Harvey Bear Ranch
100% FIRE ROAD
Harvey Bear Ranch is not exactly one of the typical options that come to mind when thinking of places to go mountain biking. However, it's suitable enough for it at least to the extent of having hosted an XC race in 2010 (though, as of this writing, it doesn't look like it was repeated).
The official full name of the park is "Coyote Lake - Harvey Bear Ranch County Park". The Harvey Bear Ranch section of the park (a major chunk) is a fairly recent addition to what used to be, merely, Coyote Lake County Park. By "recent", I mean the public availability of this part of the park's lands has started in 2005, if I'm not mistaken.
While Harvey Bear Ranch features terrain similar to most East Bay rides featured on this site, it is surprisingly different from most of them (at least along the route represented on this page): there aren't too many steep climbs and not all of the trails are strictly fire roads (though many still are). I think the reason might be that the trails here are not merely repurposed old ranch roads. I get the distinct impression that they were built recently with the aim of being multi-use park trails in the first place. Of course, having seen the trails, if they were built solely to be park trails, one obvious question would be why they are as wide as they are at all. While not exactly like typical fire roads, most trails along this route fluctuate among a narrow fire road, doubletrack, and extra-wide singletrack. Perhaps we can chalk that one up to the love of singletrack not yet having taken enough root in the philosophy of the Santa Clara County parks department...
This particular ride route is actually the exact route of that 2010 XC race, unless I'm terribly mistaken. It's a relatively short loop that covers some of both the western and the eastern slopes of the ridge on the western side of Coyote Lake. Most of the climbing of the ride takes place in the first 2.5 miles, though there are shorter ups and downs right up to the end. As mentioned above, the trails are usually fairly wide, though they're not like your typical soulless East Bay fire road. In fact, while the slopes facing the west during the ride are completely exposed bare meadows, those that face the east, toward the lake, are sprinkled with a good amount of trees and at times are quite fun as they dart in and out of the creases in the hillside for a short while. In the last quarter of the ride, when you're back on the western slopes, wide-open views of the Highway 101 corridor accompany most of your remaining ride.
One important detail I need to point out is that many of the trails traversed on this ride were quite cracked and pockmarked when I did this ride in May (following a wetter-than-usual winter). This is surely the work of the hooves of the cows that graze here (which you should be prepared to encounter on your ride here, by the way). While it wasn't bad enough to make the ride unpleasant, I'd be worried that, a few more weeks before that, they might have been. My guess is that the trail surfaces would be much smoother toward the later parts of the dry season (i.e., late summer and fall). On the other hand, during those parts of the year, the grass will all be yellow and the temperatures are also likely to be much higher. So, picking the right season to ride here involves a bit of a trade-off. Alternatively, if you live close enough to Harvey Bear, you could simply ride here throughout the year and even out your experience that way, naturally.
With a short overall distance and modest amount of climbing, this is a fairly easy ride. Don't let that lull you into thinking that you can bring all of your beginner rider friends, though. At least due to the pockmarked nature of many of the trails, you'll need someone who is accustomed to riding on trails. In my opinion, the ideal "type of beginner" to bring along to a ride here would be someone who is a strong pedaler to begin with (perhaps having been a road rider for a while), but who has little experience in riding technical trails (narrow singletrack, rock gardens, etc.). This ride has no tricky trails like that.
© Ergin Guney
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