60% FIRE ROAD21% PAVED19% ROAD
Las Trampas Regional Wilderness is not a park that's very favorable to mountain bikers at all. The bike-legal trails within the park afford virtually no possibility of a meaningful loop or even a satisfactory out-and-back ride. The route shown on this page is the longest reasonable bike-legal ride option that I could find using Las Trampas trails, and this ride still uses suburban streets and the paved Iron Horse Regional Trail in order to complete a loop. In addition, the trail portion of the ride is little more than a succession of a few very steep climbs and descents on fire roads. And when I say "very steep", I do mean very steep.
That's the bad news. There is also a modest amount of good news. The landscape in the park is beautiful. It is spread over a very varied hilly terrain, partially covered in oak woodlands and partially consisting of open slopes and meadows that afford wide views of the surrounding valleys and ridges, of San Ramon Valley, and even all the way to Martinez and to Suisun Bay from at least one spot. You also pass through fairly posh neighborhoods on your way into and out of the park. Especially when done on a day when the grass is still green, as I was lucky enough to do on this particular ride, all of these add up to a very nice nature outing. However, whether that's enough to also qualify this as a good mountain bike ride is for you to decide on your own.
Notice that the suggested parking spot linked on this page points to a tiny parking lot of the Iron Horse Regional Trail. There is space for only four cars there, including one disabled parking spot. You might be lucky enough to grab a spot there if, say, you show up very early in the morning. However, it might not be wise to count on it. There is also plentiful roadside parking available only about a block away, on Danville Boulevard, not to mention on some nearby side streets. In addition, immediately opposite that tiny parking lot is an office building, and its parking lot would be a legitimate place to park if you do your ride on a day that's not a work day for these offices. If you look at the GPS track closely, you may notice that this is what I did when I did this ride on a Sunday.
The best direction in which to ride this loop is not very obvious, in my opinion. Doing the loop in the counter-clockwise direction, as reflected here, you'd be climbing the steepest trail segments along the route and you'd be descending the more moderate slopes of the southeastern reaches of Las Trampas Ridge Trail and of Remington Loop Trail with views of the surrounding areas wide open in front of you. If you do the loop clockwise, you'd be replacing the ridiculously steep climb up Del Amigo Trail with a longer but less steep climb up Remington Loop Trail. Doing this, you'll also have some of the best views of the ride behind you as you struggle uphill, though, and you may miss out on most of it unless you remember to stop frequently and look behind you. Also keep in mind that I'm comparing "very steep" with "extremely steep" here. Even when done clockwise, you'll still be climbing grades in the range of 12 to 14 percent, with one stretch of roughly half a mile averaging almost 16% overall. I can't say I've regretted doing the ride counter-clockwise, but if you prefer the thrill of an extra steep (though short) descent to nice and expansive views, you should do it clockwise.
One important note is about a potential point of confusion as you bike your way up the streets of Alamo toward Las Trampas. As you pedal up Las Trampas Road, you'll come upon the closed gate of a residential community around the 1.3-mile mark of this particular ride route. You'll have to remember that bikers (and hikers) are actually permitted through this gate and there's an opening on the right-hand side of the gate that allows access for this purpose.
Rudely steep climbs start on this ride as soon as you leave pavement behind. There are plenty of such short stretches where the grade exceeds 20%. The first instances of really memorable climbs come when two (roughly) quarter-mile segments of the climb up Las Trampas Ridge Trail follow each other in quick succession. The first of these includes a 100-yard stretch where the average grade is nearly 28%. The second one is no slouch either, at an end-to-end average grade of just over 17%. During that steeper first stretch, my bike computer displayed momentary grade measurements ranging between 33 and 35% for a brief period, while that of an accompanying rider peaked at 37%!
You reach a potential bail-out point on this ride when your descent down Madrone Trail ends at the junction with the "Las Trampas to Mount Diablo Regional Trail". If any riders in your party feel that they've had enough after that torment on the way up Las Trampas Ridge Trail, they may want to consider cutting the ride short at this point, because what's to come will be even worse than those initial steep climbs. Following "Las Trampas to Mount Diablo Regional Trail" from this junction to Camille Avenue will allow them to descend back to Iron Horse Regional Trail, over which they can return to the beginning of the ride.
The grand daddy of the steep climbs on this ride arrives as soon as you turn onto Del Amigo Trail. The average grade of the first half mile of the climb up this trail is a disbelief-inducing 24%. Naturally, this also means that there are a number of spots along this stretch where the grade momentarily hovers in the mid-30s range. Quite simply, this is the steepest climb of this length that I know of on any trail in the Bay Area! One rider who accompanied me up this trail was wearing some fairly smooth-bottomed sneakers, and he had difficulty finding traction on his way up this climb as a result of that even while walking his bike. That should tell you something. This also means that those riders who will be doing this segment of the ride in the descending direction will have to pay some close attention to their speed, braking, and line choice. This fire road is not exactly runway-smooth and there are gravelly patches here and there. Those who would be looking for some adrenaline on this ride can find it on this trail segment if they do the ride clockwise, so as to be descending this portion.
When you complete the ordeal in the first half mile of Del Amigo Trail, the most pleasant and scenic portion of the ride arrives as you start a gently descending trend (though with frequent short ups and downs) along a mostly exposed section of Las Trampas Ridge from which the views to both sides as well as ahead of you will be really nice. After you turn onto Remington Loop Trail, this fire road starts descending at a fairly steady rate through pretty meadows that are open to views of the Danville area until you make it back to suburban streets. From that point on, the series of turns to take before returning to Iron Horse Regional Trail may seem tricky, but you don't have to follow them precisely as shown on this route. Essentially, any route you take in a generally northerly direction once you're back on paved streets should have you intersecting Iron Horse Regional Trail at some point, no matter what. And, once you're on it, your return is a pancake-flat straight shot right back to your starting point.
© Ergin Guney
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