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Ft. Ord

The Fort Ord Public Lands is a great place to rith with open hills and some oak forests. While the maximum elevation is not that high (around 900 feet), almost any route you ride with result in several ups and downs that really build the total ascent.  Ft. Ord is also home to the annual Sea Otter Classic, the largest biking event in North America.

Park: Ft. Ord - Sea Otter MTB Tour Course
Date: Multiple
Distance: 18 miles
Ride Time: 2:30
Total Ascent: 2.500 feet
Map: Detailed trail map
Overall Rating: 8


This land was once part of Fort Ord and was the home of the 7th Light Infantry, but the base was closed many years ago. The area is now administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While there are lots of trails here (and we have only ridden a fraction of them), there many parts of former base are still closed due to the possibility of live ordinance or chemical contamination (some areas are a Superfund site due to some of the solvents used by the Army).

It seems that we usually go to Fort Ord in the spring a few weeks before the annual Sea Otter Classic. This event is the biggest bike event in the US (reportedly the second largest in the world after the Tour de France) and is held at Ft. Ord around the Laguna Seca race track in Monterey, CA. We usually go there with someone who wants to scout the trail before the Sea Otter's cross country race.

Riding Fort Ord in the spring is a real treat. The weather has usually (but not always) dried out and and the temperatures are moderate. All of the grasses are green and the trees and wildflowers are in bloom. Everything is lush and beautiful. The trails have usually dried out but are not yet dusty and the rain ruts in the trails are still fresh.

Since there are so many trails, the Sea Otter cross country course changes from year to year. Rather than describe a course, I will mention some of the more interesting trails:

  • Trail 47: Ridden south to north allows you to have a very pretty, very fast downhill ride through the open grasslands. You will pay for this at "Hurl Hill", a short but steep section leading up to the Guidotti Road junction.
  • Trail 82: Ridden south to north is a nice downhill ending with a very pretty single track.
  • Lookout Ridge Road: Ridden south to north has a short but fairly steep climb in one section. What makes this challenging is that it is pretty deep sand. I have seen others ride up it, but I didn't.
  • Trail 60: Ridden north to south would be a nice downhill except for the sand. Deep sand. All the way down. Sand so deep that a minor steering correction can result in a "decelleration event". It is doable but tricky.
  • Trail 41: Nice trail with a bit of variety.

On a previous ride here, we met Steven Seaweed, a DJ at 107.7 The Bone. He has done a lot of riding in the local area. We enjoyed his company and appreciated him guiding us around the area since it was our first time there.

I think there is quite a bit more to explore in this area, so we will have to go back a few more times.

I suspect that this area is pretty hot in the summer due to lack of shade on many parts and no water. Be forewarned if you are thinking of a summer ride.

You can get to Fort Ord from San Jose either via Santa Cruz (Highway 17 and south on Highway 1) or by going south on Highway 101. Either way, take the Highway 68 exit. We usually follow the signs to the Laguna Seca recreation area, driving up the hill, turning right just past the guard station and parking in the dirt lot overlooking the raceway. Parking cost $6 (I don't remember what it is now) it even if there is no one at the guard station as they do patrol and ticket.

By the way, the start/end points of our rides are at the famous Laguna Seca Racetrack. You might want to check if there is a race planned for the day you are going because parking may be difficult. On many non-race days, the Skip Barber Driving and Racing School may be conducting classes on the track. This is fun to watch. Either way, you won't be able to get your bike on the track unless you go to the Sea Otter.

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