It's tough, it's scenic, and it will introduce you to some nice roads that you probably didn't know about.

Jeff K, a participant in many of our past rides, rode with me on Sunday, 6/22/08. We enjoyed remarkably-pleasant weather (from 66 to 90 degrees, with most of the afternoon climbs running about 82), considering that the past few days had been running about 100.

You can click on the map and bring up the course in Google Maps, where you can zoom in and see the details. But in a nutshell, you start in Woodside, head out towards Pescadero, then south to Davenport, up Bonny Doon to Empire Grade, down Jamison Creek, up the notorious China Grade, then Highway 9 to Skyline, Skyline north to Sky Londa and back down to Woodside.

9:09am Approaching the start of our ride, Woodside & Canada Road (Roberts Market). Parking is available at the Park N Ride on Woodside Road near 280.   9:11am The ride starts out easily enough, heading south on Mtn Home Road for a couple miles. Mtn Home merges into Portola Road, which dead-ends at San Hill.   9:19am/2.5 miles Realistically, Old LaHonda isn't quite worthy of a "Bridge of Death" at its base, but if you ride it hard enough, it's close.
9:29-9:44am Old LaHonda remains the most-popular route to Skyline, and sees a lot of cyclists. 3.75 miles and 1200ft of climbing from bottom to top. Very little car traffic, but watch out for bikes coming down. Why people would ride down Old LaHonda instead of nearby 84 is a good question though.
9:47am The descent on the west side of Old LaHonda is one of the bay area's hidden gems.   9:53am/8.5 miles At the end of west Old LaHonda you're dumped onto 84 at a very dangerous intersection. Watch out for cars coming up the hill!   10am/11.5 miles Riding through the very small town of LaHonda, where you can buy snacks & drinks from the Pioneer Market, or get drunk at Apple Jacks.
10:06am After leaving 84 just past LaHonda, it's time to head up the 2nd major climb of the day, Haskins Grade, on your way to Pescadero.   10:40am/24 miles Approaching Pescadero, but taking a left turn onto the Butano cut-off, which connects to Cloverdale Road.   10:55am on Cloverdale Road. It's amazing that such rural beauty is only a couple hours away by bike. You don't need a car to "get away from the city."
11:01am Cloverdale Road becomes Gazos Creek as it winds its way back to the coast.   11:04am/31.5 miles and we're heading onto Highway 1 for our run south. If you needed water or food, it's available from the Gazos Creek gas station, but you're better off getting lunch in Davenport.

11:09am and you're pleasantly riding south on the coast, enjoying a nice tailwind and wondering why those two other cyclists are riding the wrong way.

11:20am/37.5 miles for one of the prettier views along the coast. I'm generally not a huge fan of riding Highway 1, but each time I do, it's a lot of fun. Maybe it was that one ride, many years ago, when I had a headwind the entire distance from San Gregorio to Santa Cruz?

11:41am Watch out for these tracks! They've taken out many cyclists, because they cross at a very bad angle.   11:42am/45.7 miles finds my new favorite bakery, the Whale City Cafe, in Davenport. This is your last opportunity for food... period. Unless you want a hot dog at the top of Skyline anyway. And it's great food; the turkey & cheese croissants were fresh & tasty. This was the longest stop on our ride, at half an hour. Very popular with local cyclists, as you can see..
12:30pm/49 miles & 750ft up Bonny Doon road from the coast. Bonny Doon is one of the major climbs from the coast, but the altitude gained is mostly lost as it's not a "through" route to anywhere.   12:50pm/52 miles & 1668ft. Bonny Doon Elementary School, in the middle photo, has working water faucets. Since this is pretty much your last opportunity for water for the next hour or so, I'd recommend that you top off here! The right photo shows one of many "Thanks Fire Fighters" signs in the area; this is very close to the big "Martin" fire area.

1:27pm/57.5 miles & 2585ft. We're on Empire Grade here, and the road will top out at 2600ft in just over a mile. The upper parts of Bonny Doon, Pine Flat & Empire Grade are littered with rollers and small "junk" climbs that don't seem like much individually, but added together they take quite a toll on you.


1:38pm/61 miles (middle photo) and we're descending the infamous Jamison Creek, watching a group of riders struggling up the 15% grade.

1:46pm/63.5 miles as we near the Boulder Creek Golf Course, your last chance for water before the long climb to Skyline.


1:58pm/64 miles sees Jeff outside the Boulder Creek Golf Club, where we'd picked up some cold drinks and the friendly bartender filled our bottles with ice & water.

This was the hottest part of the ride, reaching 90 degrees. Not unpleasant though; the weather had been quite nice for the entire ride. Not so pleasant for a golfer who had to be taken away by ambulance though.

2:11pm/67 miles and there it is... the original Bridge of Death! You're cruising along a nice country road, but you know better. It wouldn't be called China Grade for nothing. And once you cross this bridge, you're on a 10-15% 1.5 mile climb through a dark Redwood forest. A few years ago I had to stop in the middle of the climb because a skunk had laid claim to the road for maybe 10 minutes or so (and there was no way we were going to challenge that claim!). You will suffer greatly on this climb, but you may not suffer gladly.
2:26pm/68.5 miles & 1800ft. Jeff emerges at the top of China Grade, where it re-connects with Highway 236. 800ft of climbing in 1.5 miles. 800ft doesn't seem like that much, but in 1.5 miles? Ouch!   2:45pm/73 miles (middle photo) and we've just come onto Highway 9. Highway 9 is a pretty easy climb, although coming late in the ride it still takes it out of you. At this point Jeff just rode away from me and I tried to maintain a sustainable pace, knowing I was still quite a way from home. 3:11pm/77 miles & 2340ft (right photo). Great views if not for the haze from all the fires. Not too much climbing left.
3:21pm/79 miles & just a bit over 2600ft at the "top" of the ride, Highway 9 & Skyline. And thank goodness for the hot dog stand that's reliably there on weekends. Just a dollar for a coke and at this point in the ride, an ice cold coke is a welcome change from warm energy drink.   3:38pm finds us at our last stop, the fire station on Skyline just half a mile north. Last chance to fill water bottles.
4:05pm/86.5 miles to the scenic overlook on Skyline just a mile or so north of Page Mill. The run south on Skyline is deceptively-fast.   4:14pm/90.5 miles on Skyline opposite the Windy Hill Open Space parking lot. Last chance for a bathroom if needed.   4:36pm/98.5 miles and you're back at Roberts in Woodside! And yes, you do this ride, and you definitely feel like you've done a challenging 100 miles.

Food & Water   Water only   Variable
0 miles Roberts Market, Woodside
11.5 miles Pioneer Market, La Honda
31.5 miles Gazos Creek Gas Station (not verified, just seen)
45.5 miles Davenport
  Between miles 15 & 20 at Sam McDonald & Memorial Parks on Pescadero Road
52 miles Boony Doon Elementary School on Pine Flat Road
63.5 miles Boulder Creek Golf Club
79.5 miles Fire Station on Highway 9
  79 miles, weekends only, hot dog stand at intersection of Highway 9 & Skyline.
Minimum stops- Davenport, Bonny Doon Elementary School, Boulder Creek Golf Club, Skyline Fire Station
This is not a ride for those who require frequent rest stops with services. They just don't exist on this route.

Road conditions & traffic-
  • Mtn Home & Portola- (Woodside)- decent road surface, light to moderate traffic
  • Old LaHonda- Variable road surface but entirely suitable for climbing, light traffic but very narrow road, stay to right
  • Highway 84- (west side) Decent road surface except in areas indicated by signs. Moderate traffic in the morning. Generally safe.
  • Pescadero Road- Good road surface, light traffic except on holiday weekends, road narrows a bit prior to Butano cut-off.
  • Butano cut-off/Cloverdale/Gazos Creek- Moderate quality pavement, but suitable for high speeds on road bikes. Light traffic.
  • Highway 1- High-quality pavement, but can be busy with high-speed traffic. Watch for railroad tracks at Davenport!!!
  • Bonny Doon/Pine Flat/Bonny Doon- Decent pavement, a bit narrow at the bottom, light traffic.
  • Empire Grade- Decent pavement, moderate traffic.
  • Jamison Creek- Very choppy pavement and steep grades require great care descending. Not a fast descent.
  • Highway 236- Narrow with moderate to heavy traffic. Good pavement on the bottom section, variable pavement above China Grade.
  • China Grade- Very narrow, very twisty, lightly-used road very suitable for climbing. Watch for skunks!
  • Highway 9- High-quality pavement, lots of fast-moving traffic, but generally wide shoulder makes it reasonably safe.
  • Skyline Blvd (35)- Decent pavement, moderate shoulder, heavy motorcycle traffic on weekends, but good sight lines make it reasonably safe.
  • Highway 84- (east side) Can have very heavy traffic but generally safe downhill because cars & bikes descend at similar speeds. A bit more dangerous where it flattens out at the bottom, with some narrow sections in nearly-blind corners.