Bike the Three Bears via San Pablo Dam Road

San Francisco Bear Creek Road Parking Area

Added by Megan MacKenzie

The Three Bears is arguably the most famous Bay Area ride. It will challenge your cycling legs with steep climbs, and reward you with exciting and speedy downhills. Enjoy stunning views of the California hills, the Briones Reservoir, and the San Pablo Reservoir all along way.

From the Bear Creek Road Parking Area, turn right onto San Pablo Dam Road.  Enjoy views of the San Pablo Reservoir to your right!

At 5.4 mi, turn right onto Castro Ranch Rd.  You've got a short cat-5 climb here before it flattens out and eventually gives you a nice open downhill.  

At 7.7 mi, turn right onto Alhambra Valley Rd.  For the next few miles, enjoy the views- this is my favorite stretch of road to ride in the whole East Bay!

At 10.4 mi, you'll reach an intersection.  Turn right onto Bear Creek Rd.  This next stretch of road includes three major climbs over 6.1 miles: Baby Bear, Mama Bear, and Papa Bear.  This ride is tough but beautiful, and it's all worth it at 16.5 mi, when you'll hit my favorite downhill in the area.  (The fastest speed I've ever hit on my road bike was on this stretch, so go for it, but stay safe!)

And of course, at 18.4 mi, there's Goldilocks, the short but steep uphill half-mile section the brings you right back to your car.

***Some sections of this ride have wide designated bike lanes, while others have no bike lane or shoulder whatsoever.  Drivers in the East Bay are generally pretty bike-aware, but remember to stay to the right-hand side of the road, especially on the curvy sections.

Pack List

  • Bike! A road bike is preferred, as the climbs are quite steep.
  • Helmet, sunglasses, and maybe a layer depending on the weather.
  • Water- 2 24-oz-bottles should be sufficient.
  • Snacks! These are some steep hills so you might want some calories in your back pocket.
  • Sunscreen
  • An odometer is optional but useful for following the directions provided.
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Activities:

Cycling

Skill Level:

Advanced

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Loop

Distance:

18.8 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1848 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Scenic

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How to Get There

4 months ago

Great Escape from SF Fog on the Cheap

This is a really nice ride along some really beautiful and more out of the way roads. There's not a lot of traffic through almost the entire distance and plenty of shoulder for about 95 percent of it so you can really get going on the downhills and aren't holding people up on the climbs. If you're not going for time, there's a lot of really nice scenery to take in on the route so it's not a bad idea to bring a camera. Definitely bring plenty of water though because it dose get a lot hotter (mid 80s and sunny in Orinda vs low 60s and overcast in SF for example) out here than in SF or Oakland and there's not really anywhere to stop and refill along the route. Probably one of the best road rides in the Bay Area, 10/10 would do again.

4 months ago

4 months ago

Classic

This is an East Bay cyclist staple, and probably my most used route over the years. It has enough climbing and great stretches of road by the San Pablo Reservoir. You can even do the loop twice if you're looking for extra mileage, or add on a ride up Wildcat Canyon through Tilden. I usually take Bart and leave from the Orinda Bart station. Be warned it's usually much warmer here than it is in Berkeley or SF (which can be good or bad).

4 months ago

Added by Megan MacKenzie

san francisco bay area native and maine transplant, living semi-nomadically in wyoming, utah, and idaho for the past year working in outdoor education and wilderness therapy. otherwise you can find me on my road bike, backpacking, or roasting vegetables.

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