Mountain Biking Mission
By Will Sigmund
Winter is finally upon us and as the days get shorter, colder, and wetter, bike trails around Marin are transformed into muddy rivers that create a whole new aspect of fun for local trail riders. Sliding and sandbagging down these tracks in the later months of the year provides some of the best riding, but lately it’s been hard for Bay Area mountain bikers to get their fix on nearby trails due to many top destinations being blocked off to riders.
With hurdles like this occurring more often, I will detail a guide to the best trails throughout the Bay Area, as well as which ones are the best for this season.
For those looking to experience the historical aspects of riding in Marin, there are the fire roads of Mount Tam, with trails like Repack and Eldridge Grade offering plenty of nostalgia for enthusiasts. The sport, however, has evolved from its birthplace and riders today are looking for more excitement and technicality in places with singletrack and root gardens. Here are the best of those around the bay.
1. Tamarancho, Fairfax
A well known trail in the North Bay offering technical singletrack and fun flows is Tamarancho in Fairfax. Owned and maintained by the Boy Scouts organization, there is only a $5 preservation fee for an all-day pass to the trail.
Up from the fire road lined with houses, you arrive at a trailhead which is one of the ways you can get to the top. Here, visitors will soon realize it’s rather secluded given that downtown fairfax is just below you. Going up this side of the hill will introduce riders to the more narrow singletrack sections of track before eventually making it to the flow trail at the summit. After you snake your way through the track, you are dropped off at a fire road in which you can ride either back to the beginning of the trail or cross back onto the hill to ride back up. If you would rather experience the singletrack on the way down, you can make your way up the fire road first and then ride down the trails to the entrance.
2. Joaquin Miller, Oakland
A relatively small park in the Oakland Hills, this area is quite possibly some of the best trail-riding in the East Bay. Almost all of the trails in the park are open to bikes and it offers everything from beginner to advanced riding. After reaching the parking lot on Skyline Boulevard, you can start by taking the Bayview Trail or the more central Sequoia Bayview Trail. As you wind through the park on the dirt path, there are a few notable trails to explore. Chaparral and Cinderella trails are technical tracks for experienced riders. Sinawik and Sunset trails are perfect for those starting out in the sport or looking for a scenic route. Big Trees and Sunset Loop Trail have a little bit for everyone.
3. Rockville, Napa
Probably closer to Fairfield than it is to Napa, Rockville is a great example of what happens when you combine the amazing views and scenery of Solano County with world class singletrack. One for the ages, this park gets its name for good reason and has plenty of rock gardens to weave through. You can actually make a whole day of riding out of this park if you manage to traverse the right sections. The Lake Front and Rock Garden trails are not to be missed on this ride, as they offer some of the most technical riding in the area. Make sure to bring your wallet, as there is a $3 per person fee required when entering the park.
4. Skyline Wilderness Park, Napa (EXPERIENCED RIDERS ONLY)
This trail is quite possibly one of the most challenging on this list, and definitely not recommended for the faint-hearted riders. In the heart of wine country, this trail is open to horseback riders and hikers alike, and can even be a stop on your way back from a trip to Rockville. Usually Hosting first-class trails for mountain bikers, this area of the Napa foothills has been ravaged by The Atlas and Patrick Wildfires, leading to a partial closing of the area. There is no guarantee that these trails have will ever be the same again, so riders might have to wait a while to fully experience the park. There is a $6 fee for the parking lot, which is used to help volunteers maintain the trails. When you first enter the loop, immediately take the Buckeye trail up and choose trails from there. You’ll find yourself immersed in loose gravel and steep descents along the way.
5. Skeggs Point, Redwood City
Located on the deep southern outskirts of the Peninsula in El Corte Madera Creek Preserve, Skeggs Point requires quite a drive to reach but surely offers the most bang for your buck. The park offers a full day of riding with plenty to spare for another weekend, as it will only be a matter of time before you’ll want to revisit this place. Upon your first ride through the park, riders will realize the amount of variability in the trails. Fire roads turn to rock and root gardens, then to singletrack and back to more rocks. In general, the park manages to keep you on your toes exceedingly well and the tree coverage throughout the entire preserve makes for a shady environment on the trails. Manzanita and Methuselah Trails are not to be missed on your ride. This is one that every mountain bike enthusiast should have on their bucket list.
Marin might not be the destination for mountain biking that it once was, but with a little searching, you will find that the best places in the area are not far away. Just remember to stay safe and keep riding. See you out on the trails!