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Length 11.5 miles
Time 3.5 hours
Total Climb 2200 feet
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Joaquin Miller

This is a small (for mountain biking) city park, located conveniently in the Oakland hills. It doesn't have a huge trail network but, of the available trails, most are legal for bikes and most are singletrack. A lot of them, very tight and beautiful singletrack, in fact. Even the ones that are not singletrack are closer to qualifying as "wide singletrack" as opposed to typical East Bay fire roads. What's more surprising to me is that a few of the bike-legal trails have very technical (some, extremely so) and steep segments. On the other hand, there are a few family-grade trails as well. By the way, many locals refer to this park simply as "JMP". If you'll look for additional information about this park online, it could help to try it under that name as well.

The parking spot that I point out on this page (on Skyline Boulevard, near the Chabot Space & Science Center) is not necessarily the most typical place people park to ride at Joaquin Miller. I have a habit of parking here because it's also convenient for rides in Redwood Regional Park and for combining rides through both parks. One important note about this lot, though, is regarding safety. This parking lot is pretty notorious for frequent break-ins in broad daylight. I still tend to use it because I've never had any incident there so far, but that may be just my blind luck. There are actually parking lots available within the park itself, the larger ones of which are reachable through the main entrance of the park off Joaquin Miller Road, and a smaller one that can be entered through a driveway near the parking lot I suggest on this page. Two other trailheads also have some roadside parking available; one further down on Skyline Boulevard (with access to Big Trees Trail) and one even further down on Skyline Boulevard, near Sequoia Point, (which might be more suitable for easier rides) with access to Big Trees, Sequoia-Bayview, and Palos Colorados trails. If you take the safety of your car really seriously, it might be worth your while to do a little homework by checking recent threads on MTBR to see what people are saying about recent break-in trends around this park.

Because the park is small, no single loop you can plan through the park will be satisfactory on its own. You'll probably want to retrace some of the trails multiple times, or combine a ride through this park with another section outside the park (such as in Redwood Regional Park, right across Skyline Boulevard). The route represented in the downloadable GPS track linked on the left takes the former approach. Therefore, if you happen to upload it to your GPS receiver that you'll carry with you during the ride, you might want to treat it more like a partial trail map of the park as a whole and just ramble through it freely, instead of trying to retrace it turn by turn.

Since there isn't a single obvious route to be followed through the park and since this particular route is not worth following turn by turn, what I'll do is give brief descriptions of most of the trails here, in no particular order, rather than explaining the progression of this particular ride:

What probably comes closest to being the "main thoroughfare" of the park is Sequoia-Bayview Trail. The majority of this trail is a medium-width dirt path that climbs very evenly and at an imperceptibly gentle slope as you traverse it in the northwesterly direction. Even that very tame portion of the trail features the occasional clump of roots, cluster of rocks, or a rocky stream crossing that will maintain the sense that you're actually doing mountain biking. The upper reaches of the trail, after it curves around the Sequoia Horse Arena area, become an honest-to-goodness singletrack and the slope picks up a little bit. This is a family-grade trail, which is popular among joggers, parents riding with their kids, and people walking their dogs.

Big Trees Trail has multiple personalities. Its western end starts off Sequoia-Bayview Trail as a narrow singletrack with playfully tight twists. Before you can enjoy that fully, it hits you with a very short but extremely rocky and steep "rock scramble." Right after that, it turns first into a freeway-width dirt path lined with large logs on either side and then follows a paved park road for a short distance. After passing by a trailhead on Skyline Boulevard, it dives back into the park, initially in the form of a fairly technical fire road and then, once you pass a small picnic are, taking on the guise of a tasty and fun singletrack.

Castle Park Trail is a bit of an iffy proposition. On one hand, its eastern stretches constitute a comfortable singletrack gently meandering along a hillside. On the other hand, its segment that starts southward from the trailhead near the corner of Holyrood Drive and Castle Drive is such an impossibly steep, log-stepped, and damaged descent that it's hard to even walk down it. I'm actually quite surprised that this segment of this trail is still open and still treated as bike-legal. It probably won't stay that way for very long. It then morphs back into a more reasonable (though, at times, very narrow) hillside singletrack, but right before it connects to Sunset Trail, it transforms into a "slide" with log steps again, though less eroded this time. The route you see on this page does not include this evil portion Castle Rock Trail, and frankly, I wouldn't miss that part of this trail if I never rode there again.

The western reaches of Sunset Trail (west of the site of Sinawik Cabin) is in the form of a smooth and narrow hillside singletrack, with nice views to the southwest opening up from multiple spots. Most of the trail as a whole (the part between its western and eastern extremes) is in the form of an easy dirt path, somewhat like a narrow fire road. At its eastern extreme, the trail narrows down to singletrack size again, and starts climbing at an increasing rate. Eventually, it connects to the Sequoia-Bayview Trail via a sweet and narrow climbing portion that includes a couple of switchbacks.

Cinderella Trail is a treat for experienced riders. While not all of it is terribly technical, its overall attitude is fairly steep and sprinkled with minor "step-downs". Meanwhile, it has one extra-steep and rocky stretch near its midpoint that's pretty sketchy. This is a fun descent (when done in a westward direction) that I would recommend to any advanced rider. The trail stops descending as it nears its end and becomes a narrow (and, for a moment, off-camber) hillside singletrack before connecting to Sunset Trail after three tight switchbacks.

The award for the prettiest singletrack in the park has to go to Sinawik Trail. This is a narrow trail that mainly follows the Palos Colorados Creek bed very closely. It's so lush that you could imagine yourself as being in a Central American jungle as you ride on this trail, at least for a moment. Its western end is more of a hillside trail that follows a path a bit higher than the creek bed. It also takes you to Lookout Point near its western extreme, whose views should not be missed. Sinawik Loop Trail is another singletrack trail and it's a close alternate of Sinawik Trail, following mostly parallel to it along its western half. It follows a bit higher along the hillside and is similar in character to the western reaches of Sinawik Trail.

Sunset Loop Trail is another sweet singletrack and probably one that is easy to overlook. Overlooking this trail would not be wise, however. This is a fun singletrack. It's twisty, narrow, often technical, and it's pretty steep in a few places. It would serve as an excellent alternate, at least in the downhill direction, to the boring stretch of Sunset Trail that it parallels. I would recommend doing it downhill, meaning heading northwest. It's still fun in the opposite direction but involves a bit more work. Note that the ride route shown on this page traverses this trail in the southeasterly direction; i.e., "uphill".

Last but not least, Chaparral Trail easily takes the cup for the most technical trail in the park. This trail is a singletrack that's covered over pretty much its entire span by frequent wooden steps. In its upper (northeastern) stretches, it's also very steep, rocky, and technical in a number of places. There are spots on this trail that might pass for a dry waterfall. If any trail would satisfy hard-core downhill riders, then this trail would. This is another trail whose bike-legal status surprises and, quite frankly, impresses me.

© Ergin Guney


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