And excellent local favorite in Marin County. The Marin Council, Boy Scouts of America, operates Camp Tamarancho in the hills above Fairfax.
Riding in Camp Tamarancho requires a one-day permit that costs $5. The permit can be purchased in Fairfax from Sunshine Bicycles. An annual permit is also available for purchase online from the Boy Scouts of Marin. The trailhead is about a mile and a half from parking in the town of Fairfax.
Riding to the trailhead - Head west on Center (turns in Broadway) for several blocks, and then take a Left at the Bike Route sign at Azala. Follow the Bike Route signs for a few blocks until you take a left on Rockridge which then becomes Iron Springs Road (about 1 mile from Java Hut). Climb about 1 mile up Iron Springs, during which you'll gain about 475' in elevation, until you see a very obvious trailhead on your left. That's the start of the Alchemist Trail
Alchemist is switchback singletrack with some roots and rocks. It's not too technical, but there's a decent climb uphill and requires you to be on your toes in the descent.
After a little over a half mile on straightforward trail, Alchemist will take you to Goldman Trail
. Goldman is fairly straightforward as well. There aren't any serious technical features, and the trail cruises up and down gently for a little over a mile before it hits a fire road.
You'll cross the fire road and immediately come to Serpentine Trail
, which starts just across the road. This is where the riding starts to become more difficult. The first 3/4 of a mile along this trail is a consistent climb - not too challenging or steep, but steady. Then, the trail adds in some big features, including one known quite simply as "the rock," a big rideable boulder (with an optional bypass) that adds a nice challenge for more experienced riders.
The last 1/4 mile includes a bunch of climbing switchbacks, and the trail eventually ends at another obvious dirt road. Cross this road, and you'll be on Wagon Wheel Trail
On Wagon Wheel, the difficulty increases another notch or two. This trail consists of steep and challenging rocky singletrack. It's not constantly technical, but there are some significant rock gardens that less advanced riders will want to walk.
You'll come to yet another fire road, then continue on a very short section of fire road until you see a hard right onto B-17 Trail
. The riding on B-17 mellows out quite a bit, and you can relax as you cruise through the forest.
Barely before emerging from the densest portion of the redwoods on B-17 Trail
, you reach a fork where you're forced to choose between B-17 Extension Trail and Broken Dam Trail
. If you pick Broken Dam Trail
, you follow the original path of the loop at Tamarancho.
This particular route follows B-17 Extension Trail, which is the option that allows you to sample the newer Endor Trail.
As you start on B-17 Extension Trail, you'll almost immediately reach a clearing where numerous log rides and similar stunts are available (which, I believe, were built along with Endor Trail). This is a spot where Endor Trail comes literally within a couple of feet of B-17 Extension Trail. This ride follows the latter trail uphill in order to start Endor Trail from its beginning.
Endor is a downhill-only trail and is the first "flow trail" built in the Bay Area. For anyone who hasn't tried this type of a trail before, it's quite a different beast. To give an oversimplified summary, the idea is to maintain your speed by "pumping" the trail through the numerous sharp humps and tight curves with extra high berms, without having to pedal at all or even brake much. Unless you're used to this kind of biking, you're likely to find yourself having to pedal at least a little bit over some of the humps. It's
Next, you'll arrive at Broken Dam Trail
. This trail is also not very technical, but it starts off with a fun fast descent through the trees. There are a few mildly technical spots to keep things interesting, but it rolls well for most ability levels. After the initial descent, the trail climbs consistently, but not particularly intensely up to its end at Goldman Trail
Enjoy this short fun section of Goldman Trail
, and stay left to rejoin Alchemist, which you rode at the beginning of the ride. This time, you'll be riding downhill on Alchemist which is the more fun direction, and a nice way to finish out the ride!