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Length 14.5 miles
Time 3.5 hours
Total Climb 2200 feet
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Moore Creek Park

Moore Creek Park doesn't have a huge trail network, but it earns my respect because none of the trails in the park exclude mountain bikers. For a small trail network like this, the park features a good amount of singletrack mileage. I don't really expect this park to constitute a riding destination for riders from all over the Bay Area, but I do see it as a good local resource for riders in the wine country. The ride actually provides a lot of things, including nice water views as well as some hilly vistas, tight singletrack, and even technical features in some limited sections, all the while not including too many torturous climbs. That's not a bad deal by any standard. The singletrack trails on this route are first class by any definition and are no worse than what you would find at a place like Skeggs or Camp Tamarancho, although maybe a bit less technical on average.

The terrain in this park is on the rocky side, generally speaking, and the trail surfaces have more or less the same character. In most cases, the rocks are well tamped down and they don't jut out too sharply or lay on the surface as a loose layer for the most part. There are maybe one or two steep hairpin turns where the loose trail surface may be cause for concern but, for the most part, during my ride in May, I did not see too much that's of concern about trail looseness. Despite the rocky terrain, most trails on this ride, including much of the singletrack would qualify as non-technical. The only trail that could qualify as having some technical features would be Sam the Eagle. I vacillated a little bit between the rating the technical difficulty of the ride a five and rating it a six. In the end, what pushed me toward a six was the narrowness and exposed segments of some of the singletrack trails on the ride.

The trail network at Moore Creek Park is laid out in a way that doesn't allow one to put together many sensible biking routes. What I would think of as the core, or the "belly", of the park is situated at the tip of a ridge that is partially encircled by the vaguely crescent-shaped Lake Hennessey. Called the "Hennessey Unit" of the park, this part of the trail network is roughly outlined by a fire road loop. There are few stretches of singletrack trail in this portion of the park as well (though the legitimacy of one or two of these may be subject to verification), but what's probably the bigger part of the singletrack riding in the park is confined to a narrow stretch of the parklands extending more or less as a strip that follows Moore Creek north, called "Moore Creek Unit" on the park's map. This latter part of the park's trails may also hold more interest to some riders because it is possible to extend your ride further north on a singletrack connector and even follow that connector all the way to Angwin if you desire. On this ride, I've chosen to stay within the park's boundaries because, even without leaving the park, it's possible to put together ride of satisfactory length as you can see on this page, if you follow a route that includes most of the park's trail mileage.

I've started the ride from the park's only formal parking lot. This free lot is situated right at the thin "waist" point of the park's lands, serving as a convenient starting point regardless of whether you intend to head into the northern stretch of the park or plan to ride around the wide loop in the southern bulk of the park, or both. The parking lot is of a decent size, maybe enough to accommodate something in the ballpark of 25 cars. It was mostly empty at the time of my Saturday morning ride in May, but I don't know if it might get busier at other times.

I began this ride by following Moore Creek Trail heading northwest up the valley of its namesake creek in the form of a fire road. About a half-mile portion of this stretch is a climb. The slope of this climb is not very consistent and while most of the grade is reasonable, there are short stretches where the grade can easily exceed 15%. Moore Creek Trail follows the creek without getting too far up the hillside but, after passing its junction with the upper end of Valentine Vista Trail, it descends to a short and very nice stretch right next to the creek where it quickly reaches a crossing point where Dry Foot Trail branches off on the right. On this ride, I followed Dry Foot Trail both out and back. I don't know what the other option at the fork looks or feels like.

Dry Foot Trail is a narrow hillside singletrack that continues for roughly half a mile, bypassing a corresponding stretch of Moore Creek Trail of about the same length. Dry Foot's slope is not very steady, but the route of the trail is quite playful. It's never wider than two feet or so and the hillside heading down from the trail is usually very steep. It still doesn't feel treacherous except for maybe one or two stretches, but less experienced riders might think differently. Just like Moore Creek Trail, Dry Foot Trail seems to climb without a steady grade, so there will be points where you'll be coasting on your way up, which also means that there's also going to be some pedaling work even on your way down. It appears the trail has been laid out more for the pleasure of bikers than for that of hikers, and even more than that of equestrians possibly. Because it's so narrow, I imagine that it might not be that appealing to horses anyway. And usually people on foot don't range too many miles away from the trailhead unless they're backpacking cross country.

There are two spots on Dry Foot Trail that have signs asking you to walk your bike. One of these is where the trail passes across the path of a nice little waterfall and crosses over its pool, which is no more than 30 or so feet in overall length, and the other is a longer section just before where the trail reaches its creek crossing with the wooden beam. During my ride, there was no sign before that latter section as I was heading northwest, but a sign that was facing the direction when you're approaching in the southeasterly direction asks you to walk your bikes and horses for the next 600 feet. That did look like some of the more narrow and exposed part of the trail traversing a steep hillside, although most mountain bikers with any decent amount of experience wouldn't think of it as truly treacherous.

While Dry Foot Trail avoids the one or two crossings of the creek by the segment of Moore Creek Trail that parallels it, ultimately it too reaches a crossing of the creek that isn't very ridable and where you have to do a little bit of a balancing act across a single wooden beam to cross it. After this point, continuing on Moore Creek Trail means a fairly steady climb while the trail gets noticeably wider, more like a multi-use trail, for almost half a mile. This climb ends quite abruptly and is followed by a surprisingly flat stretch, after which the trail turns into a tight singletrack once again. There are a couple of potentially confusing forks in the trail in this part of the ride. If your intention is to reach the northern tip of the park or a swimming hole that's pointed out on the park's map (and some trail signs), you should stick to the right-hand option in the two main forks you find here. The left-hand option at these connect to each other to form a short side loop called Moore Creek Loop Trail, as far as I can tell.

On this ride, I've turned back from the point where Moore Creek Trail descends back to creek level. This is also where the swimming hole is marked on the park map and mentioned on one or two trail signs. This is a natural turnaround point unless you plan to add many more miles to your ride heading further northwest. The swimming hole itself isn't that easy to get to. I didn't see anything that qualifies for the definition where I had to leave my bike. The one spot in the creek that I did notice was probably no bigger than a decent hot tub, but I suspect if I had clambered over the rocks for a little more distance than I did away from my bike, I would have reached the actual spot that is meant by designation. However, the bottom line is that, unless you simply must add more mileage to your ride or you're dead set on making use of the swimming hole, the best turnaround point from this leg of the ride route would be the spot where Dry Foot Trail reaches that wooden-beam crossing across Moore Creek.

On the way back down Moore Creek Valley, this route uses Valentine Vista Trail to create a little sub-loop. This 3-mile singletrack initially climbs the hillside by 500 or so feet, and then descends with a few more switchbacks to connect back to Moore Creek Trail. The climb is a significant one, but it's not ridiculous. It's not going to be a guaranteed hike-a-bike unless you're terribly out of shape, and, thankfully, it has a few flat stretches that serve as reasonable points of rest. Valentine Vista Trail is narrow from beginning to end. In some places, it has just as steep a drop-off on one side as Dry Foot Trail does, although, in the case of Valentine Vista Trail, at the time of my ride, the grass on both edges of the trail was fairly grown and it gave at least the psychological impression of being a curb that would hold you in, though I'm sureit probably wouldn't in practice. The trail affords some nice views in the northwesterly and southeasterly direction, including sightings of Lake Hennessey itself, but it doesn't go beyond that, although crossing a grassy slope on the side of a canyon like this is a pleasant riding experience no matter what.

I remember reading a reference to Valentine Vista Trail being a one-way trail, but I saw no indication of this during my ride, and I did see people (well, pedestrians) using it in the opposite direction of how I rode it. My expectation is that any one-way trail would probably be intended to be used in the generally downhill direction, the way I did it, forming a clockwise sub-loop. But I could be wrong.

Valentine Vista Trail connects back to Moore Creek Trail right at the entrance of the parking lot. From there, you take a crossing of Moore Creek on lightweight, wooden footbridge, which might appear to be ridable to some riders, but it wasn't for me (although I'm not sure edges would be strong enough to carry your weight if you were to swerve). After that, a short singletrack segment connects you to a fire road that encircles the little peninsula that's traversed in the second part of this ride. This is Chiles Creek Trail, which is a nice little trail in its own right. It gains a little bit of elevation with a couple of switchbacks, and then gives it up again with a couple more, before dropping you off at the fire road that will make up most of the next sub-loop of the ride.

For the loop around the little peninsula that juts into Lake Hennessey, I chose the counter-clockwise direction and that was mainly to enjoy the Sam the Eagle singletrack descent in the more sensible, downhill direction. The climb of this sub-loop take place on Alta Hennessey Trail, which is a fire road and it's a steep one, exceeding 20% grade in at least one place, but it's not very long and, in the worst case, its worst parts can easily be walked. At the top of this climb, a nice flattish area is traversed by that continuing fire road, which was very pleasant looking and peaceful, at least at the time I did the ride when the grass was green. As the fire road continues its descent, the Sam the Eagle Trail starts off at a junction toward the left that is not terribly hidden but you still might not notice it if you're speeding down the fire road without paying any attention at all.

Sam the Eagle Trail is the closest thing to a technical trail on this ride. It's easily the bumpiest one at the very least. It doesn't have too many trail features that I would call technical, but it is the rockiest and it does have a few stretches, mostly near its bottom part, that would qualify as rock gardens for this narrow singletrack. Descending it is a blast. Toward the bottom, it starts doing a series of switchbacks right before connecting to Shoreline Trail, which is the fire road that follows the coastline of the lake.

After this point, all that remains is the return via Shoreline Trail, tracing around the edges of the peninsula, all the way back to the parking lot. You'll have Lake Hennessey constantly on one side as you ride this fire road. This is not as flat a stretch as you might think though. Although you don't experience any net elevation difference, the trail does change attitude multiple times. So there will be some pedaling work even in this seemingly flat-land segment of the ride. On the positive side, the singletrack Chiles Creek Trail is traversed one more time on your way back to the parking lot before you finish your ride.

© Ergin Guney


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