Mill Creek Road #2

Distance: 9 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 1390 ft

At last count there were 2,347 roads on the West Coast named Mill Creek Road. Bestrides has three: this one, the Mill Creek Road by Lassen National Park, and the Wine Country one in the Adding Miles section of the Pine Flat Road ride.   All three are super-sweet little rides.

This Mill Creek Road is out of Fremont, CA. It was a gift to me from Friend of Bestrides Nabeel, in gratitude for the rides Bestrides had shown him. Isn’t that lovely? It’s one of the shortest rides in Bestrides, but mile for mile it’s as good as any—4 miles of meandering, recently re-paved one-lane gorgeousness that wanders through riparian oaks along a little creek you can’t see and alongside typical East Bay rolling hills of grass. The profile is one of constant variety, always turning, climbing, dropping—rarely can you see more than 1/10 of a mile ahead of you.

The only downside besides its skimpy length is that it doesn’t link up easily with any other ride by bike besides Morrison Canyon, and Morrison Canyon is a worth-doing-once ride. So if you want a longer day of it, drive to MCR, then drive to another nearby ride (Calaveras Road, for example). Or ride MCR twice, which isn’t as silly as it sounds.

It looks a lot like two beautiful rides nearby that I like a lot: it’s like the north side of Morgan Territory Road, but narrower and with much smoother pavement (which are both good things); and it’s like Welch Creek Road but not nearly as steep (which is a good thing). Still, it’s an authentic climb—1400 ft in 4.5 miles, which averages out around 7%, with a healthy leg of 8-10% in the middle.

The landscape is mostly undeveloped and the road ends at a locked gate, so expect to see no more than a car or two, but it’s a popular hiking route for locals, so expect to share the road with lots of walkers later in the day on weekends.

(To see an interactive version of the map/elevation profile, click on the ride name, upper left, wait for the new map to load, then click on the “full screen” icon, upper right.)

I’ve mapped the ride from the base of the climb, but unless you live in the area you’ll probably start from the Fremont BART station. From the station to MCR is 4 miles of flat or slight incline through typical, not-unpleasant suburbia with good bike lanes—a perfect warm-up.

Mill Creek Road itself starts climbing immediately. The road is narrow enough that there are paved turn-outs to facilitate cars passing each other, and it’s never straight. It rolls up and down for a while before settling in to an extended climb, but still there’s a lot of variety in the pitch so you never get bored.

You pass a vineyard that catches you by surprise and immediately deadend at a gate (past it the road turns to dirt and becomes private land, so continuing on is dicey even with a gravel bike). The descent is as varied as the ride up—some steep, some shallow, some rolling, with very rideable turns, on a pavement that’s blemish-free though a little jarring. It’s literally breath-taking—I think it’s possible to get airborne in a place or two. It’s a descent that’s much better the second time, because the first time you can’t see what’s around all the corners and you have to be cautious. Once you know the road, it’s a profile that encourages speed, with only one tight corner (glance at the route map above and it’s obvious) and lots of run-outs after steep sections. I touched 35 mph without pressing at all, and that’s a lot on a winding one-laner.

By the way, there is no mill on this ride. Or on the other two Mill Creek Road rides in Bestrides.

Adding Miles: As I said, there’s really only one ride easily reachable by bike from MCR, Morrison Canyon Rd., which is short and a bit of a novelty. Bring a car or expect to ride BART to other rides.

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