Clockwise! - Money$hot and I rode Tamarancho for the first time last weekend, and I have this to say about it – it was bar-none some of the best trail riding I have seen in the bay area. IMO, if you have a quiver, the perfect weapon for this trail is a 5x5 trail bike. If you have a dual crown, your bike had better be nimble and flicky as to avoid collerboning the trees on B-17 - the lines available for taking this section at speed are narrow.
The scenery is outrageous. There are panoramic views of the north face of Tam, crystal-blue skies framed by green ridgelines that pop with color... I can see why people pay so much money to live in Marin. The terrain changes variously from fast, buff sinewy singletrack threading through the trees, to jagged rocky suspension-testing outcroppings surrounded by sharp manzanita, to meditative meandering grassy hillsides. What this loop lacks in options (there is only one loop), it makes up for in diversity of terrain. It is simply astounding that there is this much variation in an 8 mile loop.
There are no huge climbs, but rather, lots of little dips that will nickel and dime your strength. If you plan on doing more than 1 lap bring serious food. You will need it. If you can do 3 laps at this place you are a friggin rockstar.
After a warmup of Alchemist trail (0.6 miles), we elected to ride clockwise at the Goldman junction. After riding it clockwise, I decided that there was no good reason to ride it the other way. Ever. If you ride it counter-clockwise, you miss the descent on B-17. You don’t want to do that… unless you live in Fairfax and ride here 5x a week and are bored with the clockwise loop.
Goldman Trail is tame - a good way to gain some elevation and work some blood into your legs. It meanders through trees and switchbacks up to a clearing, where you cross the first fireroad.
Serpentine starts to get a little more rocky and technical, and there are a few spots where you can rip out some air on the short descents. There is one great climbing switchback that is reasonably technical, and a few embedded rock garden climbs to test your rhythm. There are unobstructed views of the east peak of Mt. Tam to the south here. Very pretty stuff.
Wagon Wheel turns the corner and wraps around the west side of the ride. There is a fireroad descent here (it’s short) that is rutted and wet, but I suspect these ruts will diminish after it gets a little drier.
B-17 is bad ass – the essence of what singletrack was meant to be. Lots of switchbacks, it is smooth, buffed-out tree-weaving bliss. There are a few spots with a clean line-of-sight that you can just rip. Nothing but the sound of your freehub and wind in your ears. Perfect.
Broken Dam requires a bit of climbing, but it isn’t too bad. This winds up jogging right and left onto Goldman, which leads you back to where you started.
Do it again.
For after-ride grub, I recommend heading back down Sir Francis Drake towards the 101, pass under the 101 like you were going to go visit San Quentin, and take the first left at the light. After you round the bend on your right is Marin Brewing Company. Their Mt. Tam Pale Ale is the best PA I have ever had, and their burgers are excellent and huge. If you sit outside and park in the right place, you can watch your bikes while you bask in the sunshine.
It’s good to be alive and living in the Bay Area.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: 8 Elevation change:
El Santo a 32 year old URL: Friends of Tamarancho Map
Posted on 3/14/05