Pleasanton Ridge (Suggestion 2)
5% SINGLETRACK95% FIRE ROAD
Pleasanton Ridge is a popular mountain biking location. I suspect this has more to do with the lack of other ride options in this vicinity than with any superiority of the trails here. In general, what Pleasanton Ridge offers mountain bikers isn't much different from most East Bay parks, in both its negative (almost exclusively fire roads; steep climbs; cowpies; high temperatures in the summer) as well as its positive aspects (beautiful landscapes during the green-grass season; great views from some spots; thrillingly fast fire-road descents).
There are a couple of rewards of this ride that go beyond what you'd get from just any old East Bay ride, though. First of all, there are one or two legal singletrack trails to sample, although their lengths don't add up to a whole lot. Secondly, the portion of Sinbad Creek Trail that follows the bottom of Kilkare Canyon is as idyllic and pretty as any creek-side ride can be. And, finally, the views from numerous spots along Ridgeline Trail are in fact quite expansive, as long as you're okay with having nothing more than some suburban neighborhoods and golf courses in your view (not counting the other ridges and peaks in the distance).
The trail network of Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park is actually a bit awkwardly situated. The entire park stretches along a single ridge, and partially along the bottom of Kilkare Canyon behind this ridge. There are some alternate trails available along most of this elongated park land, but the trail network is not very suitable for loops in general. On top of that, looping back to the beginning of the ride by following the bottom of Kilkare Canyon back out to the I-680 corridor is prevented by some private property that's blocking the way.
There is hope, however. In earlier years, even Sinbad Creek Trail along the bottom of Kilkare Canyon was interrupted in one spot. (This might explain the existence of the Bay Leaf Trail singletrack, which bypasses where Sinbad Creek Trail used to be interrupted.) Also, the northern tip of Sinbad Creek Trail used to dead-end at the park boundary before connecting to the ridgetop trails that are at the northern extremes of the park today, limiting loop possibilities even further back then. Even the connection of Ridgeline Trail to North Ridge Trail via half a mile of singletrack is a recent addition (2013) that materialized after I had posted the first Pleasanton Ridge ride on this website. Seeing these changes, we might hope that even an easement arrangement can be reached with property owners to allow trail users to exit the park by following Kilkare Road out of Kilkare Canyon at some point. (Until then, keep in mind that mountain bikers trespassing through this private property to take that route anyway aren't likely to make these property owners any more willing to agree to such an easement, but could very well have the opposite effect.)
Note that the park opens at 8:00 AM and the gate to the main part of the parking lot will be locked before that. However, at the time of one early-morning ride I've done there, the gate was still not unlocked as we were beginning our ride as late as 8:20 AM. So, if the timing of your ride here is sensitive and will rely on the parking lot being unlocked, you might want to keep that in mind. On the other hand, parking along Foothill Road outside the park entrance is allowed.
It's also worth noting that there are actually more singletrack trails available at Pleasanton Ridge. You'll notice a lot of singletrack acting as brief bypasses to some segments of Ridgeline Trail. However, none of these are shown on the official park map and none are signed. So, you can decide for yourself whether they're legal or not, and whether you'd like to be contributing to the negative image of mountain bikers as unruly trail users by riding these, or helping to eradicate it by avoiding them.
I would say that this particular ride route is aimed mainly at exploring some of the northernmost trails in the park. In addition to that, the ride also traverses the two main southern "arteries" of the park (Ridgeline Trail and Thermalito Trail) in the direction that's the opposite of the way they are followed on the first Pleasanton Ridge ride description on this website for a bit of added variety.
The ride starts out with the tough climb on Oak Tree Trail straight out of the parking lot to the top of the ridge. This is a serious climb, with a grade that frequently ranges between 15% and 18% especially during its steeper lower parts, but thankfully there are a few flattish segments along it that present short reprieves. At a multi-way junction reached when you make it to the spine of the ridge, you start following Ridgeline Trail uphill. This is one of the parts of the ride where the grand views open up. It's easy to be distracted by the views from this trail and kill some time taking them in. Some stretches of this trail reach runway-like widths. While broken up by one or two small downhill dips, the segment on Ridgeline Trail is a climb that is frequently a very steep one, as this trail tends to make it across one or two of the knolls along the spine of the ridge by crossing them on a straight line right across their highest points. Before reconnecting with Thermalito Trail (while at the same time temporarily entering Augustin Bernal Park), Ridgeline Trail also goes through an uncharacteristically shady, flat, and pleasant quarter-mile segment. You'll now you've arrived at this short segment when you find yourself going through a gate followed immediately by a short but very steep descent and a single hairpin turn. At the end of the brief stint in this neighboring park land, which is not much longer than half a mile, you re-enter Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park territory at another gate where Ridgeline Trail splits into two. The two options don't diverge by much before reconnecting in a little under half a mile, but the right-hand option (as you're heading up) is the flatter and nicer choice, and the one I recommend.
You leave the initial bout of climbing on the ride behind you when you take Sinbad Creek Trail to the bottom of Kilkare Canyon. This is a fast and relatively short fire-road descent, which is concluded by a small crossing of its namesake creek. At this point, you'll notice that the route represented on this page includes a spur to the south where the trail dead-ends at the private property marking the park boundary. That spur is not an essential part of the ride, but I usually opt for including it anyway. It's pretty short overall, is quite pretty and nicely wooded, and features another fun creek crossing (at least during the wetter months of the year), but you can save yourself a little time if you skip it.
The ride then takes Sinbad Creek Trail north toward the head of the canyon. This is a very gentle climb and is very picturesque. Initially, the trail features considerable tree cover. As you go further, this thins out and meadows start to appear on the left and right, and eventually Sinbad Creek Trail ends up traversing some bare rolling slopes. These upper stretches of the trail even start to provide some mountain biking fun, with some more ruts here and there, as well as brief portions where the trail is converted into a pseudo-singletrack by encroaching grass.
The ride follows Sinbad Creek Trail all the way to its termination at the head of valley and then takes Cowing Trail to North Ridge Trail. These are two more ridgetop fire roads that are not distinguished in any way, though the open views to both sides of the ridge are a pleasant accompaniment to this part of the ride.
When North Ridge Trail ends at the park's boundary, you'll find your direct way back along the ridgetop blocked by some private property. To make your way around this obstacle, you start heading down Shady Creek Trail and, before long, pick up a singletrack connector on the left that will take you back to the ridgetop by going around that patch of private property. This singletrack connector is a new addition that is not shown on the official trail map at the time I write this, and I learned of its existence only by happening upon it during my ride in April 2013. Ordinarily, bikes are only allowed on fire roads on Pleasanton Ridge. (There's even a board to be found there listing the park's rules that state no bikes are allowed on trails with a width less than eight feet, or some such thing.) However, the singletrack segment of Bay Leaf Trail is already a known exception to this and, as far as I can tell, this new connector is meant as another one, because it's clearly labeled as a continuation of Ridgeline Trail by trail signs that appeared to be brand new both at its beginning and at its end, and neither of them showed any indication of bikes not being allowed (like the sign you find on Woodland Trail).
Once back on Ridgeline Trail, you follow it all the way to the junction where you had originally turned onto Sinbad Creek Trail. Before you get there, however, you'll find yourself stopped by another locked gate if you happen to follow the fire road itself all the way there. What you need to do instead is to take a singletrack bypass that parallels the fire road on the left (east) in order to get around the gate. This part might sound worrisome to riders (like me) who would like to avoid riding illegal trails, because this little patch of land is shown on the current trail map as being outside the park boundaries and as having no park trails going through it. However, I believe there is enough evidence that this little segment is also to be considered a legitimate part of the park, and this consists of (1) an official trail junction sign (that also appeared to be brand new at the time of my ride, with its unmistakably fresh looking welds) that falls smack in the middle of this segment of land that's supposed to be outside the park boundaries, and (2) another trail sign at the end of this singletrack bypass segment saying "please stay on trail" (though it's badly faded) that seems to be placed adjacent to the singletrack itself rather than adjacent to the nearby (blocked) fire road.
After retracing your route back to the junction with Thermalito Trail, the ride takes this trail back down the ridge for most of the way. Thermalito Trail is on the southwestern slopes of the ridge, so it features no scenery other than views of the northeastern slopes of Sunol Ridge across Kilkare Canyon. Though this segment of the ride is a sustained descent, it's not without a few rudely steep (though very short) uphill spots. As you reach the lower elevations of Thermalito Trail, what little oak tree cover the trail had will disappear completely and you'll be coasting down bare, grassy hillsides by the time the trail drops you back at the multi-way junction that had marked the end of the ride's first climb. The only thing that's left in front of you then is the frequently steep descent back down that tough first climb. But, you'll need to be careful with your speed as you make your way down, because this is one of the busiest trail segments in the entire park and hikers are usually present in large numbers.
© Ergin Guney
blog comments powered by Disqus