on the left takes the former approach. Therefore, if you happen to upload it to your GPS receiver that you'll carry with you during the ride, you might want to treat it more like a partial trail map of the park as a whole and just ramble through it freely, instead of trying to retrace it turn by turn.

Since there isn't a single obvious route to be followed through the park and since this particular route is not worth following turn by turn, what I'll do is give brief descriptions of most of the trails here, in no particular order, rather than explaining the progression of this particular ride:

What probably comes closest to being the "main thoroughfare" of the park is Sequoia-Bayview Trail. The majority of this trail is a medium-width dirt path that climbs very evenly and at an imperceptibly gentle slope as you traverse it in the northwesterly direction. The upper reaches of the trail, after it curves around the Sequoia Horse Arena area, become an honest-to-goodness singletrack and the slope picks up a little bit. This is a family-grade trail, which is popular among joggers, parents riding with their kids, and people walking their dogs.

Big Trees Trail has multiple personalities. Its western end starts off Sequoia-Bayview Trail as a narrow singletrack with playfully tight twists. Before you can enjoy that fully, it hits you with a very short but extremely rocky and steep "rock scramble." Right after that, it turns first into a freeway-width dirt path lined with large logs on either side and then follows paved park roads for a short distance. After passing by a trailhead on Skyline Boulevard, it dives back into the park, this time in the guise of a tasty and fun singletrack. Part of this segment of the trail has recently (September-October 2010) been rerouted to take a more twisty course around an older, straighter, and steeper stretch. You may recognize this portion by the highly curvy narrow singletrack that threads through tree trunks and along the hillside.

Castle Park Trail is a bit of an iffy proposition. On one hand, its eastern stretches constitute a comfortable singletrack gently meandering along a hillside. On the other hand, its segment that starts southward from the trailhead near the corner of Holyrood Drive and Castle Drive is such an impossibly steep, log-stepped, and damaged descent that it's hard to even walk down it. I'm actually quite surprised that this segment of this trail is still open and still treated as bike-legal. It probably won't stay that way for very long. It then morphs back into a more reasonable (though, at times, very narrow) hillside singletrack, but right before it connects to Sunset Trail, it gives you two alternative short options to get down there. It's difficult to pick the lesser of these two evils; one is extremely steep and slippery (when dry) with loose pebbles and leaves, and the other very rocky and very steep. Frankly, I wouldn't miss this trail if I never rode there again.

The western reaches of Sunset Trail (west of the site of Sinawik Cabin) is in the form of a smooth and narrow hillside singletrack, with nice views to the southwest opening up from multiple spots. Most of the trail as a whole (the part between its western and eastern extremes) is in the form of an easy dirt path, somewhat like a narrow fire road. At its eastern extreme, the trail narrows down to singletrack size again, and starts climbing at an increasing rate. At the time the GPS track shown on this page was recorded, the final few hundred feet of the trail before it ended at Sequoia-Bayview Trail used to be a steep, wide, extremely rocky, and very difficult climb that had a nickname: "two-dollar hill". This connection has since been re-routed and made easier. It now does a more reasonable climb to get to the Sequoia-Bayview Trail via a sweet and narrow singletrack that follows a couple of switchbacks.

Cinderella Trail is a treat for experienced riders. While not all of it is terribly technical, its overall attitude is fairly steep and sprinkled with minor "step-downs". Meanwhile, it has one steep and rocky stretch in its lower half that's pretty sketchy. This is a fun descent (when done in a westward direction) that I would recommend to any advanced rider. (Note that the last few hundred feet of this trail at the bottom of the descent has also been re-routed since the GPS track and photos available on this page were recorded. The lowest portion of this trail is now replaced with a longer and more twisty bypass of what used to be a head-first dive onto its old junction with Sunset Trail.)

The award for the prettiest singletrack in the park has to go to Sinawik Trail. This is a narrow trail that mainly follows the Palos Colorados Creek bed very closely. It's so lush that you could imagine yourself as being in a Central American jungle as you ride on this trail. Its western end is more of a hillside trail that follows a path a bit higher than the creek bed. It also takes you to Lookout Point near its western extreme, whose views should not be missed. You can see Sinawik Loop Trail is another singletrack trail and it's a close alternate of Sinawik Trail, following mostly parallel to it along its western half. It follows a bit higher along the hillside and is similar in character to the western reaches of Sinawik Trail.

Last but not least, Chaparral Trail easily takes the cup for the most technical trail in the park. This trail is a singletrack that's covered over pretty much its entire span by frequent wooden steps. In its upper (northeastern) stretches, it also gets very steep, rocky, and technical in a number of places. If any trail would satisfy hard-core downhill riders, then this trail would. This is another trail whose bike-legal status surprises and, quite frankly, impresses me. One important word of warning about Chaparral Trail is something that more than one viewer has pointed out in the comments below: You will notice that the directional arrow for this trail segment shown on the highlighted park map linked from this page indicates and uphill traversal of this trail. That does not imply the "recommended" direction for Chaparral; it only shows how I did traverse it during the ride whose GPS track is shown on this page. As with any steep and technical trail, the recommended direction for riding this trail is downhill, which is in the opposite direction of that arrow.

© Ergin Guney


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