Grab your Google Bike and check out some of the dirt and gravel trails that stretch for miles along Silicon Valley's shoreline.
Starting from Mountain View's Shoreline Park, near Google Headquarters, this ride heads north through The Baylands of Palo Alto then continues to Ravenswood Open Space. The trails are mostly gravel or crushed shell and granite with a few paved sections. The ride is out-and-back and flat allowing turnarounds at any point.
There's plenty of parking in Shoreline Park but a good starting point is the boathouse and marina on Shoreline Lake. There's a café for refreshments before or after a ride.
Head south past the historic Rengstorff House crossing a bridge then make a quick right on the paved path. The Permanente Creek Trail
passes through the golf course parking lot past Michael's Restaurant continuing through the golf course next to the creek.
At the junction with a paved service road, Vista Slope rises on the left with the twin teepee canopies of Shoreline Amphitheater just beyond. Follow the gravel trail as it winds its way to the top of the hill. Take in the view with the Amphitheater directly east, Googleplex to the south, and the Bay and wetlands to the northeast. Look down--below your feet is a 100-foot pile of garbage sent down from San Francisco over several decades to what was once a landfill. See History note below.
Retrace the path back down to the Permanente Creek Trail
crossing the bridge on the service road to the west then north towards Shoreline Lake until you reach a section of the Bay Trail
. Turning left, you quickly reach Adobe Creek Loop Trail
where you keep right on a gravel road that runs along bayside sloughs to the northeast. After a minute or two listening to the sound of crunching gravel, you'll notice some trails that parallel the road. These "singletracks" are a lot smoother with good visibility and a few small humps, bumps and mini-jumps especially where the trail loops around a small pond. A fun place to bring young riders just starting out. This loop trail can be a ride by itself but to continue farther north, keep to the right when the trail forks at the Byxbee Park telephone pole forest (an art installation).
This leads to the parking area and the Marsh Front Trail
. This scenic trail, running along the bay, passes an historic "ship-shaped" marina once operated by the Sea Scouts and currently used as an interpretive center. Continue north on the San Francisquito Creek Trail
as it loops around the Palo Alto airport. Keep right (north) crossing a bridge to connect to the Bay Trail
that links to Ravenswood Open Space.
This is the turnaround for this ride and the only way to continue north is on-street riding on Bay Road and University Avenue to reach the paved bike trail near Facebook Headquarters and leading to Dumbarton Bridge.
Retrace the paths going south with short cut options shown on paved trails running along East Bayshore Road.
Raised areas that provide bay and shoreline views, like Vista Slope and Byxbee Park, aren't natural hillocks over otherwise flat marshlands. They are former garbage dumps. In fact, Shoreline Park was deliberately filled with trash from San Francisco to raise the land surface 20-feet and more. Dozens of similar dumps around SF Bay helped spawn the "Save the Bay" environmental movement back in the 60's. Practically all have been covered with "clean dirt" and converted to public uses. Enjoy the view from "Mt. Trashmore".