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Ed Levin Calera Creek Agua Caliente

A short but steep multi-use segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail leads to great views from the flank of Monument Peak.

Calera Creek Trail to Agua Caliente Trail to the park border and back
4 miles; 1 hr by bike; 640 ft elev. gain; strenuous but short

The park’s only mountain bike-accessible trail, on a horse- and hiker-friendly segment that doubles as the Bay Area Ridge Trail, starts out mellow enough, on a short stretch of pavement leading toward the hangliders’ launch. After that a series of cattle gates lead to trail segments of increasing grade and effort, up to a fantastic view and the chance to travel further, into Mission Peak Regional Preserve.

From the gate northwest of Sandy Wool Lake, take Launch Site Road for .2 miles, then go through the cattle gate on the right and enter Calera Creek Trail. Though the scenery to the left is oddly incongruent—the manicured back nine of swanky Summitpointe Golf Club and a sprinkling of attendant starter castles—everything to the right, especially after you round the first corner, is bucolic and beautiful, like something from the 1940s. A few modest inholdings and the presence all over these hills of grazing cattle add to the effect.

The trail begins climbing in earnest at the 1.5-mile mark, where one brutalizing section ascends 200 feet in under two-tenths of a mile. Here, also, the road ruts begin in a serious way; cattle tromp these roads, and their tonnage leaves deep marks in wet weather that dry to hardpan, irregular cloven ridges in the sun.

At the top, in what feels like a pleasant little grassy cirque from the Ice Age, stands a wooden sign letting you know that Agua Caliente Trail goes to the right (hikers and equestrians only) and to the left (where bikers are welcome too). The Bay Area Ridge Trail is to the left.

(Going to the right, in case you’re on foot or horseback, would take you down into the Sandy Wool Lake area within 2 miles, beginning the descent after a short section of steady climbing. Or you could peel off Agua Caliente after .2 miles of climbing and charge up the Monument Peak Trail another 3 miles and 1300 feet to reach Monument Peak itself, at almost 2600 feet.)

But suppose you’re on a bike, or aiming to follow the Bay Area Ridge Trail into the next park. Take Agua Caliente Trail to the left and climb another couple hundred feet along a .6-mile stretch of pleasantly rolling country road with gobsmacking views. It just gets better and better as you near the boundary with Mission Peak Regional Preserve, at 1150-odd feet.

Turn around and come back the way you came, minding those ruts.

—Traci Hukill

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