Palomares, Calaveras, Sierra Loop

Saturday, July 23, 2011

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Today, Michael and I start out in Castro Valley to do a loop around Palomares, Calaveras and Sierra Rds. We begin on Palo Verde Rdand head south on Palomares for the next 9.7 miles on a very peaceful country road. The ride through the valley takes us pass secluded ranch style homes, white picket fences, orchards and horse ranches.

The rolling terrain on Palomares starts off quite gently with gradients ranging from 2-4%. This goes on for a few miles until you reach the steepest section of the road at mile marker 4.05. The gradient quickly increases to 5% and kicks up to a steady 7-8%. There are a few pitches that hit 9-11% as you reach mile marker 4.74. Once you approach the yellow right arrow sign, the gradient maxes out at 12% and you’re at the summit!

The fun and fast 4.5+ miles descent on the back side takes us pass several wineries and vineyards along Stonybrook Canyon. Watch your speed and watch for gravel; the final right hand turn comes to a fast halt at the stop sign.

We take a left onto Niles Canyon Rd/Hwy 84 and head east for the next 4 miles into the town of Sunol. You must be on high alert as you ride along Niles Canyon; you’re sharing long sections of road with very fast-moving traffic with no shoulder area.

We take the Sunol exit and make a pit stop at the train depot. Water is available at the community park off Main St. You can also purchase cold drinks and snacks at the Sunol Market.

Staying on Main St gets us back onto Hwy 84/Paloma Rd towards our next climb. Paloma becomes Calaveras Rd after crossing under the 680 freeway. The road starts off relatively flat with a slight incline of about 2%. The rolling terrain that follows is quite fun as we ride pass several nurseries and an aggregate company.

The 3 mile climb up Calaveras starts after you cross Welch Creek Rd. The average grade up to the false summit is 3.3%.

The climb up to the next summit begins with a half-mile descent which is then followed by a series of rollers. There’s nothing too steep as you weave your way in and out of the canopy of trees. Take the time to look around; you get some great views of the reservoir and its surrounding area. You can see the huge empty Bald Eagle nest atop of the transmission tower. We saw some nestlings up there during the spring of 2010. It’s quite the sight to see!

The drop down the “Calavares Wall” takes us to the intersection with Felter Rd. We hang a right to continue on Calaveras Rd and make a brief stop at the Ed Levin County Park which is on the left hand side of the road. Restrooms and water are available. We exit the park and make a left to stay on Calaveras Rd towards Milpitas. It’s a very fast sweeping 1.5 mile descent to our next left turn on Piedmont Rd. We head south on Piedmont for our next climb on Sierra Rd.

Sierra Rd is 3.6 miles long with an average grade of 10% and over 1800′ of elevation gain. The initial climb from Piedmont Rd stair steps to the top of a residential neighborhood in Milpitas. The gradient ranges from 12-14%, once you make that first left turn along the white picket fence, the gradient eases up a bit. Catch your breath because the next switchback will have you getting out of the saddle for the 16-18% grade! The climbing continues into the double digits as you proceed to go up and up. The gradient eases up a bit when you see the sign for Nola’s Iris Garden. Keep going, after the next left turn, the grade is going to be a steady 10% with a few pitches of 11-12% thrown in.

Coming up here during the summer can be brutal; this road has significant sun exposure and the temps can get well into the high 90’s to the 100’s! It’s pretty hot today, the current temp shows 95F!  Do take a moment to check out the amazing views of Silicon Valley and beyond. It’s well worth the climb!

The descent from the top continues on a twisty, rolling, narrow road and becomes Felter Rd. The views from the back side are just great!


The fast descent on Felter takes us back to Calaveras Rd. It’s really easy to miss; you need to slow down a bit when you see the intersection sign and shift to your lower gears before the turn. It’s an immediate quarter-mile climb of 13-15% back up “the wall”.

The next 7 miles on Calaveras is really fun; it’s a series of twisty turns on descending rollers that takes us in and out and around the reservoir. The only climb is back up to the false summit and then it’s a fast 3 miles descent down towards Welch Creek Rd. We’re both out of water so we decide to take a detour to the Sunol Regional Wilderness Visitors Center on Geary Rd to fill up our bottles and C-bak. The water fountains do not work; the rangers have set up Alhambra water bottles on an old wooden cart for easy dispensing. You can also buy ice cream and fruit bars, cold juices and water inside the Visitors Center. Restrooms are also available at the far end of the parking lot.

We head back on Calaveras Rd to Hwy 84 and make another quick stop at the Sunol Market for a cold bottle of Coke. The HFCS and caffeine will help get us back to Castro Valley. We cross the RR tracks and continue on Foothill Rd for the next 8+ miles towards Pleasanton. Foothill takes us through nice residential neighborhoods with swimming pools and golf courses. There are several sections of road along here that have recently been chip sealed. Be aware and be careful.

The last little climb of the day is on Dublin Canyon Rd/Dublin Grade. Of course, there has to be headwinds too! The average gradient here is 4-5% and the actual climb itself is not too long; less than 2 miles. The descent takes us back to Palo Verde with the van awaiting our return.

79 miles with 6194′ of elevation gain

Weather: Fabulous and HOT! Sunny blue skies with afternoon winds. Temps ranging from the mid 70’s to mid 90’s

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>RIDE ON!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

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