Distance: 38-mile loop
Elevation gain: 4845 ft
This is the loop ride directly to the north of the King Ridge ride—in fact the two routes share a few miles—so the question arises, how are they different, and which one should you ride? They’re very similar. They’re both great rides and serious efforts with much climbing. Each has one pleasant, tiny town near the beginning of the ride, then you’re totally on your own. The terrain and landscape are similar for both (pretty coastal hill country). Tin Barn/Annapolis is further from Santa Rosa, the nearest large population center, so it gets ridden less. TB/A has more redwoods, the climbing is spread out more, and the road surface is a quantum leap better though still flawed (there is no good pavement in Sonoma County). TB/A has rhododendrons in the spring, a few miles of pretty, mellow Hwy 1, some totally ridable dirt, by far the better descent, and by far the harder pitch (1 mile of 15-20%). TB/A, unlike King Ridge, can easily be cut short if you overestimated your resources.
Start at Stewart’s Point (not to be confused by you STNG fans with Patrick’s Point to the north), a tiny coastal community with a very charming general store where you can get root beer floats after the ride. Ride south on Hwy 1. I’m not a fan of Hwy 1 riding, but this is completely pleasant—charming, nearly flat, with easy passing lanes for cars and not too many of them. It’s not the extreme/sublime scenery of the Hwy just to the south, which is known as Dramamine Drive, but for that reason it isn’t dangerous and leg-killing.
Ride the short distance to Kruse Ranch Rd. (labeled Krause Ranch Rd on the Sonoma bike map) and take it to the L. You’ll soon be in the Kruse Rhododendron Preserve, which is a treat during the spring bloom. The road surface is all dirt, but it’s easy on 25 mm tires, the scenery is that matchless coastal redwood and fern rain forest, than which there is nothing better on this earth, and the pitch is pleasant until you get to The Plantation (can’t miss it). From there it’s a rather steep, moderately long pitch to the road’s end at Hauser Bridge Rd. Rear wheel traction can be a problem on skinny tires, but it’s over soon enough.
Turn L on Hauser Bridge Rd., and now you’re riding the King Ridge loop backwards. Stop at the drinking fountain thoughtfully provided for you by the monks at the Ratna Ling Retreat Center (past the front gate on the L) and fill up—there’s no water source between here and the end of the ride, and it can be hot in those hills.
Drop steeply down to Hauser Bridge and begin the climb up the other side, which is something you’ll tell your riding buddies about. For 1.1 miles it’s a constant 15-20%, and I mean real, honest 20%; after that it’s just 8-10% for a while. It’s a extraordinarily difficult climb, and if you aren’t in shape for it it can drain you and make the rest of the ride miserable.
At the top of the climb go L at a fork onto Tin Barn Rd (the other fork is King Ridge Rd). The rest of the ride, with one exception, rolls constantly but never fiercely, so if the ride hasn’t killed you by now it probably isn’t going to. Where Tin Barn T’s into Stewart’s Point/Skaggs Springs Rd., go R for a brief stretch almost entirely consisting of ripping descent and go L onto Annapolis Rd, crossing the old metal bridge to do so. Annapolis Rd begins with the other demanding climb (nothing like Hauser Bridge—just standard hard), and from there to the end the climbing is never worse than moderate, though there’s a lot of it.
All of Tin Barn and Annapolis is lovely riding—climbing and dropping and back and forth through standard coastal ridge meadows and woods. The final descent on Annapolis, down to the South Fork of the Gualala River paralleling Hwy 1, is grand. It would be world-class if the road surface were better, but as it is it’s still very good. I confess I ruined my carbon front wheel by overheating the braking surface with all the braking I had to do.
Often along this stretch of coast there’s a killer climb on the other side of the Gualala River to get back to Hwy 1, so the mellow little riser here is a pleasant surprise. Turn L on Hwy 1 and ride the few miles back to Stewart’s Point, hopefully with the northerly wind for which the area is famous at your back.
Afterthoughts: The coast is always subject to fog and wind, and thus chill, even on the hottest days. The hills of Tin Barn and Annapolis can get very hot. So come prepared for a huge temperature swing. The last time I was there, it was 102 degrees on Tin Barn and 64 (and windy) on Hwy 1—a swing of 38 degrees. Plan your water supply before starting out—on a hot day, two water bottles may not be enough to get you from Ratna Ling to Stewart’s Point.
Shortening the route: You can cut the route in half by turning L instead of R on Stewart’s Point/Skaggs Springs Rd. and riding it to Hwy 1. It’s a lovely stretch of road, so you won’t be losing any beauty. You could also cut the route in half the other way, by riding just the Annapolis half of the route (Annapolis to Stewart’s Point/Skaggs Springs Rd. to Hwy 1). It’s probably equally hard in either direction. Some people ride just Annapolis Road, as an out-and-back.
Adding miles: Obviously you can add King Ridge to the route, since it’s contiguous, and if you’re up for that my hat’s off to you. You can add Hwy 1 miles by continuing south past Kruse Ranch Rd, enlarging the loop by leaving Hwy 1 at either Timber Cove Rd, Fort Ross Rd., or Meyers Grade Rd. (in that order heading south), all of which are much harder climbs than Kruse Ranch. Remember, Hwy 1 gets tougher and scarier as you go south.
You can ride Stewart’s Point/Skaggs Springs Rd. east all the way to Geyserville. It’s a standard test of conditioning for local racers, and it accumulates serious elevation gain. It’s also hot on a sunny day, since much of it is exposed, and not particularly pretty once you clear the coastal redwoods.
Soda Springs Rd, which leaves Annapolis Rd at the tiny community of Annapolis and turns to dirt at a gate in about 4 miles, is reputed to be a fine little out and back.