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Canada del Oro OSP


Rancho Canada del Oro is a fairly new part of the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority (note this is separate from the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District that contains many of the other trails we ride on).  The park seems to get less traffic than some of the others, but it is very nice.  The rangers are very supportive of mountain biking, so I like to be supportive.

Park: Rancho Canada del Oro OSP
Date: Multiple
Distance: 11 miles
Ride Time: 1:50 hours
Total Ascent: 2,400 feet
Map: Detailed trail map
Overall Rating: 5

The ride starts at the parking lot (there is only one) just to the right of the fence bordering the paved Llagas Creek Loop. This crosses Casa Loma Road in a few hundred feet and then proceeds up a series of switchbacks as it climbs the Mayfair Ranch Trail. This trail ascends the hill, passing through manzanita and then oak woodland. The trail is about 6 feet wide and smooth (it looked like it had recently been cut by a small tractor). This takes you to the first ridgeline with a nice view to the south and to the north where you are headed. After cresting the ridge, there is a picnic table if you need a break before heading down the hill to Baldy Ryan Creek at the bottom. The creek can be crossed or there is a bridge available.

Shortly after crossing the creek, you come to the junction with Longwall Canyon Trail on the left and Longwall Canyon Trail and Catamount Trail straight/right. Being rather masochistic, our small group proceeded toward Catamount Trail. This trail starts off easy, following the creek. You have to enter Calero Park for about 50 feet past the sign that says "No Bikes" to connect to the trail (on the left) that returns you back into Canada del Oro. At this point, the trail starts varying between steep and steeper. I don't recall that there was shade on any substantial part of this trail and we thought this area would be very hot in the summer, so be prepared. At the top of Catamount there is a signed junction with Bald Peaks Trail. Bear left and up the hill here since a right turn will take you to Calero County Park where bikes are prohibited.

Bald Peaks Trail heads up a bit more and then runs along the ridge top. Be sure to go up to the top of the knoll for a great view. After taking in the view, continue the same direction on Bald Peaks Trail as it starts its descent. The trail is open and fast at first until you get to a picnic table and horse trough (there is a gate there to the right, but the area seems to be closed).

I think the trail name officially changes to Longwall Canyon Trail at this point. The trail narrows down a bit, enters the oak forest again, and proceeds through a series of switchbacks to make the ride down a lot more fun. Most of these switchbacks have pretty good sight lines, allowing you to see hikers, horses, or other riders approaching. The bottom of Longwall Canyon Trail takes you back to the trail junction you visited earlier. Turn right onto Mayfair Ranch Trail if you have had enough.

Ascending the Longwall Canyon Trail looks a lot easier than ascending Catamount Trail. The grade is less and it is shaded most of the way up. Of course, climbing Catamount could be considered earning the Longwall Canyon descent.

Starting in 2014, the Serpentine Trail is an alternative way to access the trails. This was formerly off-limits as part of Calero Park but has been opened to mountain bikes. Instead of the initial Mayfair Ranch climb up and over the first ridge, Serpentine skirts around the ridge and climbs up to the base of Catamount and Longwall Canyon trails. This is a ranch road shortcut that eliminates some of the climbing, so it is handy to know about if you are short on time or energy or have a mechanical issue. It is not really a good substitute for Mayfair Ranch Trail, so you might consider riding in on Serpentine to Longwall and then to the top and back down via Longwall and Mayfair Ranch.

Next to the parking lot is the short Lagas Creek Trail. This short, flat paved trail makes a loop and has several picnic tables scattered along it. This trail encircles a meadow that is filled with wildflowers in the spring, making this loop definitely worthwhile at that time of year. The flat area might appeal to little tykes that might be along for a family outing and the tables might be a good spot for a picnic (several are shaded).

Apparently, the Open Space Authority opens the Blair Ranch section about once a year to mountain bikes (it is closed to everyone the rest of the year). This section is a former ranch area that still allows cattle grazing, but the ranch roads are opened for riding. Since this section is not open, they have not identified road names on the map. This ride climbs steeply up to the ridge, traverses ups and downs along the ridge, descends steeply and then climbs steeply before returning back up to the ridge and back to the parking area. This trail starts at the back of the overflow parking lot that is past the main parking lot. This was a nice ride, but be warned that there are 3 sections with over a 40% grade. The OSA plans to add some singletrack trails in the future, but they are working through the standard approval processes. The new trails could make this ride very different and much more interesting. The OSA hopes to have the trails completed and this section open in 2013.

The Santa Clara County Open Space Authority staff at Canada del Oro are top notch. They are very knowledgeable and very supportive of mountain biking. They occasionally hold authorized night rides in the park (one of the few places locally to do so). These are well organized (check-ins, markings on bridges, trail watch, etc.) and the staff is very enthusiastic. Check the Open Space Authority web site under "Activities" for night ride schedules. If you see one of the rangers out and about, please stop and thank them for their support.

Summary This park was beautiful, especially in the spring when everything is green and the wildflowers are in bloom. There are very few people on trails, so it is very calm and peaceful. Some of the climbs are much more difficult in the summer (especially Catamount). It is a fairly short ride, but no one in our group suggested that we should do another loop. The trails are not very technical, so this park is more for a quick ride when you want to get some climbing in. It is a lot of fun to come here for a legal night ride.

Directions To get to Canada del Oro, take Highway 101 south from San Jose to the Bailey Road exit and turn right (west). Follow Bailey to the end and then turn left on McKean Road and then turn right on Casa Loma Road. This turn is signed on McKean. If you pass the "Start Uvas Road" sign, you have just missed the turn.

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