Author Topic: Recommended Route San Jose to ACA Pacific Coast Route  (Read 7346 times)

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Offline peterswim

Recommended Route San Jose to ACA Pacific Coast Route
« on: June 05, 2013, 03:29:31 pm »
I'm looking for a recommendation for a safe route from San Jose to the coast (somewhere between Santa Cruz and Monterey) where I then plan to pick up ACA's Pacific Coast route to Los Angeles.  Alternatively, can someone suggest resources I could check to discover a safe route. Thanks.

Offline Pat

Re: Recommended Route San Jose to ACA Pacific Coast Route
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2013, 11:45:46 am »
Hi Peter,

You are in for a real treat, from Monterey on down to San Luis Obispo.  ACA has maps which lay out a route for cyclists to follow - Map 4.  It starts at the Golden Gate Bridge and ends in Santa Barbara.

San Jose is a large town (9th or 10th largest in the country) and spread out.  If you are planning on rolling out of your driveway, where you live might influence your choice.  As you well know, the problem is the lack of easy roads through the Santa Cruz Mountains to the coast.  I was hoping someone would chime in and tell you the easy way to get there.  And, maybe, someone will.

In the mean time, I will share with you what we have found as far as possible routes, moving from south to north:

Gilroy - Hollister -  Watsonville  - The idea would be to ride down to Gilroy on surface streets, use US-101 to get to Highway 129, and ride to Watsonville.  The problem here is that, it seems, US-101 does not allow bikes on it.  We have driven US-101 south from Gilroy, specifically trying to imagine bikes, and have seen "No Bikes" signs.  We have never seen a bike on this part of US-101.  There are several narrow bridges, with no shoulders, poor sight lines, and one is quite long.

An alternative would be to take a long detour by going to Hollister, using Bolsa Road - Highway 25 - go nearly to Hollister - Highway 156 - back to US-101 - Highway 129 to Watsonville.  I am not sure about Highway 129. Parts seem narrow, poor sight lines, difficult, and might be startling for drivers to find a bike on it.  But I am sure a rider would be fine on it.

Hecker Pass - The idea is to ride down past Morgan Hill, and take Highway 152 over to Watsonville.  We have never ridden this, either.  It is quite steep, very busy, has no shoulders, and poor sight lines.  If you consider this, go drive in your car.  We decided it is too dangerous on a loaded Surly.

Old Santa Cruz Highway - The idea is to get to Lexington Dam, ride up Old Santa Cruz Highway, ride Summit Road over and take Soquel San Jose Road down to Soquel.  Once at Soquel Avenue, a cyclist is on the ACA Route.

The issue is getting to Lexington Dam.  The only way I know to ride a bike to it is up the dirt section of Los Gatos Trail, complete with an impossibly steep little hill for a loaded Surly, not far from the face of the dam, as well as the dam face itself. 

A cyclist could start at one of the pull-outs on Old Santa Cruz Highway, just south of Bear Creek Road, and avoid the dirt section.  In fact, this is the very route my wife and I take.

Highway 9 - The idea is to ride to Los Gatos, climb to Skyline, and then either go on to Santa Cruz on Highway 9, or take Skyline to one of the roads down, like Bear Creek Road, or Mountain Charley Road.  We have never ridden loaded Surly's up Highway 9, but imagine it to be a long, steep slog.  Once at the top, the rider still has a long way to go to get to anywhere.

Other Northern Options - I am sure you have looked at the map, and wondered about Page Mill Road, which would involve a lot of climbing, and still be no where when at the top.  Highway 92 to Half Moon Bay seems dangerous, due to the very high volume of traffic, lack of shoulders, and sight line issues.

Starting in San Francisco - A cyclist could take surface streets up to San Francisco with little risk.  We have been dropped off in San Francisco before, and followed the ACA Route.  On the ACA Route, Devil's Slide has been slightly eased by the opening of the tunnel.  I'm not sure if bikes are allowed in the tunnels, or if a cyclist still goes over the top like we did last year, sans the cars.  Non-car ways of getting to San Francisco could involve riding up on CalTrain or BART, but you would need to confirm the logistics, timetables, and costs before you attempted this.

I am hopeful I am over thinking this, and a simple, clear, easy, safe choice exists.  I am also hopeful that, over time, ACA will provide recommended routes from air ports / train terminals in large US cities (such as San Jose - which is surprisingly much larger than San Francisco) to the routes.  Until they do, we will continue to take Old Santa Cruz - Soquel San Jose Highway to get to the coast.

Happy Trails,



Offline Bclayden

Re: Recommended Route San Jose to ACA Pacific Coast Route
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2013, 08:15:46 pm »

Pat has some good route advice.  I live in the Bay Area and ride the Santa Cruz Mountains often and can add bit more.

ANY road over the mountains is much busier during commute hours.  There is a heavy flow each way but local riders know to stay off these roads going either direction during commute hours as the roads are very twisty and the people drive WAY too fast.  I stay clear after 3pm to avoid the high school drivers too.

Having said that my favorite route over the hill is from Los Gatos to Watsonville.  Join the Los Gatos Creek Trail (it starts in San Jose) and take it up to Lexington Reservoir.  There's a 2 mile segment of packed gravel road.  Follow the East side of the reservoir, Alma Bridge Road, to join Old Santa Cruz Highway, Left at Summit Rd/Highland Rd.  (this road had a washout and was closed for some time last winter so check that it's open) then, my favorite, Eureka Canyon Rd. to Watsonville.  Beautiful and once on Highland Rd. very quiet.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2013, 08:40:52 pm by Bclayden »

Offline cgarch

Re: Recommended Route San Jose to ACA Pacific Coast Route
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2013, 05:27:09 pm »
If you didn't mind adding possibly a day to the route, go up to Portola Valley and pick up Old La Honda Road to the summit. Cross Skyline and continue on over to 84 and out to the coast. Old La Honda I believe is the lowest point crossing the Santa Cruz Mountains and has low traffic. And you get the bonus of a nice part of the coast and a superb tailwind (usually).

Page Mill is not the best if you're loaded - it's steep for long sections. 152 (Hecker Pass) is probably a bad idea and a non-starter. Looking at Google Maps there is a bicycle must exit sign at CA 129 west exit, so bikes are allowed between the 101 x 25 junction and 129. Granted it won't be fun . .  Otherwise it is the Los Gatos Creek trail as Bclayden has noted. Eureka Canyon is very nice and you can stop to fuel up at the Corralitos Market.


Offline peterswim

Re: Recommended Route San Jose to ACA Pacific Coast Route
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2013, 04:49:19 pm »
Thanks for the comments.  I rode from SF to LA twice in the mid-90s as a participant in the California AIDS Ride (now LifeCycle) events, but that is a supported event and does not come down the coast through Big Sur.  For those rides, we used Crystal Drive Road (Hwy 92) to Half Moon Bay and I don't remember the road having too much traffic, but it was Sunday morning.  Also, I live in Los Angeles, so my idea of light traffic may differ from others living in less urban areas.  I've also done the SLO to LA section of the trip using the ACA maps, so I'm familar with half the trip.

Happy cycling everyone and remember to be careful out there.

Offline cgarch

Re: Recommended Route San Jose to ACA Pacific Coast Route
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2013, 11:12:33 am »
CA 92 to Half Moon Bay generally has heavy traffic. Riding it on a Sunday morning was probably wise. There are better ways to cross the Santa Cruz Mtn spine.


Offline Pat

Re: Recommended Route San Jose to ACA Pacific Coast Route
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2013, 04:21:58 pm »

In your original post, you asked about a route from San Jose to Santa Cruz.  The discussion has broadened, as threads often do.  The question, now, seems to be, how to get to Half Moon Bay from San Jose.  Instead of taking a more direct route, the 50 miles from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz would be spectacular, easy riding and often has a great tail wind.

As you say, you have ridden Highway 92 (for some reason I get the impression that was 20 years ago?)  You are experienced in LA traffic levels.  And you are comfortable with Highway 92 traffic levels early on a Sunday morning.  And, if your ride is supported, you may come away with a different answer than I have.

Just so someone who has no experience with this road, let us be clear what they should expect.  The road is mostly two-lane.  The shoulders are, at best, intermittent.  Site lines are dangerous in places.  At rush hour, this overburdened rural road is jam-packed with cars and trucks, bumper-to-bumper, driving 50 MPH+.  Even on weekends, the road becomes very busy as the day wears on, say by noon.

For me to get to the reservoir on Highway 92 by 8 AM, I would have to cover over 30 miles.  Since I am old, slow, and load my Surly down, I would need to leave the house by 5 AM.  Once on Highway 92, the seven miles and 800 odd feet of climbing would not be overly challenging.

However, if my goal is to get to Santa Cruz from San Jose, with an eye toward going further south, I
 would probably spend the four or five hours it takes to climb to Lexington Reservoir, go to the top on Old Santa Cruz Highway, and go down either Soquel Road or Eureka Canyon Road.  With either route, I would be on the ACA Route in about four or five hours.

From a biker perspective, Highway 92 seems to rate as at least as hazardous as any part of the ACA route from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo, now that the Devil's Slide Bypass has gone.

Happy trails,