RedHills is a very technical trail with lots of steep medium sized hills. There is an excellent mix of different types of terrain which will stretch all of your cycling skills. The most dangerous parts are steep descents covered with large loose rocks and loose dirt. There are a few places where you are forced to work your way through and around large embeded rocks and 1-2 foot drop offs, but not many.
There are way too many places where you need to get off and push. Perhaps if we try the loop the other way it will be better. I suspect the place is also an oven during the summer months. It's early May right now and the creekbeds are already dry. Most of the plantlife looks drought resistant or seasonal.
Redhills is more or less on the way to Yosemite National Park. From the valley you will take either Highway 108 or 120 to LaGrange Road, Turn Right on LaGrange and then after about 1/2 mile left on RedHills Road. There is a large parking area with porto potty on the right hand side of Redhills Road about 1/2 mile from LaGrange.
RedHills park is located about 45-60 minutes East/ SouthEast from Stockton, CA (Map). From Stockton take Mariposa road east into Escalon and then turn East (left) on Hiway 108. About 15 minutes out of Escalon you will pass through the town of Oakdale, pay attention, about half way through town you need to make a left turn to stay on 108. About 10 minutes out of Oakdale you will pass by the exit for Knights Ferry. If you have the time stop by it's worth the detour. Nights Knights Ferry is a nice park with one of the oldest covered bridges in the state. There are often small fairs and civil war re-enactments held there. Otherwise, continue down 108 for about another 15-20 miles to La Grange Road and turn right. After about 1-2 miles turn left on RedHills Road. The parking area is on the right about 1 mile into the park.
When we arrived there were several people unloading horses and they were rude and blocked the road with their overgrown critters. I don't mind horses and feel we can share the trails with horse folks, but rude is rude. The parking lot was also rife with Horse stench.
We did manage to grab the one shady parking spot. The facilities include a restroom and picnick tables, but no water so come prepared. On the trail there is a decent amount of shade, but this is a hot dusty trail so make certain you brought plenty of water. Over the 1:45 we rode I managed to chug about 30-40 Oz, and ran dry. Next time I'll top of my 70 Oz waterpack.
After we unloaded our bikes we set out down an 'easy' warm up trail. A word of warning here, I have yet to find a decent loop at RedHills which doesnt require a significant amount of Hike-A-bike. I am going to describe the route we took, then I will talk about the route which we are going to try next time :) which we think will be a little better.
From the parking lot there are several trailheads, we took the one across the street from the Eastern end of the parking lot. This trail follows RedHill Road East and is about the only section you can start from the parking lot that doesn't require getting off and pushing. The trail goes up a short hill then forks. The left fork goes straight uphill and requires pushing. We took the right fork which takes you over some moderate rolling hills which will get your blood flowing. There are also some very fun fast downhills on this trail (but there are much better ones later on).
After about 1.5 miles on the singletrack following RedHills road we crossed a fireroad. We turned a little to the left and proceded up the trail. At this point we had to intermittently get off and push our bikes for most of the uphill (I suggest avoiding pushing your bike and taking the fireroad to RedHills Road, there are more rewarding routes on this trail). After we climbed up the hill we were rewarded with a fun and challenging downhill over rocky trails with plenty of loose rocks. At this point we were left in the bottom of a creek bed with the choice of continuing forward and hiking or hiking back up the downhill we just completed. Rather than hiking uphill again we followed the creekbed back to RedHills Road to try and find some more interesting trails.
We wound up backtracking down RedHills road for about 2/3 of a mile, we passed the fire road I suggested taking earlier and turned down some singletrack on the left hand side of the road (oposite where we were riding earlier). The trail forks here, we took the left fork hoping it curved around the outside of the hill rather than going straight up it. There is a short nearly unridable uphill and then the trail curves off to the left and following the parks property line (marked by some nasty looking barbed wire). There is a stretch of some really rocky fun technical trail and a short downhill deposited us in a small valley.
In the springtime the RedHills park area is really beautiful, there are tons of poppies, lupins, indian paintbrush and many other flowers, the trees are all green and there is a moderate amount of tree coverage. I imagine later in the summer the flowers will die off and grasses will turn brown. Even over the last two weeks I noticed most of the streams in the park had dried up. We encountered this nearly dry creek bed in the bottom of the valley. It was a nice spot to catch a breath of fresh air, and for Kevin to complain about me taking too many breaks.
So after snapping a quick shot of the creek bed I climbed back onto my bike, only to be confronted with the longest stretch of Hike-A-Bike trail we would see all day. We climbed for about 1/4-1/2 mile up a hill which was totally unclimbable to either of us. Several spots looked like they would have been extremely fun to ride downhill, several looked like neck breakers. We will probably try to ride this downhill nexttime we come out here, but I think we will probably walk some of these dropoffs.
Once we finished with a nice long uphill hike we were rewarded by a nice stretch of singletrack along the ridgeline. The views along this ridgeline were really awesome, experiences like this are what really sets mountain biking apart from most other passtimes. What other sport gives you the challenges, the workout, and the adrenaline rush, all while traversine a lanscape like this.
I stiched this panoramic by hand from 7 pictures. You will need to scroll your browser widow to the right to enjoy the full effect of this shot. If anyone knows of a program that runs under Linux that will do this automatically let me know. I think it looks pretty good overall, although the 2nd and 3rd seams are a bit obvious. Overall this is about a 300 degree panoramic shot. Hopefully these will get better as I practice more.
After riding across the ridgeline for about 3/4 of a mile we hit a nice fast downhill with plenty of large rocks, tree roots, and plenty of red dust. Nothing too difficult, but plenty of fun.
At the bottom of the hill we ride along a (nearly dry) stream bed for a while, crossing it several times and going over several small (steep) rolling hills. In the picture above you see Kevin at the top of a rather nasty downhill. Incidentally those rocks appear twice as big from Kevin's perspective.
My new camara's lens is right on the upper left corner of the camara. The blacked out corner is from my finger.
This photo is one of my first attempts to enhance a photo using software. This is the same downhill as the previous shot, but I used The Gimp to try and bring out the features of the trail. Overall I am pretty happy with the effects, but I think I might have gone overboard on the red.
In the valley the trail forks several times, we stayed on the trail that followed the creek bed and continued in a Westward direction. We briefly explored this trail which went to the south, but we were trying to work our way back to the car which was almost due North at this time (A GPS is a great time saver when exploring new trails). In the photo Kevin is crossing back to the trail we took back to the car.
It is at this point in time when I managed to pedal quite a bit faster than my chain could feed.
I love my bike, but if I had known that Gary Fisher Sugars were this prone to chain suck I would have looked harder at the Treks. This is the first time I've managed to wrap the chain around twice though!
At this point we are headed West, and slowly turning to the North. The trail is slowly climbing up out of the Valley in short fast climbs separated by sections of gradual climbing. There are no sections where you need to hike for extended periods of time, but several of the steep climbs require me to clip out and walk. Kevin walks them this time, but later rides up almost all of them so I know they are 'doable'.
This section has lots of fun whoop-dee-doos, chutes, and quick downhills. However most of these are much more fun going the other way! This section was so fun when we finished the ride we came back to reride this section as a short out and back.
This is the final downhill of the loop, it descends to the parking lot and is well beyond either of our capabilities to climb. The descent is covered with large loose rocks, even larger embeded rocks, and is very steep and easy to get up to out of control speeds. In this picture Kevin is trying to stay on the outside of the trail in the firm dirt to help control skidding. I took a more agressive line and was a bit faster through this section, sort of the bomber approach.
This picture was taken as one of a series of shots on my camera's contiuous shoot mode which captures about 2 frames per second. The next couple of shots were doctored to try out some effects I have seen. Let me know what you think.
Using the series of pictures my camera grabbed from Kevin's run I meticulously cut and pasted the extra images where they belonged to give this perspective of his line down the hill. There are actually 4 of him, but the last one blocked the first one.
This photo was also enhanced it to compensate for low lighting in the foreground. Overall I'm pretty happy with the effect.