Local Spotlight: Cycling the Coastal Classic Route in California

Itʼs morning. Youʼre early to rise and keen to start the day on a positive note. Workʼs been stressful, and your mind is over-crowded with harrying thoughts. But all of those worries melt away the moment you remember one special cycling route: the Bay Area Coastal Classic. Itʼs a route thatʼs engaging and scenic, one that, at once, tests your stamina and fills you with peace. 

Youʼll welcome the challenge that this route offers. On some of the most scenic ascents in the area, you can practice climbing and descending, helping you seriously skill-build while soaking up some of the best views. Youʼll witness towering redwoods, expansive farmland, and ocean waves crashing upon the shore. As long as youʼre on this ride, boredom really isnʼt an option. It’s one of my favourite local routes!

The ride details:

DISTANCE: Loop of about 50 miles (80 km) starting from Palo Alto
ELEVATION GAIN: 1400 m
CLIMBING: 2 climbs. Old La Honda: avg 8% grade & Tunitas Creek: avg 5% grade
DIFFICULTY: Moderate. Must have some endurance training under the belt.
FUN LEVEL: High

Check out the route here.

So here’s the lowdown. Take off from the Palo Alto or neighbouring regions by heading up Sand Hill Road towards Portola. You will veer left on Portola, and from there you will take a right on the infamous OLH or Old La Honda Road, a local benchmark climb for testing your skills.

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Ascending OLH

Here you will wind your way up a shaded climb, breathing in the oxygen from the trees. It may feel like the climb will never end once you’re 2/3 of the way up, but before you know it you will catch a glimpse of mailboxes that signal the finish. Don’t be alarmed by the cyclists flying past you; many use this climb as a mini time-trial, testing their fitness and aiming for a personal best. This climb is short, but epic averaging 8% grade for about 3 miles. It is one of my absolute favourite climbs in the area.

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At the top of OLH, you will turn right onto Skyline, and cruise into Sky Londa, where you can happily refill your water outside of a store called Skywood on your right. They have a tap just for refilling water bottles, and you may encounter some other cyclists here. Across the street is Alice’s restaurant, where you can have a delicious burger if you feel like cutting the ride short. After a refill, head down 84 to your left and take the long descent towards the ocean. This descent will be fast and fun, taking you over smooth curves that are never too steep. Since its not too technical, you really can enjoy yourself. Hereʼs your chance to pick up the pace for a speed-thrill fix! Eventually, you will hit some open farmland, where you can cruise in the warm sun, and smell the flowers (literally).

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Pit stop in farmland

Make a right onto Stage Road, you will hit the San Gregorio general store. Here you can grab a drink and a snack, and maybe even hear some live folk music if it’s a weekend. They are particular about the removal of shoes. After a break, take the short climb up Stage Road. At the top, take a glance back at the views.

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View at the top of Stage Road

From here you will turn right on Highway 1 to descend upon a wonderful view of the oceanside. You can stop for a photo, or just feel the ocean wind pounding your face (awesome, right?) as you fly down the Highway 1.

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Reaching the stunning ocean

Don’t miss the quick right turn onto Tunitas Creek Road, which brings you back on a long and shaded climb. Tunitas is never all that steep, but don’t underestimate it’s length. After many kilometres in the legs, it can feel quite tiring. If you overdo it in the beginning, you may pay for it later on this climb, so try and ease into the ride. This, however, is a pretty climb, taking you up a serene and steady ascent through Redwood forest.

At the top there is an intersection, and you will cross and descend King’s Mountain Road. Practice your descending skills on the steep King’s Mountain descent with caution, watching for the oncoming cars and cyclists making the climb up.

At the bottom of the descent, you will go left on Mountain Home and enter Woodside where you will find a shop to pick up an additional snack. You will turn right on Whiskey Hill Road to head back towards Sand Hill road, completing the loop. I know Iʼm usually spent by this point. But the sense of accomplishment and the invigorating experience of Californiaʼs natural beauty make it well-worth the effort.

Conclusion: Exceptional all-round training ride with gorgeous views. Best experienced on a warm day, as the ocean winds can be punishing. Spring is the best time to see lush green farmland.

Don’t miss out on this one.

Happy riding!

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