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Length 28.5 miles
Time 3 hours*
Total Climb 2450 feet
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* On a road bike

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Coyote Creek Loop

This mixed loop is hard to beat in terms of being a rewarding road ride that starts from the middle of the suburban sea of the South Bay while staying mostly away from busy traffic. The ride's starting point is mere minutes away from downtown San Jose by car and a good chunk of the route traverses nearly deserted, backcountry roads. While doing this, less than 5 miles of this 28-mile ride takes place in urban or suburban traffic, and even those stretches have pretty generous space for cyclists, if not a full-blown bike lane. The key to this achievement is the utilization of the paved Coyote Creek Trail, and a couple of short stretches of suburban multi-use trails along the way. Meanwhile, there's really only a single tough climb in the mix, and even that one can be avoided if you don't mind extending your mileage a little bit. (More on that below.)

I've taken this ride idea straight out of Bill Oetinger's excellent book, 75 Classic Rides Northern California. This is one of my favorite sources of road ride ideas in and around our area. You may have seen my recommendations of this book in other ride descriptions on this site. Bill's route selections are exceptionally sensible, well informed, and usually simply gorgeous. If you have interest in buying even a single road ride guide book, this one should probably be it.

The starting point I've picked for this ride is Galveston Avenue, which is a side street off Tully Road, right near the northern end of Coyote Creek Trail. This is one of the aspects of the ride in Bill's book that I've deviated from. The book suggests parking in the parking lot of the Tully Community Branch Library, which is a stone's throw from where I started the ride. It's just that, as long as I can help it, I don't like the idea of using the parking lot of a facility that I won't have any business with. Street parking on Galveston Avenue is free and unlimited.

At the beginning of the ride, you pick up Coyote Creek Trail almost immediately. Roughly the first three miles of the route makes up your first stint on Coyote Creek Trail on this ride. Along the way, the trail skirts around the Los Lagos Golf Course as well as crossing Coyote Creek once. Coyote Creek Trail is popular with many trail users, including joggers, casual walkers, and casual cyclists, whose proportions will probably fluctuate based on the time of day and the day of the week. You'll need to be patient as you ride on this trail, especially in these northern reaches of the trail, which are its more heavily used parts.

The point where you hit public roads arrives when the trail reaches Hellyer County Park. You will know you're there when you spot the Hellyer Velodrome (though it's not too hard to miss if you're keeping your head down, so pay attention on your first time). Here, you take Hellyer Avenue to cross over Highway 101 and immediately turn to start a climb on Hassler Parkway. This is the ride's tough climb. The climb on this wide, suburban avenue lasts for only one mile but, more importantly, its truly bad portion is really only a little less than its first half. This 0.4-mile stretch averages just over 11% grade end to end while touching 14% grade once or twice in its worst stretch, whereas the remaining part of the climb, although still serious, averages a more merciful 8% grade.

What you do on Hassler Parkway is essentially climbing over a ridge, so there's a substantial descent on the other side of that tough, one-mile climb. If you'd rather avoid that climb to make the ride even easier, you can alter this route to go around that ridge instead of going over it, saving yourself about 250 feet of wasted elevation gain in the process. To do that, you would need to turn left onto Yerba Buena Road where Coyote Creek Trail passes under it and to follow that road until you can turn right onto Silver Creek Valley Road, which will soon bring you to the same junction with that latter road that Hassler Parkway ultimately reaches on this ride.

At the junction of Hassler Parkway and Silver Creek valley Road, a two-mile stretch of the route begins that follows paved multi-use trails. You pick up Silver Creek Valley Trail off the sidewalk of Silver Creek Valley Road, beginning mere steps away from that intersection. It might take a little effort to spot the entrance of the trail. This trail playfully meanders behind some residences and a shopping plaza while roughly paralleling Silver Creek Valley Road for nearly a mile. Following this, it initially merges onto the sidewalk and then crosses the avenue at an intersection to continue for another mile or so along Farnsworth Drive this time. Of course, you have the option of simply following Silver Creek Valley Road and Farnsworth Drive instead through this stretch if you're concerned more about maintaining a high speed than you are about staying out of traffic. That would also save you a few feet of elevation gain (as well as one momentary spot that might be the ride's steepest) since Farnsworth Avenue doesn't climb as high as the corresponding segment of the trail.

At the intersection with San Felipe Road where Farnsworth Drive ends, you start the route's longest road segment. San Felipe Road starts out in a fairly typical suburban setting. However, after the first mile and a half, it turns into an honest-to-goodness backroad. Shortly after this happens, you resume the climbing work as well. The slope is moderate for the most part, initially not exceeding five percent and averaging even less than that. The only part of this climb that feels serious arrives at 9.5 miles from the beginning of the route and lasts for about a mile and a quarter. The grade of this segment still averages only 5.5%, but what makes itself felt are the few short stretches that reach up to 9%. The slope relents very shortly after this, to become nearly flat and it doesn't take long for an actual descent to start with a bang. Early stretches of this descent is very fast, with grades reaching at least -12%, but that lasts for no more than 200 yards or so. The grade backs off to as little as -5% before too long and you'll soon need to resume pedaling as you keep losing elevation gently for a little over 2 miles in total. Along the way, you also turn onto Metcalf Road.

Metcalf Road initially takes you through a short canyon. Along some of the tightest stretches of this canyon, Metcalf Road is flanked by a few modest and isolated residences, which are the only ones you'll see between the time you leave the suburban portion of San Felipe Road and your return to Highway 101. Just as you pass by these properties, the two-mile downhill trend that began back on San Felipe Road ends and the ride's last uphill segment begins. This climb is interrupted for a short distance right after Metcalf Road leaves this small canyon and emerges into wider skies again; a short descent here ends right at the spot where Metcalf Road passes by a corporate sign behind a fence and a locked gate that intriguingly reads "Pratt & Whitney Space Propulsion". Unfortunately, although it appears that there was a sprawling technology campus as big as a major town here until 2005, it looks like it has been slowly dismantled since then, with its last remnants being razed in late 2011. Today, the sign you see and a couple of flag poles that surround it are among the few things that remain of this complex.

At the point where you pass by that Pratt & Whitney sign, the ride's last climb resumes. The initial part of the remaining portion is gentle, with an average grade of 2.5%. It's roughly the final quarter mile of this last climb that reaches 9% grade and becomes real work. The sign that this final climb is finished will be your sighting of the Metcalf Motorcycle County Park. The central area of this park, surrounding its entrance and parking area, is situated in a small meadow that Metcalf Road passes through. Almost immediately after you pass that by, Metcalf Road settles into its namesake canyon and begins a steep and curvy descent. (They're actually both labeled as "Metcalfe" on USGS topographic maps from as late as 1980, the same as a survey marker situated nearby.) This roughly 1.5-mile descent is easily the ride's most thrilling stretch, as well as one of its most scenic, with the views of Coyote Valley quickly opening up in front of you as you lose elevation. This is not a descent during which you want to be careless, however. Several of the curves are very tight and the slope averages in excess of -11% and appears to reach -15% in some spots.

That great descent ends before you've had enough. As soon as you emerge onto flat ground at the bottom, the road straightens and very quickly crosses over Highway 101. Metcalf Road squeezes between a huge power substation on one side and some large ponds next to Coyote Creek on the other, on its way to a junction with Monterey Road. You return to Coyote Creek Trail by turning right just before reaching that junction.

The rest of the ride consists of nearly 10 miles on the paved Coyote Creek Trail. This trail passes through a couple of neighborhood parks, threads through verdant spots that feel more secluded, and even provides water views from a few places where the trail traces around ponds of varying sizes. As I mentioned above, these are still the relatively more heavily used segments of this 18-mile trail, so you'll need to be mindful of walkers and joggers, as well as less experienced bicycle riders like families with small children. Therefore, just like with the first stretch you covered on Coyote Creek Trail on this ride, you'll need to abandon any hope of maintaining speed on this final leg of the ride, but the trail still keeps you out of the way of vehicle traffic almost all the way back to your car. For a more detailed discussion of Coyote Creek Trail, take a look at my Coyote Creek Trail ride description.

Metcalf Road and most of San Felipe Road have very light traffic, which is good news. These are moderately narrow two-lane roads with no shoulder space for bikes. Traffic will be much busier during your short stint on Hellyer Avenue and Hassler Parkway. Meanwhile, the pavement quality is never a concern during the ride. It's good all the way through, with the possible exception of some spots on Coyote Creek Trail that can get bumpy due to tree roots. You will have some tree cover on Coyote Creek Trail, but its rarely sustained consistently. On the road portions of the ride, parts of San Felipe Road and Metcalf Road are the only segments where you'll get a chance to ride in the shade. Overall, though, this is not a ride that provides much real protection from the sun, which may be significant since these areas do get hot frequently in the summer.

© Ergin Guney


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