Distance: 20 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2270 ft
This isn’t a great ride, but it’s perfectly pleasant. It climbs over two small summits, and drops down into the actual town of Coulterville, which consists of about 8 buildings. The scenery is only OK, mostly scrub brush hillsides, and frankly I include it in Bestrides for only one reason: of all the rides I’ve done in the area, it’s the only one with consistently decent pavement and little traffic. It’s unshaded, so I wouldn’t do it on a hot summer afternoon.
Start at the Priest Station Cafe and Store (really just a cafe). There is parking for 3-4 cars off to the side. Ride to Coulterville (there is one intersection along the way—go R.). After about a mile, the route is through rolling hillsides totally carpeted by a shrub called chamise or greasewood, fairly uninteresting except in blooming season (May-early June), when it makes quite a show.
Coulterville itself is of some slight interest. It’s tiny, but incredibly it includes a hotel, a saloon, a spa, a historic train engine, and a “boulangerie” along with the inevitable general store and antique shop. The saloon claims to be the oldest operating saloon in California (est. 1851).
Shortening the ride: You probably won’t, but if you do, all the miles are pretty much the same so turn around whenever you want to.
Adding Miles: From Priest you’re 3 miles from the turn-around point of the Ward’s Ferry Road ride, a much bigger and far more dramatic ride.
Priest Station lies at the summit of Old Priest Grade, a harrowing and spectacular ride detailed in the Adding Miles section of the Ward’s Ferry Road ride.