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Riding through the Redwoods

Sunday, April 22, 2018   (12 Comments)
Posted by: Colleen Sepulveda #108960

If you’ve ever heard of the Santa Cruz Mountains or, better yet, have had the opportunity to ride through them, you know how amazing the views are, how exquisite the twisting, turning pavement is and how many other motorcyclists love this area.

My favorite ride covers some well-known and lesser-known roads in this area. My 2016 R 1200 GS is an excellent partner for this ride, but serious fun will result no matter what bike you choose to pilot.

I taught myself to ride using my dad’s Honda 350 when I was 16, hung up my helmet until my kids were old enough to drive, and have been riding lawfully for the past 15 Once I started riding, I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stop. I am a lifelong learner, and I try to improve my riding constantly through additional rider training and practice. I also teach new and advanced rider courses in California.

The San Francisco Bay area is full of interesting towns, people and arts. Not far from the hustle, bustle and mind-numbing traffic of the area lie pristine and isolated jewels that beg for exploration by motorcycle.

If you begin in the San Francisco Bay area, take Highway 92 over the mountains to Half Moon Bay. While the road can be filled with other traffic attempting to escape the rat-race, it is still a fun route, and it gets you to the coast! Half Moon Bay is a charming coastal town, and if you visit during October, you can check out the Art and Pumpkin Festival, one of the oldest and largest local festivals in California.

Highway 1 south from Half Moon Bay offers travellers full views of the sparkling ocean and leads to Stage Road, a very narrow and empty road that winds southward as it parallels Highway 1 to the east. As raw and windblown as Highway 1 is, Stage Road is protected and enveloped by the rolling hills. Instead of ocean vistas, you are treated to quiet hidden enclaves within the twisty valleys. Spanish moss hangs from the Monterey Pines that look like life-sized bonsai trees in the little pockets between the golden hills.

There isn’t any sound or traffic as you enjoy the peaceful road and old oak trees in quiet solitude. Don’t worry about the lack of a centerline because no one is coming from the other way. Quiet farms and lonesome hills with twists and turns populate Stage Road. You just might feel like the only person for miles around on this pavement…but that doesn’t mean you are alone. Look for piglets and other farm animals lounging in the shade next to the road as well as hawks quietly floating above you.

Upon entering the small town of Pescadero, take a left onto Pescadero Creek Road, away from the ocean. The view changes quickly from rolling coastal hills to Redwoods. The twists come fast and furious and are very fun, especially on the fresh pavement. When Pescadero Creek Road ends at Highway 84, turn right to head for Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline (Hwy 35). The restaurant has been a captivating destination for Bay Area locals since the 1950s. Lunch at Alice’s isn’t just filling for the belly; be sure to check out the amazing motorcycles and exotic cars in the parking lot! Yes, you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant!

After lunch, head southeast on Hwy 35 to Hwy 9. Logging redwood trees is the reason this area was first populated, so you will find lots of twists and turns, forests and hills, oak trees and views of the Bay Area far below the hillsides. Keep your eyes open for sights that will delight any rider. Two wheelers on push-bikes accompany you as they burn calories on the uphill climbs and glide like hawks on the downhills. Westbound Hwy 9 takes thrilling tight turns to an even higher level as riders continue through older-growth timberland until reaching Hwy 236. The aroma of sun-warmed pine needles and tree bark reminds you that this place is more than just beautiful to the eyes.

At Hwy 236 the road narrows as you enter the redwood forest for perfect pavement and hairpin turns. There is no center line as you navigate around blind corners. Moss coats the tree trunks and the air smells ancient. The solitude is complete until you find another vehicle coming around the corner, so beware! Eventually, the forest fades to golden hills and gnarled oaks. The road widens a bit and then plunges back into the tall trees as you descend back to lower elevation.

The stupendous view as the ribbon of pavement enters Big Basin State Park always reminds me of elves and other magical creatures. The roadway enters from above the gigantic trees, and the sun is only allowed in concentrated shafts of light through the thick forest growth. If it is hot in the Bay Area, natural air conditioning can always be found in this ancient grove. Big Basin is California’s oldest State Park and well worth the visit.

My favorite route always reminds me just how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful area while still being close to modern conveniences. The best times to ride this route are whenever it is dry and the road is clear. Steep hillsides combined with heavy rains often lead to small (and sometimes large) landslides, so late April through November is the optimal window. The views are amazing, the roads are world-class, and the thrill of riding a motorcycle with a goal towards mastery of the machine is undeniably rewarding.


Marc Taylor says...
Posted Friday, August 3, 2018
Good riding! Been there.
John Liotti says...
Posted Friday, July 13, 2018
My backyard! I'm blessed to live on the wonderful and aways challenging Highway 9. So many great road here. Thanks for writing an article about our area... Riders, I'll meet you at Joe's in Boulder Creek!
Brian J. Kenny says...
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2018
Highway 1 has been closed in various places from Ragged Point to Big Sur since December 2016, but a mega-slide on May 20 significantly worsened the condition of the Mud Creek area — millions of cubic yards of material slid down into the sea and created an additional 15 acres of coastline about 9 miles north of the Monterey County line. Since then, Caltrans has been working to construct a new highway over the top of the slide, burying the old road under tons of dirt. Latest word is that Caltrans is looking at a possible mid September reopening. Check with Caltrans for the latest word on all CA road conditions
Terence Hamill says...
Posted Thursday, May 3, 2018
Enjoyed your story very much.
Eric Sachs says...
Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Awesome story. I did that ride with a group last year and it was beautiful. The 1200GSA is a very capable off-road bike and for those of us to prefer dirt to paved roads... If anyone knows of any off-road trails in and around that area I would love to know about them.
Kent G. Merritt says...
Posted Monday, April 23, 2018
I ride that route pretty often; good call. May see you out there burning calories on the 2016 GSA (I like to stand on the pegs) or on a MTB mountain bike next to the road (I like to climb). For another thrill while in the area, folks may also want to head down Hi-way 1 to Big Sur and then to Hearst Castle.
R.D. Merritt says...
Posted Monday, April 23, 2018
Nice article, but... Why pictures of side-by-side riding in a magazine that promotes ride safety? On a twisty road to boot! Staggered is much safer - allows the riders to move in-lane for road hazards or visibility of corners. There should be one car length between bikes street speeds and two at highway speeds. Perhaps it looked cool on the old CHIPS TV show...
Bill Mcnamara says...
Posted Monday, April 23, 2018
This is Great ride I ofter go through there from Monterey. There is a place on highway 9 that is a pull out on the east side of the road that on a clear day you can see the whole south bay, clear out to Oakland, Moffitt field, San Francisco. The view is spectacular. Going through Big Basin on a weekend can be tricky due to the narrow roads and the about of cars that want the whole road, weekdays are the best.
David Myers says...
Posted Monday, April 23, 2018
Nice story. Good writing. A pleasure to read. Next best thing to being there, I guess.
Walter Farnlacher says...
Posted Monday, April 23, 2018
Another place to ride in the redwoods is a small town on the California coast called Occidental. A second location for riding in the redwoods is Canyon CA. This tiny community is hidden below the East bay hills east of Oakland CA. Largely unknown to all but locals. Expect 10mph switchback turns when coming down into Canyon from Skyline Drive.
Bruce Herbert says...
Posted Monday, April 23, 2018
Headed down 101 from Canada this August and this looks like a great little side trip. Wonder what kind of time this ride would take?
Jeffery Cook says...
Posted Monday, April 23, 2018
Great story , proves that locals know of the hidden gems that would give visitors an opportunity to truly enjoy the location. I have family in the bay area and look forward to visiting from Chicago . Due to the distance I will need to rent a bike to duplicate your route. Any suggestions on a good place to rent from ? Thanks and thank you for being an educator .

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