The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operates recreational facilities at Glory Hole Recreation Area at New Melones Lake. In addition to the campgrounds, Marina, and launch ramps, Glory Hole has about ten miles of well-maintained single-track trails. All are popular with hikers and open to bike riders.
Glory Hole is hot in the summer, and the trails will not overly excite hard-core mountain bikers looking for technical challenges or those looking for long epic rides. But during the winter and the shoulder seasons, Glory Hole is inviting and available to get the blood pumping when the high country is snowed in. While the terrain is hilly, with the exception of the Tower Climb, the trails generally undulate along elevation contours . The hills are short and not steep, and the trails are mostly smooth and hard packed ground.
Combine all that with bathrooms, and you have a good place for family biking. Use judgement with small kids; I used to take my five-year-old daughter on the Angels Creek Loop on the Trail-a-Bike. She wasn’t ready to pedal the ups and downs on her own, and she didn’t like some areas where the trail cuts across steep hills descending to the lake, but she enjoyed the ride. I have ridden the Angels Creek Loop with eight-year-olds on BMX bikes and they did okay with only one gear. They had to do some pushing, but not too much. There are short loops that join up, so it’s easy to put together a ride of an appropriate length and difficulty for your group. There are additional short trails at the Tuttletown Recreation Area on Reynolds Ferry Road in Tuolumne County.
Access to Glory Hole is via SR 49 and Whittle Ranch Road south of Angels Camp in Calaveras County. Day-use and camping fees can be paid at the kiosk at the park entrance. The trail map is available to download, or a free paper map is available at the New Melones Visitor’s Center across the Stanislaus River (lake) on the Tuolumne County side. Look for the Visitor’s Center driveway on the east side of SR 49 about 1/2 mile south of the Stevenot Bridge. Annual passes are also available; the inter-agency pass can be used at other federal parks like Yosemite.
With the map, it’s pretty hard to get lost at Glory Hole. One point to note is that the Tower Climb and water plant road complete the Carson Creek Trail loop. Both climb a steep hill–the Tower Climb has very tight switchbacks, and the water plant road is extremely steep and rocky. The paved access road can be used to close the loop instead of the water plant road.
Be aware that rattlesnakes are a significant issue near the lake in the summer–in my experience especially so along the Carson Creek Trail. Use extra care, or come back when it’s cooler, the lake is quieter, and the snakes are less active.
Download file to view the ride on the Google Earth bike map
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Get help with using Google Earth to view the map file
Download the .gpx file for the loop if you want to upload it to a GPS
- Upside—Green and lovely in the winter, parking and restrooms, family friendly, excellent for fighting spare tire growth in the winter.
- Downside—Heat and rattlesnakes in the summer, day-use fee.
- All trails as shown on map–11.4 miles; about 1,000 feet total climb (Google shows 1,600 feet, but I’m very skeptical. The Tower Climb is 400 feet).
- paths: dirt.
- terrain: gentle to steep.
- tires: cross to mountain.
- seasons: all, with precautions for heat and rattlesnakes in summer.
- current weather