Friday, August 7, 2015
This route does a counter-clockwise run around the classic “Bears Loop” on Alhambra Valley Rd, Castro Ranch, San Pablo Dam Rd and Bear Creek Rd. It also includes a climb up the east and west side of Pig Farm Hill.
Exit Holiday Highlands Park to Arnold, Glacier and Vine Hill Way to Alhambra Ave. The flat-rolling terrain on Alhambra Valley Rd leads to the junction at Reliez Valley Rd.
Alhambra Valley Rd continues west on flat terrain through a small residential community with front yard vineyards, orchards, and acreage homes.
After passing Deer Creek Dr, the two lane road narrows as it continues through the wooded canyon for the next couple of miles; the rolling climbs leads up to the base of east Pig Farm Hill.
The climb up east Pig Farm Hill begins at the orange left turn sign; the half mile stretch up to the summit has gradient ranges of 7-8% followed by a fast descent into the valley.
Alhambra Valley Rd continues west through the valley for another 2.8 miles on gentle flat rolling terrain.
Continue west on Castro Ranch Rd; this road climbs up towards Sobrante Ridge for half a mile with an average grade of 6%. It cuts through the Carriage Hills residential subdivisions along El Sobrante Hills before dropping down to San Pablo Dam Rd.
Great Alhambra Valley view:
Head south on San Pablo Dam Rd for the next 5.4 miles; it sits below San Pablo Ridge and runs along the west edge of San Pablo Reservoir. The climb up to the summit near the reservoir entrance is 1.1 mile with an average grade of 4.7%.
At the summit, the road eases up and continues on gentle rolling terrain to the south end entrance into the reservoir. There is a short steep pitch leading up to the traffic signal at Bear Creek Rd/Wildcat Canyon Rd.
Bear Creek Rd stretches 8.4 miles around Briones Reservoir from Orinda to the opposite end at Briones. The road drops down Baby Bear to the bridge crossing over San Pablo Creek. The climb up the backside of Papa Bear aka “Pumphouse Hill” begins near Bear Creek Trail; it’s 0.7 mile with 7-9% grades up to the Briones Staging Area.
The road continues to wind up around Black Hills with gradient ranges of 6-8% followed by a short descent and a 0.3 mile 5-7% climb up to the summit of Papa Bear.
The sling shot descent takes me down along the flats through Briones Valley.
Bear Creek Rd kicks up for the series of small climbs and descents over the backside of Mama Bear along Briones Hills. It’s 1.5 miles with gradient ranges of 5-9% to the summit.
Mama Bear descends Lawson Hill through a horse ranching community and the Gan Shalom Cemetery to Alhambra Valley Rd.
Alhambra Valley Rd east begins with a gentle climb up along the vineyard to the olive grove and animal farm.
The road continues through the valley and ranch lands of JMB ranch to the base of the Pig Farm Hill. The climb up west Pig Farm Hill begins around the bend at JBL Ranch; it’s a steep half mile climb with grades of 13-15%!
Alhambra Valley Rd descends 3.5 miles through the canyon to the valley out to junction at Reliez Valley Rd.
Continue on Alhambra Ave to Vine Hill Way; it’s a short 0.2 mile climb with an average grade of 7.4%. Return on Center and Glacier Dr for the drop down Arnold Dr to Fig Tree Ln.
Riding this counter-clockwise loop is a great alternative to the classic clock wise loop around the Bears with the added climbs up Pig Farm Hill. It’s good to switch things up once in a while-get out and try it!
38.05 Miles with 3176′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 911′
Max grade: 15%
Terrain: Hilly with steep climbs
Weather: Sunny and warmwith temps ranging from the mid 60’s to the low 80’s with breezy SW winds
Follow this route for today’s ride: