Pinecrest Peak

By Eric Sayetta                                            


Sometimes it pays to ride “out of the box”. I know some riders from Stockton and

vicinity. Some of them are TROGS (Trail Riders Of Greater Stanislaus). One of

them calls himself 0gre (that’s zero-gee-are-eee), but his real name is Dennis,

and he likes to find trails off the beaten path. Check out his great website at

Dennis shares my opinion that Downieville, Hole-In-The-Ground, and Mr. Toads

are overrated. He likes his trails more technical and less blown-out. He invited

me to do a trail that I’d never heard of called Pinecrest Peak. It’s off of route 108

near the town of Strawberry. I asked my Marin friends about it – nobody had

ever heard of it.

We got together a group of TROGS to do the ride. I’m a little out of place in this

group (the Fuzzy Duds and flask of elixir get some stares), but in my experience,

in a group of mountain bikers, if you can ride, all social barriers can be erased.

The ride starts from the Strawberry store. You can ride all the way to the top, or

you can shuttle it. We compromised and shuttled part way up, and added a

singletrack climb through an area called Hammil Canyon.


wpe3.jpg (89109 bytes)

Strawberry store


The Hammil Canyon trail is a singletrack mostly used by hunters, bikers, and a

few motocross riders. It alternates between rocky uphill technical sections and

easy meadow riding. It’s a challenging climb due to the altitude (starting at about

7,000 feet) and the rocks.


wpe4.jpg (128915 bytes)

Climbing up Hammil Canyon


We did some playing on the rocks and even went the wrong way on purpose just

to try the rocks in the downhill direction. After perhaps 45 minutes of climbing,

the views became distracting …


wpe5.jpg (90294 bytes)

View on Hammil Canyon trail



At the top of the Hammil Canyon trail, we rode some fire road to reach the top of

Pinecrest Peak. The TROGS were a little faster than me up the fire road and I

was suffering but not bonking.

wpe6.jpg (111625 bytes)

Fred surveys Pinecrest Peak


The hedonistic ways of the Marin crowd have not been discovered in Stanislaus

county. At “rest stops”, the riders stop in the middle of the trail and straddle their

bikes for a minute or two. Sometimes a rider will take out a sandwich and take a

few bites while still straddling their bike. During our “lunch stop” on Pinecrest

Peak, all of the riders remained standing (except for me, and again I received

some blank stares). Of course, after ten minutes you will hear the usual

comment such as, “let’s go before our legs get cold”. This is just something that

you have to accept. They are the nicest people on earth but they have not

discovered the leisurely pleasures, although they have certainly discovered the


My offers of Fuzzy’s elixir were also met with puzzled stares, and I had to enjoy

the spirits by myself (and quickly).


wpe7.jpg (123432 bytes)



The TROGS enjoying lunch



The Pinecrest Peak trail was built by a mountain biker. From the very top of

Pinecrest Peak, there is a new bonus trail that he built. He purposely made it

difficult to find so that motorcyclists are not likely to come upon it.

The entire Pinecrest Peak trail is a double-black-diamond adventure. The first

thing you will notice is that the trail doesn’t get over-ridden. Perhaps 5 – 10

bikers per summer weekend. The next thing you’ll notice is that all of the

obstacles are cleverly designed to look impossible but each one has a magical

solution that allows you to roll it. When you approach an obstacle, you will say

(out loud) “NO WAY”, but just before you unclip in terror, you will see the solution.

Then you will roll the obstacle and say to yourself, “oh, I am such a good rider!”.

A few of the “solutions” are totally unique, especially on the bonus trail at the top.

For example, there is a sharp downhill switchback with a big tree right in the

middle of it. NO WAY, you say, but then you see a large boulder, which you

thought was also in the way. You ride straight up the boulder (not too far, or else

you’ll plunge 20 feet), and then you execute a SHARP left turn on top of the

boulder, and then you roll steeply down it, and voila! You have executed the



wpe8.jpg (130487 bytes)

Bonus trail



Finally we reached the “original” start of the Pinecrest Peak trail. The views are

awesome and the very first 50 feet of trail puts you on notice that you are in for a

five star technical adventure.


wpe9.jpg (95711 bytes)

Oh my god, it’s legal for bikes!


wpeA.jpg (77680 bytes)

What line should I take????


wpeB.jpg (80363 bytes)

Try this line …


wpeC.jpg (91168 bytes)

I did it, now YOU do it !!!

It is really amazing to experience obstacle after obstacle that stretches you to

your limits, but somehow is ride-able! The Pinecrest Peak trail sustains this

challenge for ten miles! Eventually, you will fail to see one of the “solutions” and

you will crash, especially when you get tired near the end. All five of us crashed

at one time or another, but nobody got seriously hurt.


wpeD.jpg (117483 bytes)

Pinecrest lake from the view spot



Just after the view spot, you ride past a pristine lake and the trail gets easy for a

few minutes …

wpeE.jpg (141855 bytes)

Dennis finds a few meters of flat land


The final mile or two of the Pinecrest Peak trail ups the ante and goes just a little

bit beyond double-black-diamond. The “solutions” are a little more elusive, and

you’re already dead tired from the first eight miles of trail. This section may

remind you of the Grouse Ridge area.


wpeF.jpg (143073 bytes)

Rock puzzle on the final stretch



I tried to ride this rock puzzle and made it to the bottom but then crashed hard.

As I struggled to get out from under my bike, my enormous 2.5 inch front tire

emitted a sharp hissing sound, announcing a pinch flat. It takes a lot to pinch flat

my front tire, but the Pinecrest Peak trail is a lot of trail !!


wpe10.jpg (115450 bytes)

Wrong line

My wounds were superficial. I’m coming back for more!