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Length 16 miles
Time 3 hours
Total Climb 2300 feet
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Harvey Bear Ranch

Harvey Bear Ranch is not exactly one of the typical options that come to mind when thinking of places to go mountain biking. That's a shame. The trails here are good enough for mountain biking to have hosted an XC race in 2010 (though, as of this writing, it doesn't look like it was repeated). Moreover, between my first ride here in 2011 and my second one in 2014, a number of the park's trails have transformed into pretty decent singletrack.

While we're on the topic of Harvey Bear singletrack, I noticed during a repeat of this ride in the fall of 2015 that much of Townsprings Trail and Calaveras Trail was suffering from some serious widening and "multi-path". Part of this appears to be the cows' doing, but it was clearly evident from tire marks that some of the cow paths and shortcuts through curves have been in use by some mountain bikers too. I would hope that the impact of cows will be seasonal and heal itself, but it would be good if we can help keep the narrow singletrack narrow by refraining from blazing our own paths and shortcuts while riding at Harvey Bear or using the ones already started by others.

The official full name of the park is "Coyote Lake - Harvey Bear Ranch County Park". The Harvey Bear Ranch section of the park, which makes up the vast majority of the park's current acreage, is a later addition to what used to be, merely, Coyote Lake County Park. The public availability of this part of the park's lands has started in 2005, if I'm not mistaken. The entire route of this ride takes place in the Harvey Bear Ranch addition of the park lands. After all, the original Coyote Lake County Park used to be little more than a narrow sliver of land along the shores of Coyote Lake.

While Harvey Bear Ranch features terrain similar to most East Bay rides featured on this site, its trails are surprisingly different from most of them (at least along the route represented on this page): there aren't too many steep climbs and much of the trail mileage is bike-legal singletrack, though some of these are in the form of four-foot-wide "multi-use trails" that barely fit in the category of singletrack as most mountain bikers understand the concept. I think the reason for this is that the trails here are not merely repurposed old ranch roads. I get the distinct impression that they were built recently with the aim of being park trails in the first place. At the time of my first ride at Harvey Bear Ranch, the only trail type that I saw other than fire roads were wide multi-use trails that were fairly young. On my latest ride, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a few of these had weathered into honest-to-goodness singletrack, not to mention the addition of at least one new trail (Gaviota Trail) that was either not present or was too new to be represented on the park map back then.

This particular ride route consists of what I believe to be the route of that 2010 XC race that I mentioned above, with some more mileage added along some trails further south in the park's trail network. Given the decent mileage of the route, there is a relatively modest amount of climbing involved in this ride. This is owing to the fact that the route is essentially an elongated loop straddling the two sides of a single line of hills.

The ride can be easily shortened in two convenient ways. The first of these would be to continue from Valley Oak Trail directly only Gaviota Trail, leaving out the southernmost sub-loop of the route along Coyote Ridge Trail and Mendoza Trail. This shortcut is easy to recommend because that portion of the ride is a fire-road-only loop and it also happens to contain the ride's steepest climb. The worst stretch of this climb is a bit less than a quarter mile in length and its grade stays consistently above 15% and reaches 20% or gets very close to it in one spot. On the other hand, the spot on Mendoza Trail at the top of that climb presents the ride's nicest views. While the views from the beginning (upper part) of Gaviota Trail are a close approximation of that view, they're not identical and they don't last as long. The second way of shortening the ride would be to cut to the other side of the ridge when you reach Campground Trail by following it uphill to Coyote Ridge Trail and then to Rancho San Ysidro Trail to continue on from there, leaving out the part of the route that begins with Valley Oak Trail and ends with Gaviota Trail. This would leave you with the original incarnation of this ride posted on this website, but I wouldn't recommend it. Valley Oak Trail is a very pleasant singletrack and Gaviota Trail, while wider, is supremely scenic.

Generally speaking, the slopes of the ridge that face the Highway 101 side are bare and scenic, while the Coyote Lake side is sprinkled with more oak trees and contains more mileage of true narrow singletrack. Of course, the lake side also presents some nice views of this pretty lake from some spots. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that any part of the park's trail network has enough shade to provide serious relief from the sun for those who might do this ride in the summer. The trees on the lake-facing slopes of the park provide barely enough shade for rest stops; they probably won't do much for you while you're in motion. So those who are contemplating a ride here in serious heat should beware, considering how hot these parts can get.

The trails traversed on this route are almost never technical. That includes the singletrack as well as the fire roads. The closest thing to a technical trail I remember noticing on this ride was some deep rutting caused by water on some stretches of Townsprings Trail. That's it. That would make this ride a good option for inexperienced riders who are strong enough to handle some climbs (including steep ones) but who are not yet comfortable with technical trails.

© Ergin Guney


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