Priest-Coulterville Road

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.

Hillsides of chamise in bloom in June

2 thoughts on “Priest-Coulterville Road

  1. David Jennings

    Thanks so much for this website, Jay. It is really a treasure.

    This is one of my local rides and among my favorites.

    I would recommend starting in the town of Moccasin or even at one of the vista points near Woods Creek. Then ride up Hwy 120 through Moccasin and up New Priest Grade (also on 120). Then connect to Jay’s ride, which takes you to Coulterville. But instead of returning the same way, I prefer to ride back down Hwy 49. The descent, I think, is of premium quality.

    Thanks again for such a great website. I’ve learned a lot from it.

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      This looks like a nice loop if this stretch of 49 isn’t too heavily trafficked. Beginning near Moccasin means you start off climbing—starting at Priest as I do leaves the big climb until the end of the loop. Notice that David is NOT recommending riding up OLD Priest Grade, the horrors of which are detailed in the Adding Miles of the Ward’s Ferry Road ride.


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