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Harvey Bear/Coyote Lake

Harvey Bear is a little known county park in San Martin.  It is up against the foothills.  Up and over the hills gets you to Coyote Lake, another county park.  The park is not huge, but is possible to plot a course that covers all of the trails.  Harvey Bear has also been the location of some mountain bike races that have categories for everyone and are not super crowded.

Park: Harvey Bear, San Martin, CA
Date: Multiple
Distance: 22.7 miles
Ride Time: 2:40
Total Ascent: 3,330 feet
Map: Detailed trail map
Overall Rating: 6

Based on a suggestion from "Roy" in my guestbook, I decided to explore Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch County Park in San Martin. This 4,595 acre park includes Coyote Lake and several former ranches. With a little bit of pre-ride planning, it is possible to ride all of the trails in the park. I'll describe one such route, but some new trails (2012) need to be added to the route.

Start in the main Harvey Bear parking lot off of San Martin Avenue (head east from the San Martin Ave exit off Highway 101). Head straight for the hills and avoid the flat paved paths near the parking lot. Go straight through the first cattle gate (not the one to the left...it is a dead end) and start ascending.

Since I wanted to ride all of the trails, I tried to map out a route that got to all of them. This meant taking the first left onto Harvey Bear Trail. This trail and the following trails are fairly wide (fire road width), well groomed trails that seem to be targeted for equestrians. The terrain is generally hilly grasslands, but the slopes are generally moderate. Harvey Bear Trail ascends the hill, but takes a comfortable, roundabout route rather than a direct assault on the hill. I passed the first junction and headed to Coyote Ridge Trail (it seems like many of the parks around here have a "Coyote Ridge Trail", so why should this park be different?). This trail continued the climb up to the ridge line. At the top and just to the side of the trail there is a great view down to Coyote Lake and the next ridge over. In springtime, there is a large field of bright gold wildflowers and blankets a good part of the hillside. This is definitely worth checking out. I continued riding along Coyote Ridge, following the contours of the ridge line. To make it easier to ride all of the trails, I passed the first trail junction and rode on to the junction with Rancho San Ysidro Trail. I turned around here and rode back up to the previous junction and turned left onto Willow Springs Trail.

After a short downhill ride, turn right onto Townsprings Trail (the first trail on the right). This trail is narrower than the others (wide single track) through taller grass and weeds as it ascends back up to Harvey Bear Trail. This is a gentle uphill climb and there are often cows grazing here.

At the top, take a right on Harvey Bear Trail and go back up the hill and passing the junction with Coyote Ridge (previously turned right here) takes you up and over the crest of the ridge.

The Ed Willson trail was opened in April 2012. This trail is the left side junction just past the ridge crest on Harvey Bear Trail. Ed Willson is a loop that climbs to the top of the northernmost hill and then descends on a very pretty wide singletrack back down to Harvey Bear trail. Several sections on the new descent are covered with loose gravel, so you have to watch your speed through some sections. Since I rode this trail it has been marked to prohibit bikes and equestrians. However, I have heard a rumor that this may change soon (as of 2013) due to lack of use by hikers.

If you don't try Ed Willson, you can stay on Harvey Bear Trail. Once over the crest, you descend toward the lake. There is a short spur down to the dam and a parking lot which is a worthwhile excursion since this gives you a water-level view of the lake. There is a variety of water fowl around the lake.

After going through another gate, you are on Calaveras Trail. This is a narrower trail (only by comparison to the other road-width trails) that runs parallel and above the lake's shore. Rather than grass lands, this is a mixture of oak forest and grass. I have seen lots of animals on the trail, including a good size herd of wild pigs, wild turkeys in several places, red-winged blackbirds, quail, and assorted other animals. The trail is basically flat and follows the contour of the hillside, making this a very enjoyable ride. At one point, the trail goes through the field of wildflowers that are visible from above on Coyote Ridge. This was pretty spectacular in the springtime as the whole open hillside was densely covered with these flowers, so this is a good spot to take some pictures in the spring. Continueing on this trail and through another gate takes you to Valley Oak Trail, continuing to follow the same hillside contour. This section seemed a bit more wooded but was still beautiful.

Turn right at the next trail junction onto Campground Trail and right a short way up the hillside, returning to Coyote Ridge Trail, where you turnleft and go through yet another gate. A short way beyond this gate is another junction. Since the remainder of the current trails form a loop, I decided to turn right onto Mendoza Trail. This trail works its way around and up the hill, providing a good view of the valley below and some "McMansions" near the hill. This trail can have the roughest surface of any trail in the park as it had been roughed up by some horses while it was still wet and had dried with lots of hoof prints baked into the dirt. Mendoza can be ridden as a loop starting on the north end near the gate at the top of Campground Trail (previously described) or from the south end of Coyote Ridge.

 

On a May 2, 2010 ride I was surprised to find a brand new trail now known as Mummy Mountain Trail just a third of a mile up Mendoza from the Coyote Ridge junction. The trail was brand new with freshly turned dirt and a brand new signpost. This new trail was quite a bit of fun, rolling along the oak-covered hillside before heading up to the top and then dropping down near the gate at the top of Campground. Other than a stone staircase and a tight switchback near the bottom, this trail was not too technical. It offers some nice views of the lake from the top. This was definitely a big improvement over the fireroad climb up Mendoza. Unfortunately, this trail has now been restricted to hikers only. Either way you go, it is a loop so you end up back at the gate near the Campground junction.

From the Campground/Coyote Ridge junction, so it was time to head back. I rode Coyote Ridge Trail along the ridge line, passing the Campground and Calaveras junctions up to the junction with the Rancho San Ysidro Trail. Turned left on Rancho San Ysidro Trail and started descending. This was a pretty nice ride, but is steep and gravelly in a few sections so keep your eyes open. Take a left turn onto Savannah trail. It winds around the hillside towards the western edge of the park with a slight downhill until you get to a small bridge over a gully after which it starts ascending at an easy rate. This eventually takes you back to the Rancho San Ysidro Trail and then to a junction with Willow Springs Trail. Turning left at this junction staying on this trail takes you back to the main parking lot to complete the trip.

The new Gaviota trail (2012) has been completed and provides an alternate route from Coyote Ridge (near the Campground junction) to Rancho San Ysidro. This is a really nice singletrack that gently winds down the hillside through grass and oak trees. I think this is one of the better trails at Harvey Bear and I definitely recommend this route back over Coyote Ridge unless you really want to ride the steep downhill section at the top of Rancho San Ysidro.

Head down Willow Springs to get back to the starting point.

Of course, you could enter the park using the Coyote Lake entrance and park in one of the paved parking lots or use the Mendoza Ranch entrance. I haven't tried starting from here, but it would just start the loop in a different place. The Coyote Lake area would be a better start/end point if you are bringing non-riding family or friends or if you bring small children or beginners for a ride since you could stay on the lake side and avoid a lot of the climbing on the Harvey Bear side.

Harvey Bear/Coyote Lake is a nice ride. It was a bit short on technical challenge as most of the trails were too wide and over-groomed for hard core mountain biking, but it still makes for a good ride to get in some miles and ascent without a gut-wrenching climb. In fact, the more times I ride here the more I like it as an example of classic California cross country riding. The combination Calaveras and Valley Oak trails was a great ride and it seems like it would be a great place to take a beginner for their first ride. For a bit stronger rider, check out Gaviota Trail. Harvey Bear is very pretty in the spring when the air is cool, the grass is green and the wildflowers are in bloom, but it can get pretty warm out there in the middle of summer.

I have discovered that the trails here can get a bit chewed up in the rainy season due to cattle (grazing) and horse (riding). The impact seems greatest on some sections of Calaveras and Valley Oak, but I also noticed some effects on Townspring.

For a description of the race I did at Harvey Bear, see the race's ride report. This was a lot of fun and I thought it was a good course (based on my sample size of 1 race).

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