Where are good road cycling routes around Santa Cruz?

I parked bikes at a street fair the other weekend in Capitola, CA where three people told me they were visiting from out of state, heard the riding was wonderful in Santa Cruz so they brought their road bikes. “Where should we ride?” they asked.

Glenwood Drive

I pointed towards the Santa Cruz Mountains and suggested “Pick a road and go up. You can’t go wrong.”

That’s mostly true, but some roads are better than others. Maybe you’d like to do a loop without getting lost. Several roads are dead-ends, and maybe you’d rather not ride an out-and-back. A few of those roads can be a little bit sucky with traffic. How can you find those roads?

The resource for local rides is this Bay Area Bike Rides Deck created by local cycling hard man Ray Hosler with Chronicle Books. Several local cycling shops carry either this card deck of Bay Area bike rides, which also covers a few popular Santa Cruz County routes, or the paperback book. Ray gives a wealth of insider knowledge on each of these cycling routes in his guide.

I live in Scotts Valley so most of my riding is centered around the north and west portion of Santa Cruz County. I often ride up the infamous Mountain Charlie Road and descend down either Zayante or Soquel San Jose Road. Another personal favorite is up Felton Empire, then down Ice Cream Grade to Bonny Doon and returning to Santa Cruz via the coast on Highway 1.

Where do you like to ride in Santa Cruz County?


  1. (1) Coastal trail for first time tourists. (2) After that I’d need to assess their capabilities. Strava heatmap is awesome for crowdsourced routing

  2. After living in Santa Cruz for 10 year during college, I only rode mountain bikes. This past weekend I visited Capitola with my family and brought my road bike. I asked a friend for a route and he did not disappoint! I made my way out to Coralitos via some back roads behind Aptos, then climbed Eureka Canyon Rd and Highland Way all the way up to the summit. From there I re-fueled at the Summitd Store and zipped up for the amazing descent down Soquel San Jose Rd. At first I was a little scared due to the number of cars, but then I saw the signs “Bikes may use full lane”… So I took full advantage of that and ripped down the hill. I actually got held up by a few cars, and was going way faster than they were. All in all it was about 44 miles, with just over 3500′ of climbing. The best part was feeling the cool ocean breeze while heading back to the coast! Coming from the Sacramento valley this felt pretty darn nice!

  3. Hey Jay, and thanks for your ride report.

    I’ve wondered if I should mention Soquel San Jose when recommending rides. I sometimes ride it but I know several people who avoid it altogether because of traffic. Like you mention, asserting your lane position vs hugging the edge makes a big difference there.

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