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The “Three Bears” is a popular name among bicyclists for the hills on Bear Creek Rd, especially when ridden from northeast to southwest; that is, in the direction toward Orinda. The term “Three Bears Loop” is often used to refer the loop which traverses these hills formed by San Pablo Dam Rd, Castro Ranch Rd, Alhambra Valley Rd, and Bear Creek Rd.

Which Bear is which? In the order that you encounter them heading toward Orinda:

  • Mama Bear is the climb starting at the intersection with Garcia Ranch Rd.
  • Papa Bear is the climb starting shortly after the intersection with Happy Valley Rd.
  • Baby Bear is the short sharp climb which leads up to San Pablo Dam Rd.

These names have been used by local riders — in particular, local racers associated with the Berkeley Hills Road Race — since the 1970's or earlier.[1], [2], [3]  Here is the hill profile given by the Berkeley Bicycle Club (the sponsoring club) for the Berkeley Hills Road Race (note that the direction of travel is right-to-left):

[Berkeley Hills Road Race profile]
Reproduced by permission of Alex Chiappetta of BBC, who in turn gives special thanks to Grant Petersen.

The race course comprises several circuits of the loop; the profile shows the location of each of the Bears on the loop. Go here for a larger PDF version of the above profile.

Here is a map showing the geographic location of each of the Bears. Go here for a larger, interactive Google Maps version.


1. GPC club historian Pierre Laplant, who was among the local racers of that era, has written repeatedly (including here, here, and here) that these names were used for these specific hills going at least that far back. He wrote that he was taught the names of these hills by legendary local racer George Mount among others. (Most of the links here are to the GPC-talk discussion forum archives, which are available to list members only.)

2. The specific names and locations, including the fact that they go back quite far, have been confirmed by several other long-time riders, including GPC member Greg Lutz (here).

3. If you have information on the history on the names of the Bears which you would like to share, please contact webminion at grizz dot org and we might add it here.