Bike ride Scotts Valley to Los Gatos & San Jose

Update: I’ll do this again 6:30 A.M. Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017 IF the roads I take are passable (Mountain Charlie, then Old Santa Cruz Highway) and rain is at most very light. You should RSVP for this ride so I know how to contact you for a go / no go. See below for contact info. (TO be honest, this ride might be a little moot. I have a feeling Caltrans will open up 17 at the Vine Hill slide area on Tuesday or Wednesday, though I think the area past Glenwood might still be restricted to one lane on the northbound side.)

Tuesday morning I biked from Scotts Valley, California to San Jose in less time than it took people to drive to work. I invite you to join me to do the same Wednesday morning.

Bike Route: Scotts Valley to San Jose & Los Gatos

This isn’t for everybody, but please spread the word to those who commute “over the hill” from Santa Cruz County into Santa Clara County. If we have more than a couple of participants besides just myself, I’d like to contact KSBW and the Sentinel about this ride before this next atmospheric river pounds us silly again.


Those of you in Santa Cruz County know first hand how difficult our transportation has become with all of the storm damage. Trips from Scotts Valley to Los Gatos that should take about 30 minutes at most now take two hours. If five people ride five bikes on Wednesday, that’s 100 feet of lane space available for your fellow human on Highway 17 as they slog up past the slide area at Vine Hill Road. Don’t you feel better about yourself already?

Times and Places and Equipment

We’ll depart the morning of Wednesday, February 15, 2017 from the Scotts Valley Peet’s Coffee at 6:30 a.m. We’re not inflating tires or adjusting brakes or buying coffee at 6:30 A.M. — we’re hitting the road.

We’ll hit Mountain Charlie Road at 7 A.M., and pass the summit between about 7:30 and 7:45. We should be at Los Gatos Main Street by about 8:00 and 8:15 A.M. Route to San Jose depends on who shows up and where you need to go; but we should be to downtown San Jose by about 9 A.M. with time to spare, I think.

I give these times to give an idea of the pace I ride. I intend this to be a moderately paced, no-drop ride, but you must be comfortable riding several miles on mountain roads, through some mud and gravel, and have a bike in good condition. If you ride a mountain bike, please use slicks for this ride. There’s very little traffic on this route across the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Mountain Charlie has a couple of short pitches exceeding 20%; if you’re not accustomed to that, bring shoes you can walk in. You’ll need lights for the 6:30 a.m. departure, and kit appropriate for 40 degrees F at departure, warming quickly into the 60s when the sun comes out.

What About the Return?

I routinely ride the Highway 17 bus from San Jose to Scotts Valley. One way fare is $7. The bus begins in downtown San Jose, and stops in Scotts Valley and downtown Santa Cruz. Bus schedule here.

If you plan to bike back to Santa Cruz County, I think the southbound trip up Old Santa Cruz Highway is significantly more difficult than the northbound up Mountain Charlie, but I start near the Bay in Santa Clara and Your Mileage May Vary.


No RSVP is necessary, but if you comment here or on my personal Facebook page, at Twitter, or via a comment here I’ll know to look for you at Peet’s Coffee in 95066. For the Feb 22 ride, leave a way for me to contact you by 6 A.M. so I can give a go / no go decision, which I plan to do by about 6:15 A.M. I will also tweet go / no go to my Twitter.

If you need to park, I suggest the Scotts Valley Transit Center park-and-ride lot across the street from the library. Be aware that even getting into Scotts Valley can be challenge — Tuesday morning at 6:30, Highway 17 was backed up from the slide area, across all of Scotts Valley and all the way to Pasatiempo.

Route Beta

For those who want to ride but want to go solo:

  • Glenwood Road and Mountain Charlie Road both have very light traffic during the morning commute. Glenwood is damp in places but is otherwise clear of obstructions and danger.
  • Mountain Charlie suffered serious damage from heavy automotive and truck traffic that tried to detour around Highway 17 last week. The pavement is still there, but it “feels” like you’re riding on loose bricks or paving stones, even more so than usual. Charlie is now closed to through traffic, but bikes and locals and get through with no problems. County crews spent last weekend clearing mud and trees from the road.
  • Old Santa Cruz Highway is in good shape, though you’ll want to slow down in the turns because they’re still wet and a little bit slick.
  • James J. Lenihan Dam Trail: You know that steep bit of paved trail behind the dam at Lexington Reservoir where everybody goes about 40 MPH? Right at the bottom, there’s small bit of invisible erosion that will nail you and break your bike and your shoulder. So check your speed at the bottom, m’kay?


  1. I just did this route (Aug. ’17) with a road bike and 25lb panniers. This is the road route I took:

    Glen Canyon – not much shoulder and a lot of traffic
    Scotts Valley/Glenwood – bike lane
    Mountain Charlie – rough road, very steep in parts. A dozen cars, driving reasonably
    A quick right on Summit, left back onto Mtn. Charlie
    Old Santa Cruz – a few cars, road is good so you can keep up speed
    Alma Bridge – saw one car
    Los Gatos Creek Trail – dirt with gravel, one steep down hill section

    Climbing Mountain Charlie with a load was a challenge. I was told that Soquel – San Jose is more traveled, but more gradual and less overall climbing. Apparently it is one lane in places due to the damage this winter.
    Instead of Alma Bridge I was told there is a dirt/gravel trail that you can pick up at Old Santa Cruz/Bear Creek intersection to get you to the Los Gatos Creek trail. Alma Bridge is all paved, but adds about 250 ft of climbing.
    Los Gatos Creek Trail had a steep downhill gravel section that was sketchy on 25c tires.

    Overall a beautiful, fun, very challenging route with a load. I would like to try it again pannier free!

  2. Thanks for the ride report, Gumm. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    I should’ve started that post with some context – I posted this invitation last winter, when epic rains destroyed many of our local roads (including Soquel San Jose) and made commuting via Hwy 17 a challenge at best. I scheduled the ride during one of the rare dry days as a kind of commute challenge and news event. During the summer this is my normal commute route once or twice a week and it’s indeed a lovely, enjoyable ride with very little traffic north of Scotts Valley.

    As you note, Soquel-San Jose is now open to traffic, and there is one part that’s still one lane. The damage on LGCT between LG Main Street and the reservoir has also been mostly repaired.

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