MTB Trail: Angel Island – The Jewel of the Bay


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Everyone that comes to San Francisco knows the most famous island in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, but only a few know about the Jewel of the Bay, Angel Island.

Angel Island State Park, the largest island in the San Francisco Bay offers some of the best views of the surrounding Bay Area.  It has been a cattle farm, a military barracks, a quarantine station, immigration station and now a nature conservatory.

This was our first endeavor in mountain biking and makes a great introduction for everyone.

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Distance: 9.1 mile (one loop around the top and bottom trails)

Elevation Gain: 1017 feet (310 m)

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Difficulty: Although you can ride your road bike along the lower paved path, the real fun comes when you hit the trails.  This is a great beginner’s trail and gives you an amazing introduction to mountain biking without too much difficulty.

Getting to Angel Island

There are two ways to get to Angel Island.  The easiest way to get there is to take the Blue & Gold Ferry from Pier 41.  This ferry leaves at 9:45 am every day.  You can buy tickets at the box office at Pier 41 or onlineScreen Shot 2015-01-26 at 10.26.30 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 10.26.48 PM

The second way to get to Angel Island is to take the Angel Island Ferry from Tiburon.  This ferry runs at a less regular schedule which varies throughout the year.

You can return to San Francisco either by taking the Blue & Gold Ferry directly back, or your can return to Tiburon, and return on a later ferry back from Tiburon.

When you arrive at Angel Island, you dock at Ayala Cove. This route is a set of loops, so you begin and end at Ayala Cove. This is the dock where you catch the ferry to both Tiburon and San Francisco.

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From Ayala Cove, follow the trail to the Visitor’s Center. Bikes are not allowed on the pavement for a few hundred feet, so make a left onto the trial and follow it to the lower, paved route around the island.

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Approximately a mile and a half down the path, you encounter the trail to Camp Reynolds. Camp Reynolds includes the brick barracks you see from Sausalito and the ferry.

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This is an unpaved trail leads down to the Camp and the water’s edge if you turn right at the fork. At the Camp, you can experience a civil war cannon shot around 1 pm each day.

We prefer to continue along the path and turn left at the fork. This unpaved trail leads back to the main loop shortly ahead.

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Back on the path, once you crest the hill you get amazing sweeping views of San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge.  Make sure to stop and take a few pictures, this is really one of the best spots on the island.

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Continuing along the path, you can get your next round of trail riding on your way up to Battery Drew.  To get there, take the left fork and head up the hill.

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Keep climbing and you’ll get some more great views.

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Your next taste of an off-raod downhill is next up.  Its got some loose gravel, some dirt and an nice fast slope.

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A short ride back along the the path and your entrance to the upper off-road trail is on the left.

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The entrance is a steep path with loose rock, so get a head of steam and power your way to the top, where you’ll immediately turn right.

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Follow the upper path as it rolls along with eastern shore of the island with many of the island’s buildings below.

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About halfway along the eastern side, the path makes a sharp left up the hill, away from the picnic area.

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Climb past the water housing area, and watch for deer here. Just past then fence the path takes another left.

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Continue along the gently rolling path and enjoy the gorgeous scenery as you traverse the northern side with Tiburon across the channel.

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As you approach the western side of the island, you’ll see Sausalito and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The path rolls downhill as it leads you back to the return to the lower main road.

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You can ride the upper path again if you are up for it, or you can turn right and go back to complete the lower path.

When you are ready to head back to the lower path, turn right down the hill and continue straight at the intersection. You’ll get more sweeping views of San Francisco from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge.

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A short way down the path is the best paved downhill of the day. It’s a quick descent with a curve to the left at the bottom where the road forks.

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Quarry Point is down the road on the right. You’ll see housing barracks on the left of the main path and a dock lower down the hill to the right. This part of the island was a rock quarry from 1850 through 1922 and used to construction buildings from Alcatraz to Fort Point and even the California Bank building in the Financial District of San Francisco.

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Further along the path you’ll pass by the Immigration Station. You can go for a stroll or take a tour of the Immigration Station. This immigration station was in use from 1910 thought 1940.

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The rest of the route is another 1.5 miles of rolling path back to Ayala Cove. Watch for the entrance back to the bike route, it is a sharp right after a quick downhill.

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If you miss the turn, no big, just continue on and turn around.

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Follow the path and return back to the docks at Ayala Cove where you can pick up a ride back to Tiburon or San Francisco.

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After a day of adventure on Angel Island, you really get a sense of how much fun mountain biking can be. While most of the route is pretty tame, there is some loose terrain and quick descents that give you a sense of trail riding.

While accessing this park is a bit more complicated than just hopping in your car, it is totally worth while. The views, the experience and the fun you will have both on the island and on the boat to the island are memories waiting to be made.

 

Muir Beach / Muir Woods Closure Information – December 2014 – March 2015


Rainstorms on December 11, 2014 caused a section of CA-1 (SR-1) to collapse between Muir Beach and Panoramic Drive.

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This section of road is featured in our trail and video “The Three Amigos“.

As this route of return is no longer available, this closure affects the ride back to Sausalito from Muir Woods and Stinson Beach.

From Muir Woods, you have the option of climbing back up Muir Woods Road or heading to Stinson Beach and climbing back via Panoramic Highway, the opposite direction of our Dog Days trail.

Your other options are to continue North on CA-1 and 1) attempt the climb up Fairfax Bolinas Road to West Ridgecrest and return via the latter half of Alpine Damn Loop

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Or 2) go toward Point Reyes and return via Sir Francis Drake Blvd to Fairfax.

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Construction is expected to continue through March 2015. See 511.org for the most up-to-date information on the closure and construction.

At this time we do not advise going to Muir Woods or Stinson Beach unless you are a very strong climber or are prepared for a 60+ mile ride.

Trail: CHINA CAMP: San Rafael to San Pablo Bay


China Camp State Park is a short ride from San Rafael and is home to some of the area’s best beginner mountain biking along with tons of wildlife and gorgeous views of the San Pablo Bay. If road biking is more your thing, then China Camp offers you a great ride around the coast of the San Pablo Bay that can be added on to a ride, or can just be a destination for the day.

Distance from The Short Cut: 8.4 miles (16.8 miles round-trip); Larkspur Ferry Terminal and Larkspur Connection: 10.70 miles; Marin Crossroads: 18.92 miles; Distance from Sausalito: 22.94 miles; Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail): 32.75 miles.

Elevation Gain on trail: 312 feet (624 feet round trip)

Difficulty: The ride features an urban ride through San Rafael which gives way to rolling hills and scenic views of San Pablo Bay, out far enough to make it a full day ride, but not so hard to get to a tourist couldn’t make it.
-Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com
Starting at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Second Street in San Rafael, the end of The Short Cut or partially through Let’s Grab a Beer, continue north along Lincoln Ave. Basically, follow Lincoln Ave. across Second St., or with the heavy traffic on Second St. if you are coming from downtown San Rafael (the faster route detailed in Let’s Grab a Beer), the safer option is to make a right onto Lincoln Ave. from Second St. and do a U-Turn on Lincoln Ave. and then cross Second St.
Follow Lincoln Ave. to Fourth Street (the route for the slower option detailed in Let’s Grab a Beer), then make a right onto Fourth Street, or continue to go straight if you are coming from Fourth St.
Follow Fourth St. as it crosses over the railroad tracks and under US-101.
Continue to follow Fourth St. until you reach Union St. Make a right at Union St.
Follow Union St. and make a left onto Third St. at the light.
Follow Third St. through San Rafael as it leaves the city and climbs to the rolling hills toward San Rafael Bay. Third Street becomes Point San Pedro Rd. This is Bike Route 24.
Continue to follow Route 24 as it passes by San Rafael Bay with views of the McNear Brickyard along the way.
Just a bit further up the road is McNears Beach. McNears Beach has an outdoor pool, tennis courts, fishing and walking trails.
The hill leading up to and past McNears Beach is a tough climb ranging from 7 to 11%. Fortunately, it’s a short hill, so just power through it and you’ll almost be to China Camp.
After the climb, you get a nice descent to gain some speed as you enter China Camp.
At the entrance to China Camp Route 24 ends and Route 26 begins. Continue through the next 3.5 miles of rolling hills through China Camp. Click here for a map of China Camp.
The first section of China Camp is a bit of a climb as you go by the entrance to the Shoreline Trail and mountain bike paths on your left.
Your first descent takes you past China Camp Point as you round the sweeping left hand curve which leads to Five Pines Point.
Rounding Five Pines Point takes you on a descent with views of San Pablo Bay.
You’ll pass the Ranger Station on your right and then the road levels out for a short stint before climbing up to Weber Point where you can stop and take a short break.
The hills keep coming as you make another climb past Buckeye Point and descend through a couple of “S” curves to the next section of flats and the first section of marshlands.
Continue past Chicken Coop Hill and another entrance to the Skyline Trail will be on your left.
You’ll then pass by Bullet Hill with the Bullet Hill Trail entrance on your left and marshlands on your right.
Another quick rolling hill takes you past Turtle Back Hill with another trail entrance on either side of the road.
The flats after the descent from Turtle Back Hill takes you past the campground entrance on your left.
Once you past the campground entrance, you are just about out of the China Camp. Another mile and a half of flats brings you up to the boat launch area, which is where we typically turn around.
At this point, you have two options for returning back to San Rafael. The first is to turn around and take the same route back to San Rafael.
The second option is to continue along North San Pedro Rd. under US 101, make a left at Los Ranchitos Rd. and Los Ranchitos until it become Lincoln Ave. Continue along Lincoln Ave. until you cross Second St. in San Rafael and then make a right onto Irwin St. You will then meet up with Let’s Grab a Beer or The Short Cut and head back to Larkspur.
We typically turn around and take the scenic route through China Camp back to Larkspur. It’s a nice ride with a lot less traffic. If you decide to turn around as well, follow the road and once you get to San Rafael, continue on Third Street until you reach Lincoln Avenue, then make a left on Lincoln Ave. Follow Lincoln Ace. as described above and you’ll be back to Larkspur in no time.
No matter if you are looking to add some extra miles, or have just never been past San Rafael, China Camp is a great place to cycle.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Trail: ALPINE DAM — Fairfax to Mt. Tam, Hot Damn!


You’ve followed the Coffee Run and ended up in Fairfax, but aren’t ready to head home, what do you do? If you are up for a challenge, it’s time to head west! This route takes you toward Bolinas, up the Seven Sisters and drops you 2.9 miles from the summit of Mt. Tamalpais. If you still have the energy after conquering this much climbing, the route to the summit is detailed in Welcome to the Top of the World. Once you reach the summit with this route, you’ll be on your way to 5000 feet of climbing from the Ferry Building and just over a mile of climbing if you are brave enough and have the energy to make it back to the Ferry Building.
-Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail): 46.46 miles; Distance from Marin Crossroads: 33..05 miles; Distance from Sausalito: 37.07 miles; Distance from Coffee Run: 14.26 miles
-Climbing on Route: 2,329 feet (710 meters)
-Distance/Climbing remaining to Mt. Tamalias Summit: 2.9 mile/630 feet (192 meters)
-Difficulty: This is the more difficult way to ascend to the top of Mt. Tam with an initial climb 3.5 miles long that is just the beginning of a tough ride that will challenge any experienced cyclist.
-FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK click here for the full route provided by MapMyRide.com.
-Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com
At the end of The Coffee Run you are left with a question, “Am I feeling up for climbing?”
From the Fairfax Coffee Roastery, make a left onto Bolinas Road.
At the stop sign with Cascade Drive and Frustuck Avenue, follow Bolinas Road toward the left and towards Mt. Tam and Alpine Dam.
Continue following Bolinas Road as it starts to climb just past Deer Park Villa.
The initial climb is quite steep at the beginning approaching grades of 8% and continues for 3.5 miles with an average grade of 4.5%.
Once you reach the Meadow Club Golf Course you then enter the Mt. Tam Watershed district and are only 0.75 miles from the top of the first climb.  The traffic along the road at this point starts to dissipate.
The top of the climb is a parking lot, but just beyond the views of the valley below and Alpine Lake are beautiful.
Follow the road as it descends around hairpin turns and then undulates all the way to Alpine Dam.
Alpine Damn is your last flat road until you return back to the Marin Crossroads.  This is the place to stretch and refill your water bottles before the next climb.
The next climb begins on just the other side of the dam. This second climb is 2.75 miles long and by far the hardest on your way to the summit of Mt. Tam.  It has an average grade of 5.7%, but hovers between 7-8% for most of the climb up to West Ridgecrest Road.
Don’t burn yourself out on this climb, because there is still another two mile climb once you reach the top. Take your time and take in the views.
Once you reach the top, take a left onto West Ridgecrest Road.
This is another good place to stop and stretch as the next climb, the climb up The Seven Sisters (aka The Seven Bitches), starts right away.
The climb up The Seven Sisters is not your normal climb. It is a 2 mile long series of upward undulations with an average grade of 3.4%.  There are sections with grades between 5 & 6% towards the last set of undulations.
Your legs will beg for relief as you make your way up this series climbs, but the views can’t be beat as you will overlook Bolians Lagoon and Stinson Beach below.
Just before the last climb, there is a great place to take a brake, take in the views and maybe even see some hang gliders as they glide over the ocean.
After a quick break to take in the views, you have one last climb until you reach the intersection of West Ridgecrest Road, East Ridgecrest Road and Pan Toll Road.
Once you reach Rock Springs point you’ve climbed over 2,300 feet from Fairfax alone, if you came from San Francisco you are at over 3,000 feet. Now its up to you to determine whether you have the legs to keep climbing up to the summit of Mt. Tam, or if you want to take a break from climbing and head back to Sausalito where you will meet up with the route from the Three Amigos at the intersection with CA-1.
If you decide to finish off the last 2.9 miles of climbing and summit Mt. Tam, follow East Ridgecrest Road to The Top of the World for the last 630 feet.  This is a challenge after such a tough climb, but the views are well worth it!