Unlike the shorter Lake Chabot loop, which is mostly about the busy lakeshore, the bicycle loop mostly runs through the quiet, wooded interior of the park, with a bit of lakeshore at the beginning and end. It’s a much different loop but just as enjoyable in its own way.
The bicycle loop is pretty easy for its length; there are a few small hills and one big steep descent, but otherwise the loop is on wide, well-maintained dirt and paved roads with gentle gradients. It can of course be ridden on a bike, but it also makes a great day hike.
The loop is officially designated and marked with signs, but a lot of the signs are a little small to read from a bike and in a few spots they’re missing.
The official length of the bike loop is 12.42 miles, but I’m saying it’s about 10% shorter, 11.1 miles. Some of this difference might arise because official trail lengths are usually measured at the center of the trail or road, while I tend to take a shorter line around turns. Also, EBRPD’s trail lengths were measured with a surveying wheel, which might over-estimate distances since it goes over every little bump, while I use a GPS, which can under-estimate distances because it only records a point every 50 feet or so and cuts the corners off turns. So the actual distance is probably somewhere between the two measurements.
The loop can be started from any of three parking lots. For this description we’ll start from the Lake Chabot Marina. It costs $5 to park here, but given the frequent car break-ins in this region, it seems worthwhile to pay a little to park in the area with the most people around.
An alternative (by some accounts more popular than the official loop) is to start from the Redwood Canyon Golf Course, then take the Ten Hills Trail along the southern edge of the park to the marina. To return, just stay on the Brandon Trail all the way to the golf course. There are two advantages to this loop: the golf course parking lot is free, and it avoids the steep descent on the Live Oak Trail. But it adds about a mile and is a lot less scenic.
Start from the Marina and take the West Shore Trail past the snack bar. The very popular trail winds alongside the lake with its fishing boats and honking geese.
Shortly after passing over the dam, the paved trail climbs to an intersection with the Bass Cove Trail. Turn right onto this dirt road. The road starts to feel quieter and woodsier and the number of people on the trail drops off a lot as soon as you leave the pavement. There are still some great lake views.
Stay to the left to take the Goldenrod Trail, which climbs away from the lake. After passing through some eucalyptus grove the trail climbs through open meadows. This trail runs along the edge of the park, near a golf course and a suburban neighborhood. It’s fine but not especially interesting or scenic.
The scenery improves as the route turns onto Jackson Grade and descends into a dense eucalyptus grove. Cross a stone bridge and continue on the Brandon Trail, which climbs gently though eucalyptus woods for several miles. This quiet, woodsy stretch is the best part of the loop.
The trail emerges into a grassy meadow and then crosses Marciel Road. Shortly afterward there’s a nice viewpoint, the only real panoramic view of the entire loop. Turn onto the Towhee Trail, then the Live Oak Trail, which descends steeply through oak groves to the lake.
Take the busy paved Lake Shore Trail back to the marina.
© 2018 David Baselt