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Glory Hole Lower Loops

Over the weekend I had a nearly averted disaster at work, I was upgrading a server I maintain and there was a problem which caused the machine to fail completely. I couldn't even restore from the backup I had made. Eventually IBM came to the rescue and got the system back in order and I was able to restore the backup tape I had made earlier in the day. 22 Hours after I started this upgrade I was at the exact same point I was when I started (shy about 5 hours sleep).

So on Monday I was exhausted and took a short day. I packed up the kids as soon as I got home and headed for Glory Hole.

Glory Hole is one of my favorite 'local' trails, local being within about 45 minutes drive. There are about 20 miles of rideable trails and most of the trails have at least partial shading. The grasses tend to dry out along the trail but there are many of shrubs (manzanita and scrub oak) along the path that stay green for most of the year. For most of the trails you have excellent views of the lake and there is plenty of wildlife in the area.

The lower trails (Frontier Trail, Angels Creek Trail, and Buckbrush Loop) are 100% singletrack, generally smooth with a few technical spots, and some small rolling hills. The Buckbrush Loop is probably the rockiest section at Glory Hole. If you are looking for some climbing the Tower climb is a series of switchbacks up the hillside, I would guess the climb is about 700' vertical, perhaps a little more.

I had my three girls with me (plus wife in car) so I stuck to the lower loops + Frontier. My younger daughters quit after the 4 mile Angels Creek loop, Liz, my oldest, added Buckbrush Loop, and I soloed Frontier and took the Gold Rush trail over to where my wife was waiting with dinner.

When you get to the lake the best place to park is in the boat launch area. After you enter the park go to the bottom of the hill and turn right onto Angels Creek Access Road and follow it around to the large parking lot. There is a nice large paved lot and full use bathrooms including sinks with running water. As far as I know there is no potable water at any of the trailheads here but there are plenty of places to get water in nearby Angels Camp.

The quickest access to Singletrack is by using the paved service road at the entrance to the boat launch parking lot (It goes to the Water treatment plant on the map). I usually turn left to take the Angels Creek loop in a clockwise fashion and then take the Buckbrush loop, then go up the Frontier Trail as an out and back that gives me about 9 miles of riding. For more miles and climbing add the Carson Creek Trail and the Tower Climb.

This map was viciously stolen from Steve Wolf's Mountain Biking Site. Steve also has a page with lot's of photo's from Glory hole. His photo's include pictures from the Tower Climb.

As you can see this was one of those rides where I brought the Anchors along. I think riding with your kids is a great way to spend time with them. My oldest, Liz, is getting good enough where she can ride about 8 miles without slowing me down too much and as she practices she is improving her technique. The lower trails are easy enough for my kid to ride most of the way, the younger two walk the bigger uphills.

In this photo is an enigma. I found a Mountain Biking site created by Steve Wolf earlier in the day and had sent him an e-mail asking him to put a link up to my site. I got off work, drove out to Glory Hole and rode that afternoon, taking this photograph of my kids. After my ride I got on the internet and posted the photos right when I got home.

Steve had also gone riding that day (unknown to me) and when he returned he checked his email and found an e-mail from me. Upon reading my e-mail Steve opened his browser to check my site out only to find this photo with his black truck in the background from his ride that afternoon.

As you cruise along Angels Creek Trail you are in almost constant view of New Melones Reservoir. I have yet to see any bodies washed up on the shore, but I have seen plenty of hawks, vultures, snakes (no rattlers yet), and many other critters. I talked to the camp host and she said they had to remove 3 rattlesnakes in one day earlier this year so be careful esp. when you dismount.

When you get around to the back of Angels Creek Trail there is a downhill followed by some fast rolling hills and curving trails which my kids and I call the roller coaster. The section isn't dangerously fast, but the way you weave in and out of the trees and shoot over little rolling hills it seems like you are going faster.

The rolling section in the back is also nice in the summer time because it has a lot of tree coverage to protect you from the heat of the day.

The Buckbrush loop has the most technical terrain and if ridden counter clockwise includes 2 tough climbs. This section of the trail also has some of the tightest singletrack at New Melones Reservoir.

During the early summer months the park service was utilizing a state of the art weed abatement program and had closed off some portions of the trail.


The Tower Climb is by far the most difficult part of any ride at New Melones Reservoir. The climb is not steep for any extended period of time, but there are some short steep segments which may cause you to loose traction while climbing them. There are about 10 switchbacks and they are a challenge to clean both uphill and down. An alternative climb is a real lungbuster up a fireroad that parallels the road and goes to the top of the tower climb.

Like most of the trails here the descent down the Tower Climb mostly consists of fast hardpacked singletrack which can be very fun. The switchbacks and a few of the curves are a bit scary because of the cliff face but most beginning singletrackers will be able to clean everthing here except for the switchbacks.

For those who live in the San Joaquin and Stanislaus County areas the Glory Hole Recreation Area offers some of the best singletrack for beginning and intermediate rides. If you are a more advanced rider you can focus on the Tower Climb and on the Fireroad climb to build endurance and switchback skills. This area is also an excellent winter trail because it dries out quickly and the trails are quite rideable soon after a rain. Overall if you live in the area or are going to be visiting near here it's an execellent trail system.