Mt. Veeder Road

Distance: 21 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2440 ft

I love this road.  It’s loaded with character, and will charm you, I promise.

Mt. Veeder Rd. is a text-book two-hour ride: a straight ride up and over a summit, then return.   The landscape is varied and always pretty, and the road contour is ever-changing.  It’s a perfect ride, and the descent is my favorite descent in the Wine Country.  Once it was cursed with the usual Sonoma County lousy road surface.  About that I have good news, bad news, and good news.  The good news is that MVR has been recently repaved (Thanks, Joel) and it is now without a pothole or patch, so you can absolutely rip the descent.  The bad news is, it’s chipseal, so it’s a mite chattery. The other good news is, the repaving was done a while ago and car traffic has had time to wear down the worst of the jaggedness.  It’s not great, but it’s good.  The workload is between easy and hard—you’ll notice the climbing on both sides of the summit.

MVR is paralleled by a much more car-friendly road, Dry Creek Road (more on that later), that goes to the same place, so logically it should be car-free.  It isn’t.  When last I rode it, Monday afternoon in March, it was at times almost busy.  As with every other rural road is California, MVR is suffering from an influx of mansions and vineyards.  Again, it’s not great but it’s good.

By the way, names are misleading here.  You are not climbing a mountain, and, despite the fact that you begin on Redwood Road and follow Redwood Creek for miles, these are not redwood forests.  If you look up the hillside to the west you can spot some scraggly redwoods, but that’s it.  Still, the non-redwood woods are quite pretty.

(To see an interactive version of the map/elevation profile, click on the ride name, upper left, wait for the new map to load, then click on the “full screen” icon, upper right.)

It’s very lush for the first miles

I park among the housing tracts off Dry Creek Road, for security, and ride the easy mile to the start of Redwood Road, but you don’t have to—the first miles of Redwood/Mt. Veeder are a shallow enough climb that you can warm up on them. The first miles of Redwood Rd. are fairly solidly built up, but the houses soon become sparser.  You ride along Redwood Creek, a pretty, heavily canopied stream.  Soon Redwood Rd. goes L, and the road straight ahead becomes Mount Veeder Rd (it’s all signed).  You’ll see numbers painted on the road—1100, 1200—which for a long time I thought were elevation markers, but I think they’re street addresses.  The pitch goes to noticeable, then gets serious for the last 1.2 miles (9-11%) before the summit, but it’s never daunting.

At the summit, a number of things happen: 1) you reach the intersection of Mt. Veeder and Lokoya Rd to the L; 2) you get the best vista on the ride of the land to the north; 3) you enter an area damaged by the Tubbs Fire, which burned 2800 homes in Santa Rosa in October of 2017, though it’s still pretty; and 4) you do not descent yet—you roll up and down for 2+ very pleasant miles.  At 8.5 miles the real descent begins, and you drop for 2 miles, all the way to the T at Dry Creek Road.

It’s drier further up the hill

This descent is full of lovely moments and the scenery is gorgeous.

At this point you have a route choice: ride back on Mt. Veeder, or turn R and ride the half-mile to Dry Creek Road (not the famous Wine Trail road out of Healdsburg—this is another Dry Creek Road) and ride it back to Redwood Road.  Both are very good options, and most local riders do the loop route.  I don’t.

Here’s how to make up your mind: DCR has a much gentler pitch, and is wider, straighter, more open (sunnier), and much more developed.  And it eliminates the 2-mile climb at the start of the Veeder return ride.  As a result of all this, it’s easier, gentler, and less dramatic.  It can be pretty, in a manicured sort of way, but not as pretty as MVR.  Do it if you’re ready to relax on the ride home.  The Mt. Veeder return is dramatic, exciting, and dodgy.  Do it if you want to whoop and holler, and work a bit.  I’ve mapped the ride as an out and back, because the MVR descent must be experienced at least once.

Dry Creek Road: slower, smoother, more open, blander

Shortening the route: Ride to the summit and turn around.

Adding miles:  If you turn the other way at the end of Mt. Veeder Rd and go L onto Dry Creek Rd, it will soon turn into Trinity Grade, a classic little up-and-down across a ridge separating Napa County from Sonoma County.  It’s steep, twisty, and scenic, but the road surface is horrid even by Sonoma County standards, and there is no room for you and cars.  It’s not as trafficked as one of the major arteries, because it connects two very small communities, but you won’t be alone.

A short stretch up Trinity, Cavedale Road takes off to the L (southeast).  It’s a very small, very isolated back road that up and down over a scenic ridge to the Sonoma area.  It’s high on my to-do list (Thanks, Steve).  It had a terrible road surface, but the Sonoma half has been recently repaved and the Trinity half is being repaved as we speak (as of 11/22).  You can loop Veeder > Trinity > Cavedale > Veeder via a lot of Sonoma surface streets, but I wouldn’t do it because it involves riding Hwy 12, which is in my experience a nightmare—small two-lane with next to no shoulder and packed with traffic in both directions.  Truly scary.

If you go R at the Veeder/Dry Creek Rd intersection, then go straight instead of R again at the next intersection, you’re on Oakville Grade, a short stretch of road famous for its steepness.  I haven’t ridden it.

If you want something mellow, at the west end of Trinity Grade is the lovely little village of Glen Ellen (very nice patisserie there), and out the west end of town are two perfectly sweet little rambles, Warm Springs Road and Bennett Valley Road.  Both meander through very pretty countryside.  I’d put them in a Bestrides ride somehow if it weren’t for their level of traffic, which is a mite high for perfect tranquility.

Check out the route for the Tour of the Napa Valley (below) for lots of good but not great riding on the east side of the valley.

Afterthoughts: This road is part of the Tour of the Napa Valley, a century with good folks, good food, good roads, and a great attitude.  On the century, as you approach the summit of Mt. Veeder Rd, you hear bagpipes.  The music is live and coming from the summit, and it’s meant to lift your flagging spirits.  Boy, does it work.  One of the great century perks of all time.

6 thoughts on “Mt. Veeder Road

  1. Richard Shearer

    I agree that Mt. Veeder Road is great riding, even with the lousy pavement on the drop from the MVR summit.

    I have one word for Oakville Grade: Don’t. Just say no. The hard part is about a mile, but it is far too steep to be any fun down or up. It’s kind of a stair-step, with the “flats” about 14% by my Garmin and the risers noticeably steeper—I think as much as 20%, but that may be a (slight) exaggeration. Oh, and it is completely exposed, so if there is any sun at all, you will bake. Some people like going down stuff like that. I very much don’t. No rational human being likes going up stuff like that.

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      I’m with you, but I learned long ago that there are riders who, when you say a route is stupidly hard, will flock to it.

  2. sam

    I turned left and went up Trinity Grade, which was a great climb—fun, steep switchbacks. The descent from Trinity summit was mostly pleasant and fast. Then, as you mentioned, the Veeder descent and ride back to Redwood was awesome.

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      Trinity is steeper than Veeder and most of the time more trafficky, since it’s a connector between two valleys.

  3. Von Z

    For a more challenging climb, nearby Cavedale Road has been repaved with an excellent surface from the south end to the fire station (midway: JR) as of 11/2022. Out and back or loop possibilities can be added to the Mt. Veeder Road ride. Be careful on the rough and technical Dry Creek-Trinity descent to the Mt Veeder junction.


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