Skeggs Point (Suggestion 3)
47% SINGLETRACK47% FIRE ROAD2% PAVED4% ROAD
Skeggs Point (El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve) is one of the top candidates for the "best mountain biking location" award in the Bay Area, and might just be my personal number one. The park covers a decent-sized area and features lots of trails, many of them first-class singletrack. These trails also range over a decent spectrum of skill levels.
The terrain of the entire park is rugged, hilly, and under forest cover (with the exception of a couple of small patches of chaparral). The park used to be utilized as a motocross playground for some time before the 1990s. (This thread on MTBR is possibly the single best resource on the Internet regarding the history of this land.) Even before (and during) that, it was a logging area. You'll notice this in the names of numerous trails here. Many fire roads in the park are old logging roads. For the same reason, all of the redwood trees you see in the park are second-growth trees (with at least one notable old-growth exception, marked on the park map).
One issue with Skeggs Point is that it's accessible to the public only via Skyline Boulevard. The park boundary along Skyline is the highest part of the park and the rest of it extends mostly downhill toward the ocean. For this reason, almost all rides at Skeggs are of the "have your fun first while descending, then pay the price while climbing" kind. Not my favorite... But the quality of the trails in the park more than makes up for it, believe me.
The sheer amount of trails here and the lack of long-distance visibility due to the terrain and tree cover mean that it's easy to get lost in this park. Thankfully, virtually all trail intersections are marked, though I'm sure there may be exceptions, and I know of at least one trail junction sign that seems confusing if not downright incorrect. So, if you have a GPS receiver, you might want to use it, at least in cases when your ride here includes trails on which you'll be riding for the first time. Be warned.
This ride starts out by turning onto Sierra Morena trail shortly after entering the park. This is the only trail in the park where you can ride essentially flatly for any significant distance. The trail is a not-too-technical singletrack that mainly follows Skyline Boulevard closely. While it's more or less flat on average, it doesn't mean that there aren't short climbs you'll have to clear here and there.
After you finish Sierra Morena Trail and find yourself on Skyline Boulevard (after a brief doubletrack-ish segment on Gordon Mill Trail), you'll be riding on the road for a very short distance before getting back in the park. Don't speed up too much here, or you might miss the trailhead for Steam Donkey Trail on your right, which you should take. (As of June 2013, the brief stretch of Gordon Mill Trail traversed on this ride after Sierra Morena Trail—the 0.3-mile fire-road segment between gates CM03 and CM04—is closed due to the construction of a new and long-delayed parking lot and has been that way for several months. You'll, therefore, need to get on Skyline at gate CM03 instead until that situation changes.)
Steam Donkey Trail starts out as a moderately technical (and, in some places, rutty) descent but then surprises you with two short but ridiculously steep climbs that break that flow. This trail gets its name from the steam-powered winches used by loggers, one of which must have been operating here to pull logs up (presumably) along the path of this trail. (My assumption is that this must have been along the stretch of this trail west of its junction with Gordon Mill Trail, because that seems to be the steeper part.) This always makes me think that the trail was, therefore, opened more as a "log slide" over which cut trees were pulled up (not even a "road"), along with the implications of this for the trail's steepness. But, I dont know that for a fact. In any case, the trail is not that "crazy steep", except for a couple of scary sections. (Since I originally wrote this paragraph, this trail underwent some sanitation in 2011 and is now a bit easier. It'll take some time for it to return to its highly technical old self.)
This route then connects to a climb on Timberview Trail (which is a fire road) following a series of turns in quick succession through Spring Board, Gordon Mill, Crossover, and Crosscut trails. This is to be able to start Manzanita Trail from its upper end, in order to traverse it downhill, which, most people would say, is the "correct" way of doing it. This ride is made up of two loops. At the beginning of Manzanita Trail, you can simply bypass the second loop and head straight back to the parking lot instead, if you feel like the second loop might be too much for you. If not, head down Manzanita Trail for the second "sub-loop".
Manzanita Trail is another one of the prime singletrack trails of this park. It will throw at you some switchbacks, some sunshine, deeply rutted trail sections, flowy singletrack, rocky sandstone, nearly impossible rocky trail obstacles that might qualify as double black diamond, and portions of trail that look more like a creek bed; though not necessarily in that order. This trail is one of the reasons I keep returning to this park! (Manzanita was another trail that was somewhat sanitized in 2011. The creek-bed-like sections are still there, as well as some of the exposed sandstone features. But the second most technical spot of this trail has now been reduced to an almost unnoticeable trail feature.)
The ride then continues as a steep fire road descent once Manzanita Trail dumps you back onto the lower reaches of Timberview Trail. Make sure you don't miss the turn onto Giant Salamander Trail. This is another highlight of this ride.
Giant Salamander is one of the crown-jewel singletrack trails of the park. Like, I'm sure, many people, I believe that riding Giant Salamander downhill (as in this case) is the better way of experiencing it. It starts with a playful section of tight twists around the trees in an almost-flat wooded area. Then begins a steep and almost straight descent punctuated with berms. Then the slope eases into a nice hillside meander and you even end up having to pedal for a few seconds before you make it to the junction at the end of Giant Salamander.
You are then on Methuselah Trail and all that's left is to climb this fire road most of the way back out of the park. Methuselah Trail is the gentlest way to climb back out of the lowest reaches of this park. That doesn't mean that it's an easy climb, though. Let's just call it "moderate". It makes itself felt.
Be aware that the lower portion of Methuselah (partially traversed on this ride) and Giant Salamander Trail are subject to seasonal closures. Make sure you check the park's website (whose link is available on your left) for the trail conditions before you plan your ride.
One unfailing tradition I have for rides at Skeggs is a post-ride lunch at Alice's Restaurant. If you're from the nearby area, you're probably already more than familiar with this place. If you're not, you shouldn't miss it. It's at the intersection of Skyline Boulevard and Route 84, about four miles further southeast on Skyline Boulevard from the Skeggs Point parking lot. The food is good, and the setting is even better. The place is almost always overflowing with motorcycle riders who stop here on their pleasure rides along Skyline Boulevard. Some cool and fast cars can also be frequently found there for the same reason.
© Ergin Guney
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