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Stevens Canyon Trail

We have ridden the Stevens Canyon Trail many times with a variety of start, end, and diversion points. This is one of our most frequent rides. The trail runs parallel to Steven Creek, which basically lies along the San Andreas fault line. This is a great ride, though the steady climb is difficult for beginners.

Park: Stevens Canyon Trail
Date: Lots of times
Distance: About 20 (9.0 to 29.2 miles)
Ride Time: 1:00 to 2:21 hours
Total Ascent: About 3,878 feet
Map: Detailed Stevens Creek trail map
  Detailed Monte Bello trail map
Overall Rating: 7

The lower end of the trail is located at the end of Stevens Canyon Road at a gate that blocks car traffic. There is no parking here, so you have to park near Redwood Gulch or at the other end of Stevens Canyon Road at the intersection with Mt. Eden Road. Of course, you could just ride there.

The lower end of the Stevens Canyon Trail starts with a paved road that crosses a bridge (unnecessary...the old stream crossing was more fun) over the creek, after which the road turns into a dirt road. A little farther on the trail becomes a single track. After an easy creek crossing, the trail becomes singletrack in earnest as it starts a short climb. After crossing a gully (Table Mountain junction) and technically entering Palo Alto, the path becomes a fire road again. There is a steep but short uphill climb to a wide spot that is the junction with the Grizzly Flat Trail. This is a good spot to rest if you are tired and there is a short but steep hill to make sure you are tired. The fire road continues through the forest and meadows until it reaches the junction with Indian Creek Trail.

Indian Creek is actually a fire road that climbs to the top of Black Mountain. The emphasis here is on climbing and not much else. I think the average grade through this section is about 15%. This is doable, but the going is slow. As there is no shade, be cautious if your first attempt is made on a hot day. There is a small backpacker's camp at the top of Indian Creek. You should got a little farther to the summit (near the microwave towers) and get views of the urban Bay Area on one side and the forest and a glimpse of the Pacific on the other side.

The best route down is the Belle Vista Trail. Go past the backpacking camp and take the first single track on the left. This is a nice singletrack that heads back down to the Stevens Canyon Trail. This is not too technical, but it is a fun ride. This trail is frequented by hikers, so keep your eyes open for them. There is also quite a bit of wildlife to be seen from this trail, so look for the animals too (I got pictures of a coyote stalking and leaping). Alternatives are to take old Montebello Road north to Page Mill Road or south, where there is another gate about 2 miles further. The paved Montebello Road ends at the gate. Just a way down the paved part is a loop-back trail called Wagon Wheel that will lead you back into the park near the summit.

At the bottom of the Belle Vista Trail, a right turn will take you to Page Mill Road, Alpine Road, and a variety of other open spaces along Skyline Road. Turning left starts you back to the Indian Creek Trail junction. If you follow Stevens Canyon Trail up to Page Mill Road, there is a trail that runs parallel to Page Mill, through the Montebello parking lot, to the top of White Oak Trail. This is a nice ride down. There is a junction in the middle of White Oak where you can turn right to get up to Skyline (this is known as Skid Road) and the other open spaces, or stay on White Oak (left) to continue down a nice forested trail and back up to the Stevens Canyon Trail between Indian Creek and Bella Vista.

Going up Table Mountain is a nice single track climb that branches off of the Stevens Canyon Trail at small gully near the Palo Alto boundary. It is pretty trail switching back and forth up the mountainside, but there it is a sustained climb. I don't know if it the horses, but there seem to be a lot of flies on this trail. They seem to swarm just when you are breathing your hardest. There is a clearing at the top of Table Mountain that forms the junction with Charcoal Road. This a fire road that climbs, climbs some more and then get steep. I don't find it too much fun, but it is the only way to the top once you are there. Unfortunately, Table Mountain and Charcoal Road are uphill-only for bikes. The top of Charcoal Road connects into the middle of the Saratoga Gap trail.

Other trails connecting into the Stevens Canyon Trail include Grizzly Flat (to Long Ridge OSP), and White Oak. The end of the Stevens Canyon Trail (at Page Mill Road) is very close to Alpine Road, Skyline OSP, Coal Creek OSP and Russian Ridge OSP. Skid Road ends at Highway 35 directly across from the Skyline OSP.

An alternative route to the summit is to ascend Montebello Road from Stevens Creek Reservoir. This is a road climb that is pretty much a continuous uphill climb. This is good as a training ride when it has rained too much for responsible riders to venture out onto the trails. Much of the climb is exposed so this can be quite a bit more challenging in the heat of the summer. At the top (near the Ridge Winery), there is a gate that marks the start of the OSP. Go through (around, actually) the gate and on up to the summit. The best descent is down Belle Vista and Stevens Canyon Trail or you can return back down Montebello Road. For a diversion, you can try Wagonwheel Trail that starts from the paved road, loops around a hillside and returns to the fire road inside the OSP a bit before the final climb to the summit.

I really like the Stevens Canyon Trail. There is a variety of forest and meadows, most of it is shaded, the singletrack is gorgeous, and there are some interesting animals (deer, rabbits, newts, coyotes, hawks, snakes, bobcat, etc.) to be seen. However, the trail can get pretty crowded on weekends (especially later in the day). As always, good manners on the trail are appreciated by all. Be warned that rangers with radar guns have been known to lurk on the trail (especially near the pond)!

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