Camp Tamarancho (in Fairfax, CA) has been on my mountain biking hit list for years now but never made an effort to drive up there. It’s 1h20m drive from San Jose. Too far for someone who doesn’t like driving. With my new partially zero emission vehicle I figured why the hell not. It is easier for me to get to Demo and ride the familiar trails.
Fairfax is a cute little town twenty two miles north of San Francisco. A lot of boutique shops along Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Very much like Berkeley, there is not a whole lot of big chain stores here. Even grocery store is locally ran. I don’t think Fairfax is much of tourist area either. Not that I know of. But lays here is a gnarly 10 miles [all] single track mountain biking loop that will knock your socks off.
To bike at Camp Tamarancho you have to pay $5/day since it belongs to boy scouts of America. Day pass can be purchased at local bike shops. I bought mine at Sunshine shop. From there I zigzagged through cute neighborhood and unique houses on stilts along the hillside to get to lower trailhead, the Alchemist. Make sure to get a map at the store. Navigating around Tamarancho is not all that difficult but it can be confusing at times for lack of signages.
The locals suggest to do the loop in clockwise direction. Looking at my ride profile, it is about 60% climbing and 40% downhill in clockwise direction. Which means it might be more [fun] to do it in the counterclockwise direction (???). I think it has to do with the traffic flows since the whole loop is single track. I don’t mind climbing single track but it is more technical here. There are tree stumps and boulders mixed in with tight switch back and 20-30 vertical feet drop on one side. Since I have never been here before, for my first loop I rode very conservatively. It is the kind of terrain that you have to ride on a regular basis to finest the skill of which I don’t do enough. The climb here is definitely one step above my level.
Since the whole loop is relatively short, I did an extension ride when I reached the upper trail entrance. I traversed west toward Ken lake. Most of the trails are fire road. More climbing but nothing technical. I rode for about 2 miles and lost my sense of directions so I decided to turn around. On my way back I encountered a group of horse riders. They did not seem very happy to see me on the trail.
Here’s the most [interesting] part in Tamarancho – the flow trail. A local rider told me that on the weekend, you have to get in line. Like riding the roller coaster. The wait is can be up to 30 mins sometimes. It is freaking nuts. I stood there in wondered what is up with this flow trail? I got off my bike, lowered my seat past my normal lowest position. I was ready for this flow trail. Bring it on!
It’s about a mile long (+/-), smooth steep downhill with big humps and banked switchbacks. Of course it is man made. Also in the area, there is a little terrain park where you can ride over logs. Pretty insane! The flow trail only goes downhill. Don’t ever try to climb that. You’ll get yourself run over. You can get really high going down the flow trail. It’s like going down the back side of Monitor pass at 50mph. I am not kidding. I was in awe when I got out of the flow trail. I looked back and wondered “what the f*ck just happened?” Here’s a cool video I found from Youtube.
Once I got back to the Alchemist, I decided to turn around for my second loop. Felt a bit easier the second time and more enjoyable. I was not shy anymore.
My typical mountain biking trip must include a nasty greasy hamburger with shake at the end. I found M&G along Sir Francis on my way back to the car. It costed $11 for a double cheese, fries and a shake. Not the best burger I had but enough to complete my ride. The place is actually really busy. It took awhile for my order to come out.
My top bay area rides list is updated with Tamarancho in there. If not for the long drive I’d make it a regular ride.
Last but not least, a full suspension or a 29er is a better choice for this trail. Some of the drops are pretty high and the humps on the flow trail are relatively high for a hard tail. 29er might be too big for these switch backs.
Next stop(s): Pacifica and Downieville! Hoping to do that by September, 2013.