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New Trail - Sanborn

It isn't often that we have a chance to explore a new trail, so when Sanborn County Park opened some new trails to bikes we knew that we had to give it a try. It was worth the effort.

We decided this would be a ride only day with no driving involved. We started out riding up Pierce Road as a warmup exercise. This wasn't too bad, but it develops a bit of a grade (14%) before topping out at the Mountain Winery. This ensured that our legs were properly warmed up for the climbing ahead.

We rode up a short section of Highway 9 before turning onto Sanborn Road. The climbing got a bit tougher here, with peak grades of 22%, 30% and 28% as we slowly climbed up to and past the park entrance. A bit more road riding brought us to the Lake Ranch trailhead. This trail is about half a mile long fireroad but it is pretty steep with grades in the 15%-32% range. It was a grunt to get to the lake at the top.

Lake Ranch is normally pretty small but it was miniscule and bordering on nonexistent when we were there due to the California drought. After a brief pause to assist another rider that had punctured, we explored the southeastern part of John Nicholas trail. This was a fireroad through a pretty section of forest out to Black Mountain Road. This section was essentially flat and would be a good place for beginners to explore (we also saw some families that had done this). We did an out-and-back to end up at the lake again.

The John Nicholas climb starts at the lake. The trail is a recently built double track and the trail is solid and in great shape. The lower part of the trail zigs and zags its way up, crossing a small creek bed on nicely constructed bridges in several places. The grade seemed pretty moderate and it was very pretty with lots of autumn leaves, making this a very nice section of trail. The trail kept climbing with a moderate average grade but there were sections that were a mild grade that allowed me to catch my breadth a bit before resuming the climb. The trail continues winding its way through the forest up to the top at about 3,000 feet and slightly above Skyline.

We explored a bit of Skyline Trail before deciding to call it a day, leaving this for another ride. There had been plenty of climbing and few breaks and I was feeling it a bit. We were also getting a bit chilly since we were riding in summer geat.I later checked the temperature and discovered it was 44 degrees at that point.

We threw on arm warmers or a jacket and then headed back the way we had come for a very nice descent that made the long climb worthwhile. The zig zags made the ride interesting while keeping the speed down in the interest of the hikers on the trail. Generally, the sight lines along the trail are quite good and we never had a problem.

The ride down Sanborn Road was fast and fun. According to my GPS, I hit 46.9 MPH on the way down.  I was moving pretty fast!

An alternative route starts from the Saratoga Gap parking lot at the junction of Highway 9 and Highway 35. The trailhead is at the southeast corner of the parking lot (near the entrance). It starts out with a doubletracke climb of a net 400 feet that in reality is at least double that due to some steep ups and downs in between. The ups and downs don't stop at the top, but the net climb does. As your legs will tell you, net climb does not matter at all and only the accumulated climb matters. The trail runs roughly parallel to Highway 35 to the junction with the top of John Nicholas trail. From there, you can head down John Nicholas or head back to the starting point. There is a loop at down to Summit Rock (not yet explored) and a small loop down to Indian Rock and back to the top of one end of the Summit Rock loop which is short but nice.

Lake Ranch and the southeastern part of John Nicholas trails were established fire roads that probably should have been open to bike a long time ago. The John Nicholas trail is a new and very welcome addition to the trails open to bike riders. Santa Clara County Parks has put a lot of hard work into building this trail in the forest. They have done a very nice job on stone work for culverts and embankments and wooden bridges. The trail blends nicely into the forest. They have done a good job on establishing moderate grades to make the trails accessible and ridable to a large number of riders and hikers rather than just the hard core extremists. This is a great resource for the county residents. A huge "Thank You" goes out to the Santa Clara County Parks system for building the great trail and recognizing the legitimacy of mountain biking as a popular recreational activity.

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