Santa Teresa (Suggestion 2)
49% SINGLETRACK50% FIRE ROAD1% PAVED
Santa Teresa County Park is a bit of a rarity: A park that features some seriously fun singletrack trails in the southern part of Santa Clara Valley. The total trail length here doesn't add up to very much (especially if you count just the singletrack), unless you do multiple loops. So, I don't know if everyone would agree with me that it's a worthy riding destination even for those who live in places that are far from this park, though I've never regretted driving down all the way from San Francisco to ride there. Just know that, if you consider yourself a serious mountain biker who likes technical singletrack, you'll be missing something unless you try Stiles Ranch Trail and (especially) Rocky Ridge Trail at Santa Teresa.
Parking at Santa Teresa County Park is subject to a fee. The fee is $6 as of this writing. You'll have to pay at an unattended machine before leaving your car and place the receipt face-up on your dash. The machine does accept credit cards (in addition to cash and debit cards, I believe).
This route is a variation with more singletrack of the first Santa Teresa ride suggestion on this website. It adds Norred Trail and Ohlone Trail to the mix while still keeping the total ride length moderate to short. In fact, you can quite easily turn this into a route that traverses every singletrack trail at Santa Teresa (with the exception of a 0.7-mile segment of Ohlone Trail): Simply follow Hidden Springs Trail and Mine Trail to Bernal Hill Trail at the very beginning of the ride, instead of taking Pueblo Trail from the parking lot as this ride does. Without this modification, the ride on this page still includes all but one of the "singletrack" trails (Hidden Springs Trail) at Santa Teresa.
The ride starts from the suggested parking lot by following Pueblo Trail to where Mine Trail crosses Bernal Road. Pueblo Trail is almost a cross between a fire road and a fire break. It's fairly featureless and not interesting in any way. In getting to Mine Trail, it's merely an alternative to the paved park roads that it closely parallels (which you can opt to use if you prefer for any reason).
After Pueblo Trail, you use Mine Trail as a short connector to (cross Bernal Road and) get to Bernal Hill Trail. This fire road follows mostly flatly along a bare hillside (though there's one section that's a ridiculously steep exception to this), all the while presenting wide open views of South San Jose. Shortly after you take Joice Trail, you swoop down fairly quickly to the elevation of Norred Trail via a fast and slightly rocky fire-road descent.
Norred Trail is one of the trails I'm including in the "singletrack" designation in this ride description, but this is actually a somewhat generous characterization. Norred is one of those standard four-foot-wide (if not five) "multi-use trails" on which park administrations in our area standardize. Since these types of trails usually evolve into a pleasant singletrack once given enough time to age, erode, and partially grow over, I'll keep it in the "singletrack" category; but, as of this writing, Norred Trail is in the form of a fairly fresh and fairly wide trail—not what most mountain bikers in our area think of as "singletrack". This trail continues only for 0.8 miles by following flatly along the foothills near the park's northern boundary before dipping to lower elevations to meet Mine Trail. Views from Norred Trail of the South Bay neighborhoods are a couple of grades inferior to those from Bernal Hill Trail, because of the lower elevation of Norred Trail and because you lose the views as soon as the trail dives down toward Norred Ranch.
You continue onto Mine Trail at the end of Norred Trail on this ride. As soon as you do, you immediately start with a punishingly steep climb. In exactly a quarter mile, you'll be gaining 200 net feet with the grade falling below 20% only toward the later parts of this, while the initial stretches yield plenty of spots above 25%. The trail is paved along the lower stretches of this climb, but it reverts back to a dirt fire road before too long. This climb ends when you (once again) cross Bernal Road.
On the other side of Bernal Road, you pick up Ohlone Trail by taking the left-hand option at the first two forks that you encounter. This trail is an honest-to-goodness singletrack and it's quite fun. Its width is almost never more than three feet, and usually around two. Ohlone Trail, too, follows mainly flatly along hillsides. It does include occasional short spurts that are extra steep, though, which make you ask "why?" (Not sure if it's due to lazy trail design, or because the trail was something else in an earlier life.) Views of the Santa Teresa Golf Course open up from some portions of Ohlone Trail, as well as those of some surrounding neighborhoods, at least until you get under some tree cover as you approach the junction with Coyote Peak Trail.
The singletrack fun is interrupted for a little while when the ride turns onto Coyote Peak Trail and starts a serious climb that continues all the way to the trail's namesake hilltop. You achieve a little over 800 feet of net elevation gain in a little over a mile on this climb. Those numbers already translate to an overall average grade of 14%, which is serious, but I should also add that more than a quarter mile of this climb actually averages a hair under 20% quite consistently. So, it's just a torment you'll have to make it through, in order to make it to the peak and to the rest of the ride. If, like me, you don't ride here very often, it's always worth visiting the vista point atop this peak to take in the views and to take a breather.
A short stretch of gravel road after that (Coyote Peak Trail) brings you to the beginning of Rocky Ridge Trail. You'll be descending this beautiful as well as challenging singletrack trail when the loop is done in this direction. In my opinion, you'd have to be either nuts or masochistic to do it in the opposite direction. Rocky Ridge Trail starts out as a flowy ridgetop singletrack. It slowly gets rockier and rockier. Once you turn around and start the segment of the trail that's heading east, you arrive at the most technical sections. If this trail doesn't qualify for a black diamond rating (if not more), I'm not sure what would. Still, none of the features are of a kind that would really endanger the rider, because the trail's attitude never gets extra steep and you always have the opportunity to stop to walk across any part that you don't think you can stomach. Note that a short portion of this trail where it crosses a stream bed at the end of its descent has been re-routed since the time of my ride and the trail now cross the stream via a bridge at a different spot. This is not a big enough change to alter your experience of the trail or to pose a navigational challenge, but I wanted to point it out anyway in case you follow the ride on the screen of your GPS or compare your track after your ride and notice a discrepancy with what's plotted here.
What follows next is a side loop on the ride that almost looks like an attachment to the ride's main loop. The point of this sub-loop is to ride Stile Ranch Trail. Like any such side loop, you can treat this one as optional. However, Stile Ranch Trail is one of the advanced singletrack trails in this park and my opinion is that any ride at Santa Teresa done by an experienced mountain biker that doesn't include both Stile Ranch and Rocky Ridge trails should be considered "lacking". Stile Ranch Trail crosses two small ridges with nice switchbacks that result in a moderate climbing (and descending) grade that rarely exceeds 10% by very much. This trail is very rocky and quite technical, especially in some sections. While, in earlier years, I used to consider Stile Ranch to be less technical than the rocky stretches of Rocky Ridge Trail, the chunky portions of this trail have weathered into a more advanced state in recent years (perhaps beginning around 2013) and parts of it probably involve a higher pucker factor than the toughest stretches of Rocky Ridge these days. It may have aged into an even tougher trail by the time you read this. Inexperienced riders should consider themselves warned. And in case anyone wonders whether doing this Stile Ranch sub-loop of the ride would be better if done in the clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, I should point out that you do more of the climbing on the smoother stretches of the trail and more of the descending on the rockier stretches if you do it counter-clockwise (as on this ride) in my opinion, which is how I would prefer to do it.
Once you finish Stile Ranch Trail, Fortini Trail is another singletrack that will take you part of the way back to the parking area of the park. It's nothing like Stile Ranch. It's shorter, straighter, and flat on average. But, it's still a cute trail.
Despite having these (at least) two beautiful and well-designed singletrack trails, much of the rest of the trails in Santa Teresa feature frequent steep climbs, though most of these are short. So, if you're not in good shape, it'll make you suffer a little. For that same reason, it might not be the best place to bring a beginner ride partner, unless that person is okay with walking the bike up many climbs.
If you have a car with you, there's no shortage of places to eat or relax a little within a short driving range after a ride at Santa Teresa. However, one of the closest options is an easy recommendation that might be overlooked: There's a Mexican restaurant called "El Amigo" at the intersection of Bernal Road and Santa Teresa Boulevard. Their food is decent, they have a huge outdoor patio that's shaded by a fabric canopy that can accommodate tables for large parties, their free chips and salsa are pretty darn good, and they seem to have a passable beer selection. The combination of these factors brings this place pretty close to being an ideal post-ride meal spot in my book.
© Ergin Guney
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