Mountain Bike Rides in the San Francisco Bay Area
These rides are located in and around the greater San Francisco Bay Area. They are appropriate for mountain bike rides of varying degrees of difficulty. Happy riding!
Joaquin Miller is a super fun park just 15 minutes drive from Alameda. A network of trails with varying levels of difficulty intersect and loop around the spine of Sequoia Bayview Trail, giving you the option of riding for just half an hour or all day long. Mild fireroads with moderate grades rule this park, and there’s a spectacular view of the Bay Area from Sunset Loop & Sequoia Bayview – perfect for getting novice riders hooked on mountain biking.
Getting there: Fifteen minutes. Cross the Fruitvale Bridge, R on International, L on 35th – 35th turns into Redwood, L on Skyline (top of hill), R on Skyline – trailhead is on left side, park on right shoulder
Pros: Super close and lots of fun, not too many steep climbs, many trails to choose from.
Cons: Pretty small park, trails are short, can get crowded on weekends.
Trail secrets: The main entrance is off Joaquin Miller Road, but all the fun trails are up top – so enter through the Skyline entrance. From there, take Sequoia Bayview and either stay on the trail or take any of the trails on either side. For advanced riders, continue on Sequoia Bayview all the way to the end – take a left for Chaparral (a steep downhill with railroad ties) or right then a hidden left for Cinderella (real narrow technical singletrack). Both will wind up down on Sunset Trail – take a left and climb back up to Sequoia Bayview. Big Trees is also great, and more friendly for beginner and intermediate riders . To get there, keep going right as if you’re going to Cinderella. You will hit Skyline Blvd. – take the street and go right about 1/4 mile, you’ll barely see Big Trees to your right. It’ll drop you off the Skyline entrance to Sequoia Bayview. Go straight into Palos Colorados (a short, rooty descent) to make the ride longer (and more fun!)
Redwood Park, situated right next to Joaquin Miller, features a challenging fire road loop of about 12 miles called the Ridge Trail. Split into East Ridge and West Ridge, half of the ride will begin uphill or downhill, depending upon where you start. This trail will definitely challenge your lungs and some downhill sections are pretty hairy, but if you’re looking for a great training ride, look no further than this local favorite. You can easily connect Joaquin Miller and Redwood to extend your ride. Dunn trail and Graham trail are handy to connect the two together.
Getting there (Redwood Gate): Twenty minutes. Cross the Fruitvale Bridge, R on International, L on 35th – 35th turns into Redwood, pass Skyline and continue on Redwood – park gate will be on the left side about a mile past Skyline Blvd.
Pros: Super close, challenging climb and fast rolling downhill
Cons: Continuous five mile climb is tough for beginners, little singletrack
Trail secrets: Take the Redwood Gate – that way you’ll start uphill and be rewarded with the downhill. Also, take the East Ridge uphill (counter-clockwise) – it’s a much easier climb. You can also shuttle this trail – park a car at Redwood Gate and start the ride at Skyline Gate. Canyon trail connects East Ridge and West Ridge. It’s a pretty steep uphill, but it gets you there.
China Camp is one of those trails that’s great for beginners and experts alike. Consisting of wide doubletrack trails, the 12 mile loop will challenge your lungs but is relatively easy skill-wise. The loop begins with rolling terrain, manageable for even novice riders (but still loads of fun). You’ll then hit a moderately difficult hill, followed up with a steep gravel climb that takes you up the Nike Missile Site. From there, the trail loops back down to a long windy downhill of fun and yahoos.
Getting there: Forty minutes. Take 880N to 80E to 580W towards San Rafael – take the San Rafael / Richmond Bridge, exit Central San Rafael – take a right onto San Pedro road about 4 miles. Take a right into main campsite for bbq’s and picnic tables (HINT: park to the left of parking entrance for free parking). Trailhead will be about 500 feet to the right of parking lot on left side.
Pros: It’s a trail everyone will enjoy, so no one gets left behind. The grade is gradual both uphill and down, so it’s a safe fun ride that will have experts giggling and beginners falling in love with the sport.
Cons: It has a hiker’s-only backside, so big-hit fans will want for more.
Trail Secrets: Take the Shoreline to Bay View trail for a nice loop. Click here for a map on page 5 of this link.
Camp Tamarancho (Boy Scout Camp
Camp Tamarancho (Boy Scout Camp) is the ultimate cross-country loop, and home to the best legal singletrack network in the bay area. We have the friendly Boy Scouts to thank for that, who own and maintain the park for our enjoyment (a small fee is required for a daily or annual pass). It’s filled with a wide variety of terrain, from rolling singletrack through a forest canopy to a shaded rock garden with spectacular views. There’s even a teeter-totter for you trials freaks out there. Be sure to check out the brand new flow trail as well – it’s a blast for riders of all levels. The ride starts with a long paved climb to get to the trailhead, followed with a switchback climb up to the base of the park. You’ll be greeted with a sign that reads, “Bicyclists MUST stay on singletrack” – welcome to mountain bike heaven. You’ll travel down a short but sweet descent to another climb up. At the top you’ll hit a wicked rock garden to yet another uphill to the summit. Take a rest and then enjoy a great roller coaster-like ride into the wooded singletrack. A last climb out, and a fun downhill back through the switchbacks and paved road. This trail is technical, so beginners may want to stay away until they’re a bit better off-road.
Getting there: Forty minutes. Take 880N to 80E to 580 E towards San Rafael – take the San Rafael / Richmond Bridge, exit Central San Rafael – take a left into and past downtown. The road will change from 3rd street to 4th street to Red Hill and eventually become Center Ave. From there, you’ll drive about 2 miles and park at the Java Hut to your right. (From here, link onto Camp Tamarancho’s website to get directions into the park from the parking lot).
Pros: Nothing but singletrack, baby! Most of the ride is covered in a forest canopy, so even hot days are rideable. It will test your skills and give you thrills every time. Switchbacks mean climbs are all manageable and not steep like east bay hills. It also means downhills are long and under control.
Cons: No alternative routes for beginners, you’ll have to pay for a “Friends of Tamarancho” day or annual pass to ride this park ($5 for day pass) – but it’s a small price to pay to keep great singletrack legal.
Trail secrets: Download the trail map from Camp Tamarancho’s website to not get lost.
Annadel is a mountain biker’s paradise with plenty of challenging fireroads, singletrack, and rocky terrain. Intersecting loops varying from half a mile to 18 miles create a great network of trails. The trails are extremely challenging and it does get hot in the summertime, so bring some bars along and fill your Camelbak to the max.
Getting there: Ninety minutes. Take 880N to 580 W – cross the Bay Bridge, take 101N for 37 miles – merge onto Hwy 12E toward Sonoma, L onto Farmers Ln/CA-12, R on Sonoma Hwy/CA-12W/4th St, R on Mission, L on Montgomery, R on Channel Dr for a mile – you’re there!
Pros: Everything you want!
Cons: It’s a bit of a road trip, hot during the summer, some rocky terrain
Lake Chabot is the most well-known trail system in the East Bay, offering great views of the Bay Area and scenic rides adjacent to the Lake. The trail network consists entirely of fireroads and it does get crowded on weekends, so we’d only recommend Lake Chabot to beginners looking to earn their stripes or a group of riders looking to make a day’s picnic out of it.
Getting there: Twenty minutes. Take 880N to 24E to 580E – exit either Keller Avenue, Estudillo, or 150th/Fairmont (recommended), and follow the signs.
Pros: It’s a pretty flat and easy trail system for beginners and kids, plenty of park area for barbeques
Cons: Fireroad climbs get pretty boring quick, crowded during weekends
Trail secrets: Take either the Estudillo or 150th/Fairmont exit. Take the trail counter-clockwise. If you’re gonna ride on a weekend, try to ride before it gets crowded – starting at 8am – 10am would be safe.
Rockville Hills is a fun terrain park that every huckster should try at least once. While only 900 acres, Rockville can be ridden for hours because of its vein-like trail network. Just take any of its trails – they all lead back together eventually. The terrain is just what the name implies, rocky and full of little drops to launch off of. The lagoons and cattle provide the only scenery in this otherwise open park, so bring your sunscreen and plenty of water. Beginners will find plenty of fun trails, and since all of them come together eventually, you can split up or ride together whenever you like.
Getting there: Forty five minutes. Take 880N to 80E and exit Green Valley (first exit past 680 – if you take 24E to 680N, merge onto 80E and take the exit) – take a left over the freeway. Left on Rockville Road – trailhead will be to your left a mile down.
Pros: Super fun trail network, great for beginners and experts, short loops mean you can ride a favorite over and over again, decent drops and some wicked rock trails
Cons: It’s a long ride for such a small park, no real climbs to test your lungs, gets hot with no relief of shade, cross-country gurus won’t find anything to challenge themselves
Trail secrets: Just have fun and fill your Camelbak. At the base of the park, take a left for some nice, rocky singletrack runs. Take a right for longer runs with some hairy downhills. Go deeper into the park for some nice drops.
Briones is one of the biggest regional parks in the Bay Area, and provides a large network of trails for mountain bikers. The trails are exclusively fireroads though, and the hills are treacherous. Most are akin to the Blue Oak Trail – long, exposed to the sun, wide fireroads, and hills that seem like mountains. If you’re a cross-country buff and want to test your climbing and descending skills, this park is for you. The climbs will definitely challenge your lungs and overall willpower. And you’ll be rewarded with some super fast descents that you can bomb all out due to its wide and mostly empty trails. For everyone else, especially beginners, you might want to stay away.
Getting there: Twenty five minutes. Take 880N to 24E – exit Pleasant Hill Road North, trailhead will be to your left after 1st stoplight. For better entrance, continue on Pleasant Hill Road and take a left after two more stoplights (Reliez Valley Road), continue about 3 more miles – small trailhead will be to your left.
Pros: A whole lot of trails to get into, super challenging hills, fast descents, never crowded, great views
Cons: No singletrack to speak of, hot and exposed trails, mean hills
Trail secrets: Take the Blue Oak Trail
Tilden / Wildcat Canyon are actually two parks butted against each other in the Berkeley Hills. Consisting of a good network of fireroads, this park is great for beginners because of its wide trails and sparse usage. There isn’t much in the way of memorable trails, however, and all singletrack is illegal to cyclists. Wildcat is definitely the park to ride if you’re gonna check this park out – it’s virtually unused and some of the trails get pretty tough climb-wise.
Getting there: Twenty minutes. Take 880N to 24E, exit Gateway Blvd (right after tunnel) – take the overpass and get back onto freeway – exit Fish Ranch Road. Take a right on Grizzley Peak – trailheads will be on right (for Wildcat, continue on Grizzly Peak – take a right on Canon Drive to trailhead).
Pros: Relatively unused park (especially Wildcat) means you can learn your basic skills quickly
Cons: Exclusively fireroads, lack of variety in terrain, some unrideable climbs.
Trail secrets: Take the Wildcat trail and loop around clockwise. The loop will take you about two hours, so bring plenty of water.
El Corte Madera Trail (Skeggs Point)
El Corte Madera Trail (Skeggs Point) This is perhaps the best legal singletrack riding in the Bay Area. And best of all, almost all of it is shaded with tons of trees, making this a sweet spot to ride during hot summers. The bad? You start at the top, which means it’s oh-so tempting to go all the way down the gorge. There’s some of everything here – smooth fireroads with nice berms to jump off, rock gardens, technical singletrack. The two must-rides are Resolution and Methuselah.
Getting there: about 45 minutes. Take the San Mateo Bridge (Hwy 92) and exit Skyline Blvd (Hwy 35). Stay on Skyline for 8 miles to the Caltrans Skeggs Point parking area on the left – note that Caltrans prohibits a left turn into the lot. From there, the El Corte de Madera Creek Trail / Tafoni Trail entrance is slightly to the north and across Skyline Blvd.
Pros: Great trails, shaded areas, damp dirt
Cons: Traffic can get ugly if you go across the 92 beginning at 3:30 pm
Trail secrets: Definitely download the trail map. Here’s a route that gets serious thumbs up: Start from El Corte, Resolution, Methuselah, Fir, Sierra, Methuselah, Mazanita, Timberview, Giant Salamander, Methuselah, North Leaf, and back to El Corte. It’s about a 14 to 15 mile loop. Takes almost three hours…if you are in fairly good shape.
Links to trail info around our area: