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Length 7 miles
Time 2.5 hours
Total Climb 1350 feet
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Rockville (Suggestion 1)


Rockville Hills Regional Park might qualify as one of the well-kept secrets of mountain biking around the Bay Area. It's not a large park, but it features more singletrack trails than it does fire roads, and enough of them to give you a full day's worth of riding as long as you're willing to keep weaving back and forth in the park. Moreover, many of these are technical enough to satisfy even the most advanced riders. It's not for nothing that the place is named "Rockville". There aren't any extended climbs, but there are plenty of short ones, so you can still feel spent at the end of your ride.

There is a fee to be paid in order to ride at Rockville. The unusual part of this is that it is not a parking fee like the fees at many other parks. It's actually a per-person use fee. You're supposed to pay this even if you have biked into the park without a car. There is a machine where you can pay this fee at the parking lot shown at the Suggested Parking link on the left, after which you're expected to have the receipt with you as you ride in the park. The fee is only three dollars at the time I'm writing this. However, the machine that accepts the payment could not accept cash or coins the last time I was there (though it normally should), so you can only pay by using a credit (or debit?) card at the moment.

One detail that might be particularly worth paying attention to at Rockville is low branches. I can't remember a place where I had to contend with this many low branches hanging over the trail (though Oat Hill Mine Road comes close). I constantly had to worry about ducking and sometimes about having my backpack getting stuck even when I do duck. This is doubly applicable in the case of Unknown Trail, which is part of this particular ride. I still received two surprise blows to my helmet, though I was thankfully not traveling at any serious speed in either of those cases. You've been warned.


Due to its compact network of an almost bewildering number of (usually) short trails, Rockville lends itself well to improvizing your route as you go along and to mindless meandering. Since there's a reasonably short path from virtually any point in the park to a paved road outside the park boundary that you can use as a bailout option, you can simply weave your way through the park's trails in any fashion that fits your whim and simply call it quits as soon as you feel like you've had enough, wherever that may happen to be. Still, this particular route is at least somewhat consciously planned to hit some of the nicer singletrack trails, and traverse them mostly in the sweeter downhill direction, as well as avoiding as many of the steeper climbs as possible.

The ride starts out by climbing up Rockville Trail from the parking lot. (Interestingly, this trail seems to be labeled as "Main Trail" on at least one trail sign in the park.) This trail has seen a re-routing within the last few years that preceded the date of the ride on this page (2012). In fact, all the online trail maps of Rockville still show the old configuration of this trail as I write this. The newer routing of the trail climbs more gently over its first half and takes a couple of extra sweeping turns in the form of a wide singletrack.

You quickly arrive at a bewildering intersection of trails near the Lower Lake. Rockville has no shortage of such bewildering intersections where five or more trails meet, and a web of shortcuts near the intersection make things even worse. Thankfully, the park seems to have acquired a brand new set of trail signs since my last ride here in 2008, though there still are plenty of unsigned trail junctions (possibly due to the sheer number of trails and junctions in the park). The labeling of the trails on these trail signs sometimes raises as many questions as it answers but, overall, the trail signs are usually enough to get by. At this intersection by Lower Lake, if you take a sharp right turn and follow the dirt trail (rather than pavement) in the uphill direction, you'll have no difficulty following Old Ranch Road, on which the ride continues. With the exception of one short stretch that is very steep and loose, Old Ranch Road climbs along the spine of this little ridge at a very moderate rate.

Another potentially confusing composite intersection is reached fairly quickly (if that's what I can call two multi-way junctions that are very close to each other). At this junction at the head of the valley that leads down to Upper Lake, you can turn in the downhill direction followed by immediately taking the singletrack trails that start on the right-hand side before you cover any distance at all and sticking to the lower one. (Consult the photos linked on your left.) This is Lake Front Trail. Despite its name, it's exposed to the views of the lake only in its final stretches. Before that, it follows the rocky lower slopes of a hillside in the form of a playful narrow singletrack. Some trail features along this trail are, surprisingly, at a double-black-diamond difficulty level.

Taking in the views of Upper Lake near the end of Lake Front Trail would make for a good rest stop (there's a wooden walkway), though you would hardly need it by this point. Right after that, you'll come to yet another confusing multi-way junction. To follow the ride route, try to stick as close to the hill on your right at this point without actually taking May-December Trail. This should take you down an unnamed fire road that gently descends along a wide valley (stay to the right, to follow a slightly narrower alternate trail), which will quickly lead you down to a signed junction where you can take a sharp right turn onto the Outside Loop Trail. This nice singletrack will take you all the way up to the beginning of Rock Garden Trail by the gentlest of climbs, although there will still be opportunities for struggle along the way at the numerous rock gardens you'll be passing through, which is par for the course for pretty much any trail at Rockville.

The name of Rock Garden Trail leaves little to the imagination and it is completely justified. Making it all the way down this trail without dabbing your foot might be achievable for advanced riders but will be a serious challenge for riders of intermediate skill level. Since the trail occasionally devolves into a wide "boulder field", the sheer number of available line choices sometimes becomes an additional fun challenge. Meanwhile, beginners should either stay away or be very careful as they make their way down this trail.

Once Rock Garden Trail returns you to that same scatterbrain junction near Upper Lake, this time you take the fire-road climb that's essentially a straight shot across the intersection, which Google Maps labels as "Bay Area Ridge Trail" although it's unlabeled on the park map, and which happens to be one of the few real climbs of the ride. At the end of this climb, you start on the cute Middle Mystic Trail and follow that with Arch Trail to do a pleasant little sub-loop that's not very technical. (On the way there, you'll pass through another confusing junction, and you may notice from the GPS track that I found the correct fork of the trail there only on my third try. Quick tip: stay to the right and look for the sign for Arch Trail.)

On your third and last time at the multi-way junction near Upper Lake, you proceed the way you did toward Outside Loop Trail but go further without turning and reach Unknown Trail. That is the formal name for this trail on the map and trail signs, though some signs also mention "Unknown Meadow". I'm not sure if it's meant as a name for the same trail, just a portion of that trail, or as the name of a meadow that the trail passes through. This technical trail starts by taking a set of very narrow, very steep, and frequently very technical switchbacks to descend a steep hillside, followed by tracing a wide arc right along the edge of the park to take you to Lower Quarry Trail (on this ride), which leads you back to the parking lot. Unknown Trail was partially overgrown in some sections when I did this ride and appears like it might be a lesser used trail of the park. Some of the bushes along the trail that I would brush past were poison oak, so be careful. Unknown Trail also splits into two in a number of spots where both options still meet again after a short distance. In some cases, you can tell what to expect when one fork is labeled "Unknown" and the other as "Advanced Unknown". In any case, you can't get into any real trouble whichever option you pick in any of these, but I would recommend sticking to the uphill options in most cases as long as they are still labeled as Unknown something or other.

Unknown Trail drops you onto a paved driveway entering the park near its northernmost tip, right after taking you through "The Vortex", which is a small area of uneven exposed slickrock surfaces that open up alongside the trail. On this ride, you take Lower Quarry Trail just a few yards up from the start of that paved road and follow this relatively tame trail all the way back to the beginning.

© Ergin Guney


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