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Length 11 miles
Time 3.5 hours
Total Climb 2600 feet
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Aerobic Difficulty
Technical Difficulty 

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Santa Teresa (Suggestion 1)


Santa Teresa County Park is a bit of a rarity: A park that features some seriously fun singletrack trails in the southern part of Santa Clara Valley. The total trail length here doesn't add up to very much (especially if you count just the singletrack), unless you do multiple loops. So, I don't know if everyone would agree with me that it's a worthy riding destination even for those who live in places that are far from this park, though I've never regretted driving down all the way from San Francisco to ride there. Just know that, if you consider yourself a serious mountain biker who likes technical singletrack, you'll be missing something unless you try Stile Ranch Trail and (especially) Rocky Ridge Trail at Santa Teresa.

Parking at Santa Teresa County Park is subject to a fee. The fee is $6 as of this writing. You'll have to pay at an unattended machine before leaving your car and place the receipt face-up on your dash. The machine does accept credit cards (in addition to cash and debit cards, I believe).

While I attempt to describe to you the nature of the park's two technical singletrack trails below, the best advice I can give you about them is actually this: If you see any static source of information about Rocky Ridge Trail or Stile Ranch Trail that you know isn't less than a year old, take it with a grain of salt. That includes what I've written below. This is because the character of these trails show a high level of variability even within the space of a couple of seasons. The ground in parts of this park (including two areas that these two trails traverse) is infused with many rocks and boulders, and these jut out of the trail surface more and more over time as the finer soil surrounding them is eroded away by rain or trail use. When I first tried Stile Ranch Trail in 2010, it was a fast and fun descent where the rocks in the trail were barely enough to make it interesting and were not even worth braking for. As I add this paragraph in 2019, it's a double-black-diamond mess of boulders where even riders of full-blown downhill rigs have no hope of finding any kind of flow. It's more or less a similar case for Rocky Ridge Trail. Not only have the technical parts of these trails become tougher over the years, but more of their length has turned technical overall, due to the same processes. Conversely, due to a possible round of future trail work, things may be smoothed over again for the most part by the time you read these, in which case you may wonder what I'm going on about. In that case, just give it a few more years and things may become much tougher again. Simply take it with a grain of salt, any time anyone explains to you what Rocky Ridge and Stile Ranch are like.


This ride does two loops in a "figure eight" that seems to be the most typical route for mountain bike rides in this park, though the direction preference for each of the loops might change from rider to rider. The ride also includes a couple of side loops on Bernal Hill, which are entirely optional and don't provide mountain bikers anything more than some pretty views. Altogether, only about 35% of this ride is on singletrack, although some short parts of the remainder is on fire roads that have been narrowed by vegetation into something of a pseudo-singletrack in some places.

The "western" half of the main figure eight of this ride's two loops is traversed counter-clockwise. This allows you to descend the series of technical switchbacks on Stile Ranch Trail, near the southwestern corner of the park; although, no matter which way you do this loop, you'll have both climbing and descending sections along Stile Ranch Trail. As I mentioned, this trail is very rocky and quite technical, especially in some sections. While, in earlier years, I used to consider Stile Ranch to be less technical than the rocky stretches of Rocky Ridge Trail, the chunky portions of this trail have weathered into a more advanced state in recent years (perhaps beginning around 2013) and parts of it probably involve a higher pucker factor than the toughest stretches of Rocky Ridge these days. As I've already warned you above, it may have aged into an even tougher trail by the time you read this. Inexperienced riders should consider themselves warned.

At the beginning of the ride, you start out by traversing the Bernal Hill Trail loop and Vista Loop. These consist of fire roads. Other than the views that you get to see, Bernal Hill Trail has one rocky descent (if done clockwise) that provides a little technical enjoyment. The views are not much better than what you can see from Coyote Peak on the second loop, so you can safely omit these side loops, unless you're curious. Bernal Hill Trail also has one of the steepest climbs of the ride that reaches something like 29% grade at its steepest spot.

Once you finish Stile Ranch Trail (which I've already explained above), Fortini Trail is another singletrack that will take you part of the way back to the parking area of the park. It's nothing like Stile Ranch. It's shorter, straighter, and flat on average. But, it's still a cute trail. I've observed Fortini Trail transform over the years from a benign singletrack safely scampering back toward the parking lot, into developing a couple of noteworthy rock gardens of its own. Its technical difficulty (or length) is nothing close to Stile Ranch or Rocky Ridge, but it's no longer a mere afterthought either.

The second loop is clockwise and has you climbing up to Coyote Peak via Hidden Springs Trail. This is a serious climb. It lasts close to one mile (though there's a bit of a break in the middle) and the overall average grade is just over 12%. There are some stretches where the grade is just under 20% for quite a while. This ends right near Coyote Peak. If it's your first time riding here, it's worth visiting the vista point atop this peak to take in the views.

A short stretch of gravel road after that (Coyote Peak Trail) brings you to the beginning of Rocky Ridge Trail. You'll be descending this challenging singletrack trail when the loop is done in this direction. In my opinion, you'd have to be either nuts or masochistic to do it in the opposite direction, though I do know there are people who do it. Rocky Ridge Trail starts out on top of a ridge across a terrain that's open on all sides. This is a stretch of the trail that used to be a beautiful and narrow singletrack snaking across a meadow when I first met with it in 2010, though nowadays it's much widened in most places, with many signs of bad "multipath", looking more like a fire road in a lot of spots. The trail slowly gets rockier and rockier. Once you turn around and start the segment of the trail that's heading east, you arrive at the most technical sections. If portions of this trail don't qualify for a black diamond rating (if not more), I'm not sure what would. Still, none of the features are of a kind that would really endanger the rider, because the trail's attitude never gets extra steep and you always have the opportunity to stop to walk across any part that you don't think you can stomach.

Despite having these (at least) two noteworthy singletrack trails, much of the rest of the trails in Santa Teresa feature frequent steep climbs, though most of these are short. So, if you're not in good shape, it'll make you suffer a little. For that same reason, it might not be the best place to bring a beginner ride partner, unless that person is okay with walking the bike up many climbs.

If you have a car with you, there's no shortage of places to eat or relax a little within a short driving range after a ride at Santa Teresa. However, one of the closest options is an easy recommendation that might be overlooked: There's a Mexican restaurant called "El Amigo" at the intersection of Bernal Road and Santa Teresa Boulevard. Their food is decent, they have a huge outdoor patio that's shaded by a fabric canopy that can accommodate tables for large parties, their free chips and salsa are pretty darn good, and they seem to have a passable beer selection. The combination of these factors brings this place pretty close to being an ideal post-ride meal spot in my book.

© Ergin Guney


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