Touring - Santa Cruz, CA -- how is biking around, into, out of?
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11-06-07, 08:03 PM
Question for anyone who has biked into, out of, near, or around the Santa Cruz, CA area: How is it for touring style biking (w/ a light load)?
I'm contemplating a couple-day trip in the area that overnights in Santa Cruz one of the nights. I have a Pacific-coast touring book that suggests a couple of routes nearby... one is a loop north of Santa Cruz that passes through some beautiful redwood forests & state parks, and goes up Highway 1 for a short segment. Another route is a multi-day loop that starts south of Santa Cruz, and includes a stop in Pinnacles state park.
What I'm mainly interested in is how is it getting into/out of Santa Cruz?
Has anyone biked along Highway 9? (a highway that leads into/out of SC, to the north of the city.)
The northern loop route includes at least 10-15 miles on the 9... has anyone had good or bad experiences on it? How are the shoulders? Would you bike it in potentially rainy weather?
Any experiences biking into/out-of/nearby Santa Cruz would be greatly appreciated.
11-06-07, 08:44 PM
Route 1 north of SC is pretty good. There are some nice stretches out by Big Basin. There's basically nothing there until you hit the city line. I believe it's a little hairier going south, so you might want to take side roads in Aptos, Soquel etc.
I actually liked Soquel and Aptos more than SC proper. New Brighton is a great place to camp, the hiker/biker site is really nice, you can hear the water, and best of all it's close to the bathroom. ;)
You can ride on 1 north of Santa Cruz, but not again until you get much further south (past Watsonville, I think). Highway 9 has less of a shoulder than that northern section of 1, and the drivers are worse, especially due to the turns.
I'd recommend coming down Highway 1 into the city (turns into Mission St. and it's not very bike friendly, so be defensive and assertive). West Cliff Drive is gorgeous, you have to ride it. To get south of Santa Cruz, I'd take Soquel all the way out the Freedom Blvd., and then Freedom through Watsonville.
11-06-07, 11:35 PM
I used to live in Santa Cruz and have ridden (and toured) all those roads extensively.
I highly, highly recommend a loop south through Big Sur over to the pinnacles. I described the route I took here:
This route has one unbelievably hard but exceptionally rewarding climb - Nacamiento Road. Be ready for many miles of steepness. The nearly-undeveloped camping just over the top is very nice. Bring a way to purify water, there is a stream but no tap water. If you do it in spring, be prepared for really beautiful wildflowers.
I imagine the northern route you are talking about includes Big Basin State Park. THis area is very nice, hilly forest. I think the southern route is more spectacular, but if you love big trees, hilly riding and little mountain roads in the forest, you'll like this route.
I don't love Highway 9, it does carry a good amount of traffic and the shoulders are not very big. Ther ei s some commute traffic in both directions, from the little mountain towns to SC and San Jose.
People do ride it, but it is a little nervy. There is an excellent back-way from Santa Cruz to Felton via Scotts Valley - from Soquel Dr. in Santa Cruz, head up Branciforte, and then turn left after the park at Glen Canyon. Turn left (still on Glen Canyon) at the stop sign in about 6-8 miles. This takes you up to Scotts Valley. Make your way to turn right on Mt. Herrmann ROad, take that Felton. Then you encounter Hwy 9 above the Santa Cruz - Felton commute corridor, and there is a bit less traffic. This route adds some milage (maybe 5-10 extra) and a small amount of climbing vs. just starting up Hwy 9 at the intersection with Hwy 1, but if you have time, it is a very pleasant way to get up there. Alternatively, there is a frontage road along the north side of Hwy 17, which works just fine and is safe, but just isn't as nice.
If your goal is Big Basin, you do have to ride on 9. The other thing you could do is approach from above, and descend 9, which will put you on it for less time. That whole little loop road (236?) that goes to Big Basin is great, both above and below the park. There is a store in the park.
If you want to descend 9, there is an absolutely awesome road that leaves Scotts Valley at the north end of town, off Granite Creek, called Mountain Charlie, which takes you up to summit road. It has 3 evilly steep sections, but they are short. You will want either a very light load or low gears.
Coming into SC from the north on Hwy 1 is just fine, lots of shoulder, no issues.
Felton Empire is good.
Empire Grade is good.
Smith Grade and Ice cream grade are good.
Note the use of the word "grade".
You do NOT want to ride Jamison or Alba with a touring load, unless you like multiple miles of 18% grade. Zayante is also really steep.
Leaving SC to the south, the Kirkendall & Spring description is fine, there is some not-that-inspiring riding, and there are some nice detours available, but they are a little complicated to explain.
If you are riding from San Jose, I posted something not too long ago about a route from Saratoga to Santa Cruz, here (several posts from me in this thread):
Look for the Krebs map for the bay area, that gives you a lot of information.
Have a great tour!!!
(And if I haven't bored you to tears, and you want more info, feel free to ask.)
11-06-07, 11:46 PM
Yea, Krebs maps are good. Here's a couple more references:
You can order this free map or download it (I highly recommend it):
Some local rides:
11-07-07, 02:57 PM
11-07-07, 02:59 PM
Sorry, mis-type. Meant to say:
Thanks everyone, what a metric ton of highly specific and useful info.
Especially Valygrl -- that was exactly the kind of local road & route info/suggestions I was looking for.
11-07-07, 06:38 PM
I second the specific recommendations for Hwy 1 north of Santa Cruz. Coming into town, turn right on Delaware and go a few blocks to the coast, then follow West Cliff Drive downtown to dramatically increase the beauty index and to get off Mission. South of town, everybody's going to want you to go Soquel/Freedom. It's OK, but a Krebs map will show you how to spend a limited amount of time on Soquel before veering back toward the coast on quieter, better looking roads. I live near Pinnacles, and I've ridden all these routes. The loop through Big Sur to Nacimiento and over through Pinnacles is, in my biased estimation, one of the best in the world. Monday night we encountered a coyote, a wild pig and a barn owl along Highway 25 in short order. Good camping at Pinnacles, along Nacimiento and in Big Sur. The park in Monterey that permits camping is at the top of an aggravating hill.
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