Travel | Crockett Hills Regional Park, East Bay Area
From the top of the hill, the trail resembles a river of brown winding its way through the grassy hills. Twisting and turning, the path follows the contours of the hillside with each corner providing a new and impressive view of the bay. After stopping to admire the scenery, Robin and Inga push back up again, then charge the turn one more time for the camera before continuing along the path.
Throwing my pack on, I begin the chase on one of the best sections of trail. It’s all flow on this side of the hill, as I alternatively pump and squash rollers for speed and railing turns in an effort to catch up.
It’s not only scenic, but for riders in the east bay, it’s the only destination of its kind. Here the trails are primarily populated by other mountain bikers, as opposed to the hordes of grumpy hikers dominating the single track close to the more populated areas.
A twenty minute drive from the city of Oakland, Crockett is a small, quiet town populated with less than four thousand people. The I-80 and two bridges loom over the residents with upward of a million drivers passing by the sleepy town every week, with few pausing to visit. With miles of new mountain bike friendly trail added to the park this year, it’s become the gateway to the newest riding spot.
The official parking lot is located just outside of town. Heading up the trail, the initial sections are quite tame, and not at all filled with the diverse features of the new sections. On the upside, it adds mileage, something sorely lacking for East Bay trail riders. The initial climb is best on an XC bike, but rewards riders with an amazing view of the town and the two bridges.
Our preferred bike for Crockett Hills (as well as most of the local Bay Area riding) is a short travel trail bike, with many choosing 29” hardtails. Though it’s a bit more work, we have no complaints on our enduro-ready rigs after after flipping our compression to the firmest settings.
Though the first few miles of trail are tame, once you’ve passed under the Cumming Skyway the trail and view begin to pick up. The East Bay Regional Parks use grazing cattle as vegetation management, and having a bit of suspension is nice as you float over the chatter bumps from occasional hoof prints or dodge the occasional cow. (They’re restricted by gates you periodically pass through.)
The new sections of trail are littered with flow trail style features, with bermed turns and rollers spaced out through for miles. Though the spacing of the rollers is a bit strange, it makes for an interesting challenge when you’re holding it wide open and tearing down the hill. The amazing views and swoopy turns don’t stop as you negotiate the grassy hills. Even better, the trail is well signed, making it easy for visitors to get around, provided you stick to single track.
The Bay Area has a long riding season, but the best time of year to ride the trail is in the spring when the grass is still green, and the dirt a bit more pliable. Once summer hits, it gets warm, so riding earlier or later in the day is ideal, as is bringing a good amount of hydration. As we come into the dry season the berms have become dry and loose, but that just changes the nature of the fun.
Post ride, after we’ve put in the miles in and earned it, we often treat ourselves to In ‘n Out Burger, a California classic for grub. For visitors looking for stuff to do, San Francisco lies across the Bay, and there’s no lack of activities or sights to see in the Bay Area. Though as locals we constantly lament the lack of close in riding, the Flow Trail at Demonstration Forest near Santa Cruz and the trail system at Tamarancho in Marin are must-do rides that offer a taste of riding in Northern California, provided you’re willing to travel.
Words: Photos: Jason Van Horn