Hilly East Bay Ramble

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

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I’m on a solo ride today; Michael has been called upon to perform his civic duty for Contra Costa County. He’s getting paid a whopping $15 a day for every day served-now that’s retirement money!

Today is all about doing hills and the East Bay has plenty of them around!  This route ascends Pig Farm Hill-both sides, Mama Bear-both sides, Happy Valley-both sides, El Toyonal, Alta Vista, Lomas Contadas, Skyline, Manzanita, Pinehurst and Donald Dr to Mulholland Ridge. The reward for every up hill is the fabulous descents that lead up to the next climb!

I leave the park via the standard route over Hwy 4 from Arnold Dr to Glacier, Center and Morello Ave for the drop down to Alhambra Ave on Vine Hill Way.

The flat to rolling terrain on Alhambra Valley Rd takes me to the first climb up the east side of Pig Farm Hill; it’s a half mile climb with 6-8.5% grades.

The fast descent sweeps down through the valley for the turn onto Bear Creek Rd for the next climb up Mama Bear; it’s 0.7 mile with a steady 7% grade followed by two small humps before the drop down towards Briones Park.

Happy Valley Rd winds up on a narrow road up to the summit at 1013′ between the cities of Orinda and Lafayette; it’s a short steep 0.8 mile climb with an average grade of 9% and several pitches of 11-12% grades. I descend Happy Valley Rd to Sundown Terrace; this road leads down to the residential neighborhoods around Sleepy Hollow on Dalewood and Lombardy Ln to the Orinda Golf Course on Miner Rd.

From Camino Pablo, I take the right hand turn onto El Toyonal; this winding road goes up through the hilly neighborhoods of west Orinda for 1.6 miles with an average grade of 9.2% and steeper sections of 10-13%.

From El Toyonal, I like to take Alta Vista Rd up to Lomas Contadas; it’s a short 0.4 mile steep climb on a narrow single lane road that is not open to through traffic-the average grade is 11%.

The climb up Lomas Contadas from Alta Vista to the summit is 0.6 mile with an average grade of 11.5%. The road eases up a bit when you reach Grizzly Peak Stables and levels as you near Grizzly Peak at the county line.

I descend Grizzly Peak Blvd to cross Fish Ranch/Claremont and continue straight for the short climb up to the ridge. Take the time to stop and admire the spectacular views of the cities below, SF Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge!



I stay on Skyline Blvd at the end of Grizzly Peak and make my way to the next climb up the west side of Manzanita Dr; it’s a 1.1 mile stretch of road that parallel Skyline Blvd. The first 350 yards is steep with grades of 11-15% followed by rolling terrain up to the drop back down to Skyline Blvd.

Skyline Blvd rolls through the residential neighborhoods of the Oakland Hills and cuts through the redwoods to the summit near the entrance to Roberts Park. I descend Skyline to Joaquin Miller Rd and hang a left to stay on Skyline to Redwood Rd.

The sweeping descent on Redwood Rd takes you down through the redwoods on very smooth pavement with minimal to no traffic-no braking is required all the way to Pinehurst Rd.

Pinehurst Rd south is a 1.3 mile climb with 4-5% grades followed by a steep section with 9-10% grades up to the summit at Pinehurst Gate. The twisty narrow downhill on Pinehurst takes me to the intersection at Canyon Rd.

I take Canyon Rd into the town of Moraga and continue on Moraga Rd to Donald Dr for the climb up Mulholland Ridge. The climb up to the ridge begins with easy grades of 3-5%, after crossing the gate, the road tilts up dramatically!

This stair step climb begins with steep grades of 13-18% at the first right hand bend, the road levels out in the middle with gorgeous views of Mt Diablo and the surrounding cities and hills.


Dogs are allowed to run off leash, so it’s best to call out ahead of time or ring a bell if you have one. The climb up to the water tower has steep grades of 14-15%, you’re at the top once you cross the gate over to the other side.




This is my lunch stop-I sit for a short period to take in the magnificent views before heading down onto Orinda, It’s actually very cool and breezy up here, I can’t sit too long!


As you exit Mulholland Ridge, watch for the large giraffe, grasshopper, caterpillars and other animal art in front of a house on the left hand side of the ride. It’s very easy to miss as you’re descending!


I take Alice Ln and Zander Dr to Rheem Blvd and continue north on Glorietta Blvd through the residential neighborhoods to Acalanes and Mt Diablo Rd into Lafayette. Watch for cars on the turn onto Happy Valley Rd; this is a high traffic area through a busy shopping center.

The first couple of miles up Happy Valley Rd are pretty pleasant with gentle grades of 3-5%, you can get easily distracted by looking around at all the large estates homes in the area. The steep section begins at the first left hand switchback; it’s a half mile climb with an average grade of 12% up to the summit. The descent down to Bear Creek Rd is pretty bumpy; it improves greatly as you exit the wooded area.

Now I’m going up the back side of Mama Bear along the two humps for the fast downhill on Bear Creek Rd. Watch for turkeys-I rolled up on about 20 young ones crossing the road!

On Bear Creek Rd, there’s a large sign advertising a week-end fruit and produce stand pointing in the direction of Hampton Rd, so I turn onto Hampton Rd to check it out. This nicely paved single lane road goes through a farm and open field with a large pack of German Shepherds. It continues pass a large horse training facility, a couple of ranches and a few farmhouses with free-range chicken. The road comes to a dead-end at EBMUDs’ Hampton Trailhead-0.9 mile from Bear Creek Rd.

I turn around and return on Bear Creek Rd to Alhambra Valley Rd for the climb up west Pig Farm Hill. This area has a hillside vineyard with some olive trees and a menagerie of animals including some ostriches. There are a couple of ranches out here and lots of grazing cattle.

The half mile climb up Pig Farm is steep with gradient ranges of 13-16% with a short break in between. The reward for this arduous climb is the fast sweeping descent along the other side of the valley!

From Alhambra Valley Rd, I take Alhambra Rd to Alhambra Way for the short climb up Muir Station Rd. I return to the park from Glacier Dr and Midhill Rd to Fig Tree Ln.

I had a great ride roaming around the East Bay hills and even got to check out Hampton Rd-I’ll have to remember to make the detour on a week-end to check out this local farm stand! All these roads are just waiting for us to come out and play-sooner than later!

Garmin Stats:
67.30 Miles with 7244′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1639′
Max grade: 18%

Weather: Fine-cloudy overcast skies in the Berkeley/Oakland Hills, breezy with cool temps. On the Contra Costa side, sunny with a warm breeze. Temps ranged from the high 40’s to the low 70’s

In between goals is a thing called life that has to be lived and enjoyed.


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