#5 Greatest Length of >10% Grade Climb (1.6 miles)
With this many mentions..and an entire mile at 13.9% (!), I had to try this out. Somehow, I actually also convinced my mom to attempt it as well. She is an avid cyclist, but stats like these give her pause. Anyway, despite the ridiculousness of the grade, she was game (after thinking it over for a few minutes). Sweet.
The first part of Hicks Road consists of rolling bumps that gradually bring you upwards (<400 feet gain in 5 miles). This stretch is semi-scenic:
Finally, a true Bay Area climb. Ok, actually, I have done some of the great, shorter climbs around Pescadero (Tunitas Creek for example), but this was the first of the big Bay Area climbs for me (the other two being Mt. Diablo and Mt. Hamilton..hoping to do those soon!).
Here is a slideshow of the ride for those who are too lazy to read the rest of the ride description (I don’t blame you..I often look for the cliff notes myself):
After doing some research, I settled on going with the Bolinas Fairfax Rd approach – general consensus seemed to be that it was the coolest way up with minimal traffic, changing scenery and a couple of tough sections. This route had me starting out in the rather nice town of Fairfax. From Center Boulevard I turned left on Bolinas Road and couldn’t wait to start climbing. About a half mile later my wish was answered with some nice climbing through a residential area in which I wouldn’t mind having a house..
This ride was a few months ago (April 11, to be exact), but I wanted to get an entry in while a few of the details still existed in memory!
For my grandmother’s birthday this year, my mom and I traveled to the Bay Area to celebrate this occasion and reconnect a bit with family. It was a very nice visit that even included a trip up to Santa Rosa to visit Russian River Brewing Co (sweet place and incredible beers). And, possibly even more important than awesome beer, this trip included some cycling. My uncle lives in La Honda and is very much into cycling as well (he also came down and did the Solvang Century with my mom and me). La Honda is west of San Jose and less than 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The city itself, while quite small, is somewhat famous for having been the residence of Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Additionally, Neil Young currently lives in the general area and the La Honda Winery has started producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese wines (have no idea if they are any good!). La Honda is a very rural, but very scenic town. Basically, an old-school residential area with only a couple of commercial buildings (Apple Jack’s Inn, most notably…and the reviews seem quite good on the place). So, with that bit on La Honda, the ride!
Starting from La Honda, we headed west on 84/La Honda Rd. From La Honda, this is basically a shallow grade descent. The shoulder varied from good to minimal, but with minimal traffic (at least when we were riding) it was not a problem. This section was quite scenic with tons of green growth on both sides and beautiful houses tucked into the hillside and along the meandering creek. And slightly chilly too…but not quite chilly enough to put on the arm warmers (well, for me at least). Anyway, 8 miles in and we hit the tiny town of San Gregorio (population is an impressive 287 people). Notably, the intersection of 84 and Stage Road in San Gregorio plays host to the San Gregorio General Store. This place is awesome. All at once, it is a general store, bar, live music venue and historic site (operating since 1889!). And they get so many cyclists they even have a sign asking cyclists to remove their shoes before entering. How many places have you seen a sign like that?
So, after a brief stop at the store, we head south on Stage Road, a wonderfully scenic road. A slight descent and then we finally start climbing. Sweet. The climbs along this road are nothing epic, but fun and incredibly scenic:
A couple more miles and we are in Pescadero. Small (like all the towns along this ride), scenic and definitely worth visiting. The downtown part of Pescadero along Stage Road has a couple of great stores. One is basically a general store that has some incredible fresh-baked breads. The other is part general store and part restaurant with some very welcome coffee and, apparently, excellent stone oven pizzas. That, and a beautiful, expansive garden/outdoor eating area. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of these places..but I am sure it would not be too difficult to figure out given the small size of the town! Great town to visit and cycle through! Heading back out, we head through the residential area of Pescadero..quite scenic (and the clouds were finally starting to lessen!):
Finally, we push on along Pescadero Creek Road and start some climbing. Beginning at 100 ft elevation or so, we climb up along Pescadero Creek at a very slight grade, pass through Loma Mar before starting some decent climbing through San Mateo County Memorial Park. This climbing continues, slightly stronger, after the park, before finally peaking at almost 1100 ft where we hit Sam McDonald County Park. From here, the descent is awesome! The turns are never too tight, allowing for some high speeds, and the road surface is excellent. Great descent down to San Gregorio Creek while being shrouded by redwoods. Awesome!
To finish, we head back to La Honda via a great one-lane back-road (Redwood Dr). After passing by Reflection Lake (quite scenic!) I decide to throw in a touch more climbing to round out the ride. This last bit is short, gets some semi-steep climbing in and gives you a nice overview of the residences in La Honda. If you enjoy a few hundred extra feet of punishment, throw this in. If not, after the lake, go left instead of right!
While this route doesn’t have the epic climbing of some of my previous routes, it is a great ride with some nice climbs. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend it!
Thank you Bobby for a perfect tour of the area! I can’t wait to cycle in the area again!