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Tamarancho

We don't often get to Marin County, so we jumped at an opportunity to ride one of the more popular locations by going to Tamarancho. Tamarancho is a Boy Scout camp operated by the Marin County Council. It borders on several open space areas and the trails seem to cross from one to another and back. The Boy Scouts charge $5 for a day permit and have individual and family packages available. All of the bike routes in Tamarancho proper are singletracks. In fact, signs state that all bikes must remain on the singletrack (imagine that!). The $5 day permit is a great deal since all of the bike routes in Tamarancho proper are singletrack.

Park: Tamarancho
Date: July 3, 2010
Distance: 12.4 miles
Ride Time: 1:57
Total Ascent: 1,834 feet
Maps: Detailed official trail map
Overall Rating: 9

 

There is no parking at Tamarancho itself. The popular starting point is at the large parking lot at the Java Hut at 760 Cedar Blvd. in Fairfax. We found this without too much trouble and followed the "Bike Route" signs to a sign indicating the way to Tamarancho (Rockridge and then Iron Springs). This starts out as a paved climb with the road deteriorating as you ascend. The climb is gentle and provides a good warmup.

The first chance to hit singletrack is the Alchemist trailhead behind a small shelter that seems to be a bus stop in the middle of nothing. We continued to climb up Iron Springs Road to the entrance of the camp. This is a longer route and not as fun, but it may be a good way to go if you are concerned about having enough energy for the ride. Just past the entrance gate are two trailheads. We had heard that it was riding clockwise on weekends is preferred, so we took the trailhead on the left onto Goldman. A short singletrack with a few switchbacks took us to the junction with the top of Alchemist. There is a small board stunt there that varies between 6 and 8 inches wide before it gets to a wider turn about and then necks down again that is fun to play on. Goldman Trail winds along the hillside with some descending and some ascending before crossing a fireroad and the Serpentine trailhead. The map shows a 4-way junction, but there is actually a fifth singletrack here. A local rider advised to continue on Serpentine, so we did.

Serpentine starts with a fast, easy ride on a slight downhill grade through an open grassy area before starting to climb up the hill. It is this part of the trail that earns it name as it goes through many switchbacks up the hill. I think I cleared all of these except one that I didn't know which way to go (and probably wouldn't have made it anyway). The climb up Serpentine ends a fireroad and the Wagon Wheel trailhead in the Marin County Open Space District. The start of Wagon Wheel is a pretty rocky downhill ride through manzanita and scrub, but it soon returns climbing through forested areas and grasslands. It ends with a short climb to a fireroad junction. Turning left here will take you up a fairly steep initial climb followed by a steady but less steep climb to Whites Hill. The fireroad is steep but it looks easier and shorter than Indian Creek in Stevens Canyon.

Going straight across the junction down a short section of fireroad returns you to singletrack on B-17. This is a very nice trail through the oaks and redwoods. You can also head up B-17 Extension, a short but reasonably steep (15-20% grade) up to the White Hill fireroad. There is a nice view to the bay and many wildflowers at the top of the trail. You can head out the White Hill fireroad toward Pine Mountain but that ride has been left for another day.

Mid-way up B-17 Extension is a new flow trail: Endor. This is a fairly long section of  tight bermed turns, whoop dee doos and a few small wooden stunts that is a ton of fun. It doesn't require a lot of pedaling since it is mostly downhill, but your speed doesn't get too high due to the tight turns. Everyone riding this finishes with a huge grin. It is a short ride back up B-17 and B-17 Extension to get back to the top of Endor, so lots of people ride it multipe times.

At the bottom of B-17 Extension, turn left onto Broken Dam. This trail winds its way through the forest, starting out with a reasonably long downhill before turning to climbing. This trail is also very pretty. The top of Broken Dam returns you to the entrance gate where you started. Since you have already been on the road, head down Goldman to the junction with Alchemist, a singletrack with quite a few tight switchbacks that returns you to the road. This was about the only place we found riders going in the opposite direction (or was it us?). You can quickly descend the road and return to the parking lot.

After cleaning up a bit, you can have a very enjoyable lunch at the Iron Spring Brewery and Pub just across the street from the parking lot. We all had different things and they all seemed very good. There is also a bike shop there if you need parts or a map.

We agreed that this was a really fun ride. It was great to be on singletrack almost the whole time. The trails were properly maintained without being sanitized like so many trails. There was some climbing, but they were shorter and more interesting than the long steep fireroad climbs that we so often encounter. We saw a few people, but not really that many especially since it was holiday weekend. It looked like we could have stretched it out quite a bit if we had started a bit earlier and/or planned to stay later. All in all, it was very worthwhile driving all the way there and paying the $5 entrance fee. Having a brewpub waiting for after the ride is another factor recommending this ride.

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