Distance: 21 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2440 ft
I don’t want to oversell this ride. It isn’t life-changing, and the road surface is poor. But I don’t have any rides in the Napa area, so what’s a cyclist supposed to do if she’s stuck in Napa looking for someplace to ride? Besides, I have a deep affection for this road. It’s loaded with character, and will charm you, I promise. It’s also paralleled by a much more car-friendly road, Dry Creek Rd (more on that later), that goes to the same place, so it’s almost car-free. Why can’t all cycling roads be set up like that?
(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.)
This is a text-book two-hour ride: a straight climb-summit-descent-return, 21 miles, 2440 ft of vert. You warm up on a few miles of might-as-well-be-flat climbing, do moderate climbing for a few miles, then huff the last mile or so to the summit on some serious pitch. Past the summit, you will roll up and down for a while, then a short plummet (it’s the only word) down to the end of the road at the T with Dry Creek Rd. The return is, of course, the reverse: a short, steep climb, followed by rolling, then a short steep descent, then a moderate descent, then a nearly flat roll-out to your car. The landscape is varied, always beautiful, and often nearly wilderness, and the road character is ever-changing and never boring.
It would all be an unqualifiedly great ride, were it not for this: after the first 2-3 miles, the road surface is consistently poor, poor enough to be a bit of a damper on the fun on the ride out. You will dread coming back down through that rubbish at speed on the return, but here’s the odd thing: the bulk of the break-up is in the uphill lane, so the return ride, while not perfect, is good enough that the pothole-dodging becomes almost part of the game.
Adding Miles: A glance at the map reveals an obvious loop option: at the Dry Creek Rd T, go R, take the first R onto Dry Creek Rd (officially you’re staying on Dry Creek, but in reality it’s a R at an intersection), ride Dry Creek back to its end at Redwood Rd, and do the pleasant short leg on Redwood back to your car. Most riders ride Mt. Veeder this way, and it’s a nice, comfy alternative to returning on Mt. Veeder—a gentler, smoother, straighter downhill through highly cultivated vineyards and housing developments. And therein lies the reason I don’t include it in Bestrides.org: it’s half the challenge, half the beauty, and half the thrill of Mt. Veeder. Think of it as a bail-out if you get to the end of Mt. Veeder Rd and you’ve had enough.
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, gorgeous, and good enough to be included in the website in its own right. There is little room for you and cars, but luckily it’s not heavily trafficked.
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, but I intend to.
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.