Category Archives: Monterey Bay

Bonny Doon Road/Empire Grade

Distance: 21-mile lollipop
Elevation: 2680 ft

This strenuous little 20-miler climbs up from Hwy 1 and the ocean, then loops around to take in two classic back roads, all through picture-book Santa Cruz redwood forest.  Bonny (sometimes spelled Bonnie) Doon itself is pretty famous because whenever the Tour of California comes down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Cruz it’s the climb where the winning move is made.   I stood on the side of the road and watched Levi Leipheimer stick it to Mick Rogers and Dave Zabriskie on this climb one year on his way to the overall victory.

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Robinson Canyon Road

Distance: 19 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2020 ft

(A Best of the Best ride)

This ride is dear to my heart.  It’s my flat-out favorite short out-and-back climb, anywhere.  It’s a perfect climb—varied, challenging, interesting—up a gorgeous wooded riparian draw to a dead-end, followed by an equally perfect descent back down.  Every foot of it is delicious, in both directions.  And it has the “added plus,” as the admen like to say, of being largely ignored, even though it begins in a densely populated area, because it’s a dead-end road to a private lake.   Once upon a time you could expect to meet a car or two, but the world is changing, and now you can expect to meet a car every two miles.  There’s (incredibly) even a golf course several miles in now.  The road surface is consistently good, now that the one stretch of sketchy pavement, below the summit, has recently been repaved.

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