Distance: 35 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 3925 ft
On paper, Hopland Road (aka Hwy 175) is exactly the sort of road Bestrides avoids like the plague: a big, wide main route between two fairly uninteresting towns with an unaltered pitch (read: slog) through unprepossessing scrublands. The climbing is monotonous, the shoulder is minimal, and the traffic is well above Bestrides’ preferred one car per mile. But the descending is swell and the vistas are breath-taking. Do the ride for these two rewards, or don’t do it at all. And, on the bright side, the traffic, while noticeable, isn’t obnoxious, since the two communities the road connects (Hopland and Lakeport) are both small and the road is straight and wide enough that passing is easy everywhere, and the road surface is flawless, at least on the west side of the summit.
Park on Hwy 175 out of Hopland. The route is very mild climbing for the first 5 miles, but if you want more warm-up you can ride Old River Rd., a perfectly pleasant though unspectacular flat ride, running north and south off 175 (clearly signed—the southern leg soon dead-ends at Hwy 101, the northern leg runs forever). The vineyards on the south side of 175 in the first 5 miles are particularly picturesque. After 5 miles you run out of valley, you hit a 180 turn and climb for 5 more miles to the summit at a moderate pitch that hardly varies. Mapmyride says there are a couple of 10% pitches but I challenge you to find them. Watch for the vistas of the Russian River Valley below you as you climb—that’s why you’re doing this ride.
Just before the summit, you pass the “Entering Lake County” sign, you leave Mendocino County, and the road surface degenerates a notch, from glass to smooth chip seal, not rough enough to impact climbing but rough enough to make the fast descent down the east side a bit less rewarding than the west side. The east side descent is also shorter and flatter. So if you want to turn around, that’s OK with me, but continue on a while because the vistas in the leg past the summit, of Clear Lake to the east and the ridges and canyons to the north, are grand. Much of the landscape was burned in the 2018 Mendocino Complex fire, which actually adds to the piquancy.
Continuing on down the east side, there are several nice moments when you can see your road unfolding miles ahead of you and 500 feet below you to your L. Ride to the intersection with Hwy 29 and turn around. The climb back up to the summit is a little shorter than the west side climb (4.5 miles vs. 5), but it’s easier because Hwy 29 is 900 ft higher than Hopland.
Back at the summit, there’s a sign that reads “9% grade, next 4 miles.” Having already climbed it, you know that’s not true—it averages maybe 7% at the most—but it’s a lovely descent, over far too soon. It’s all smooth, sweeping, banked curves where you can hold your speed easily, and the traffic becomes a non-issue because you’re going as fast as they are. At the bottom of the descent you have 5 miles of perfectly sweet 2% descending to make you feel like a god on the bike.
Shortening the ride: ride from either end to the summit, then return. Each side has its virtues: the east side has better views, the west side has better road surface. Whichever way you go, make sure to do the mile or so on the east side of the summit—that’s where the best views are.
Added miles: As I mentioned, Old River Rd. near the beginning of the ride is pleasant, unmemorable riding in either direction. For a real adventure, Old Toll Rd. takes off from 175 on the R a couple of miles into our route and turns to dirt after 2.7 miles of broken, narrow pavement, whereafter it wends its way all the way to Hwy 29, via Old Toll Rd > Younce Rd. > Highland Springs Rd. If you’re set up for dirt, consider looping the route, riding westward on 175 and eastward on the dirt backroad . At the other end, 10 pleasant miles down Hwy 29 is our Clear Lake to Cobb route, which by some devil’s logic is also Hwy 175. See the Adding Miles section of Clear Lake to Cobb for more riding in that area. Five miles to the north on Hwy 29 is a short, easy gem, Scotts Valley Road, a pretty, mostly flat saunter through old pear orchards—perfect for a family spin.