Grant Ranch County Park has some beautiful riding but is hilly and can get very hot in the summer. Two loops are suggested 2.5 or 9.6 miles long but many combinations are possible. The trails open to mountain bikes in this park are wide fire roads, mostly dirt with some gravel. Certain areas can get very muddy so trails are closed for 48 hours after a heavy rain. The longer loop has several tough hills. On the first hill, the dirt is loose and the trail is rutted. The next rough section is on the Digger Pine Trail, which becomes quite rocky with a number of short but steep ascents. All longer rides in this park are hilly and trail conditions vary from year to year.
Grant Ranch County Park is located in the Hamilton Mountains just below the Lick Observatory. If you're curious about astronomy, ride or drive up to the observatory for a free tour. If you enjoy bird-watching, check out the reservoir, which attracts many birds including kestrels, kingfishers, killdeer, wood ducks, juncos, and hawks. For a complete bird list, stop at the Visitor Center.
Finding the trail: Just south of where 1-280 and 1-880 merge into US 101, take the Tully Road exit heading east. Turn right on Quimby and follow it as it becomes a small two-lane road. Quimby climbs up and over a steep hill and intersects with Mount Hamilton Road in approximately 4 miles. Turn right, and right again into the park. There's a $3 day-use fee. Park near the Hotel Trail and Visitor Center.
Notes on the trail: Beginning at the Visitor Center, go through the two livestock gates to the start of the Hotel Trail. After 0.2 miles, veer right onto the Lower Hotel Trail at the Circle Corral. For the shorter loop, turn left and return to the Visitor Center. To continue on the longer loop, turn right into the trees, where the trail immediately begins to climb. In 1.75 miles is Eagle Lake, 680' higher than Circle Corral. Take a break at this very pretty spot.
You'll resume the longer ride by heading left at Eagle Lake. A quick descent takes you down into a canyon where the Digger Pine Trail follows the stream. One mile past Eagle Lake, turn left onto the Bohnhoff Trail and start another steep climb. The trail levels off along the ridge before a quick descent to Mount Hamilton Road. There are gates on either side of the road; please shut the gates after passing through them. After another climb you'll be rewarded with a superb 360-degree view.
You can add an extra 2 miles by doing the Canada de Pala to the Pala Seca Trail and looping back to the Los Huecos Trail. However, if you're ready to call it a day, continue onto the Los Huecos Trail, and turn left there for a descent to the reservoir. This is a great spot for bird-watching. At Mount Hamilton Road, turn left, and very soon turn right through a gate to return to the parking area.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication