The Ultimate Sunday Bike Ride: China Camp State Park
Today’s ride takes us off the pavement and onto the dirt to China Camp State Park in Marin County, located along the Southwestern edge of San Pablo Bay. The park and its extensive trail system offer sweeping views to the North across the water to nearby Mt. Burdell and the shores of Sonoma County and on a clear day, Mt. Saint Helena can be seen rising high above Napa. We’ll ride one of the sweetest four miles of single track the North Bay has to offer: The Shoreline Trail.
Reaching the park is fairly easy. From the East Bay, go across the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge on Hwy. 580, merge north on Hwy. 101, and take the San Pedro Rd. exit at the crest of the road cut after crossing downtown San Rafael. From San Francisco, the exit is 16 miles past the Golden Gate Bridge. After exiting, head East, passing the beautiful and impressive Frank Lloyd Wright designed Marin Civic Center (where you’ll find one of the Bay Area’s oldest Farmer’s Markets on Thursday and Sunday mornings). Make your way about three miles to the official park entrance (there is a fee to park). Just past the entrance booth, you’ll find the beginnings of the trail, as it begins to meander in and out of the small ravines that cleave the bay facing the side of the ridge. You’ll pass a number of individual and group camp sites, as well as many inviting opportunities to expand this ride with some challenging climbs to the higher reaches.
It’s an unusual state park in that almost all the trails are legally open to cyclists; therefore the trail can be busy on weekends. Be wary of oncoming traffic–especially hikers–and if you’re interested in riding a faster pace, come early in the morning or during the week. While the trail can be technical in places, it’s possible to ride this trail in either direction without dabbing (putting a foot down). There are a number of great picnicking sites located off the main road for an after ride feast–you can check them out from the trail to ID your prime spot.