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This Sunday we made the trip to Napa and rode Skyline Park. Skyline is a beautiful park filled with awesome singletrack. There is a fair amount of climbing on this trail and it is very technical in spots with lots of drop-offs, switchbacks, and stairs. The bulk of the trail is singletrack but the initial climb in and several short sections of the trail are on fire roads. Beginning riders would probably not have much fun on this trail due to the amount of exertion and the technical difficulty of the trail.
This map is usually available when you pay at the gate. I've reproduced it here so you can print out a copy in advance.
This ride was a bit unique to me because it was the largest group ride that I have been on. There were seven of us all together all gathered from different places and backgrounds. My brother Kevin and his friend Todd drove down from Sacramento. I met Eric, Danny, and Kelly in Lodi and we caravaned in. The final member of our group was Rich, a Napa local who rode to the trailhead from his house.
There was a second local that met us at the trailhead but he didn't ride with us because he wanted to ride my bike. As we were unpacking the car he buzzed Danny and Eric and set up camp on my handlebars.
Overall we had a nice mix of experience, Kevin and Rich both ride road a lot and ate up the miles and the uphills. Todd, Danny, and Eric are all crazy on the technical stuff and Kelly just ploughs through it all and just keeps going. My biggest claim to fame on this occasion was to act as the anchor for the group and keep the pace slow enough so that everyone else had an opportunity to socialize :)
From left to right in the photo: Danny, Rich, The Ogre (me), Kelly, Todd and Eric. Kevin took the picture and managed to not be photographed for the entire ride.
The ride starts out with a climb up fire road and steep singletrack. On the way up there were several sections where we were forced to carry or push our bikes up steep sections. There were also several fun/ challenging sections where it was really steep and you are hopping logs, rocks, and scrambling over loose dirt, leaves, and gravel. When we finally reached the top of the climb we were treated with some awesome views of Napa and the surrounding countryside.
After we hit the crest the trail drops down into some more forested areas and there is a fairly long stretch of fast rolling singletrack. There are some really cool sections where you are zipping downhill with bushes and trees flying by on either side are particularly fun. A little bit lower down the trail is carved into a steep hillside and there is a drop-off to your left and cliff face to your right. I almost had a head on collision with another rider in this stretch while trying to catch up to the rest of the group after helping Kelly with a dropped chain.
Here I am cleaning a rock garden towards the bottom of the singletrack.
At about the halfway point there is a small creek crossing which signals the start of the more technical riding. This stream flows into to Lake Marie about 50 yards downstream from this crossing.
Unfortunately the hills at this point are so steep they are unrideable to anyone in our group. There are a couple of sections of exposed rock, which are steep, and off camber but are rideable because they are solid rock. I've never ridden on slickrock before, but I imagine this was very similar. I was really surprised at how well the bike stuck to the trail on these sections.
After the climb from the lake there is a short section of trail and then a step and rock filled uphill which none of us even attempted to ride up. Danny and Todd did turn around and ride down this section of trail.
This trail has a lot of steps and rock drop-offs concentrated very close together. We wound up hiking about 50 yards uphill at this point and the entire stretch was tough technical terrain.
From the lake overlook you start to descend slowly, winding in and out and up and down through a series of technical challenges flanked by short shrubs, stunted trees, and a few Cornish walls. I guess I was still a little cautious after my Tahoe fall because I was super cautious and walked many of these sections.
After doing a bizarre endo the first time through this pass Todd gets back on and tries again and is able to navigate this short but tough section of trail.
The trail eventually flattens out a bit and then there is a short fast downhill to the parking lot. When we get back to the lot my GPS said we had covered 6.25 miles not a very long ride, but considering the challenges it was a decent days ride. After a short discussion almost all of us opted to ride a little longer. The only one who opted out was Rich who had ridden 5 miles to the trailhead and had 5 miles to ride home.
So while Rich headed home we took off down a two mile trail that took us out to the hiway and back. The trail was composed of rocky hard pack covered with about 2” of fine powdery dust. This little jaunt would add 4 more miles to our total trip and had a pretty gradual climb and a couple of mini rolling hills. There was very little to really challenge us, but it made for a fun cool down ride.
The trail system at Skyline park is fairly small so if you are looking for an epic 30 mile ride you will be disappointed. When the day was done we had put in a total of about 10 miles of riding. There are 25 miles total in the park but not all of them are accessible to bikes and many are parallel so in order to reach them you need repeat big sections of trail to get to them. What this park is very good for is the huge amount of technical riding and steep climbing available here. Although we only rode 10 miles I felt almost as tired as when I finished riding Wilder Ranch the first time. If you like technical riding then Skyline is definitely worth the effort at least once.