King’s Ridge

Distance: 49-mile lollipop
Elevation gain: 3920 ft

(A Best of the Best ride)

This ride is legendary.  It’s the cornerstone of Levi Leipheimer’s King’s Ridge Gran Fondo, a ride that includes, in addition to most of this loop, our Coleman Valley Road ride, plus about 30 miles of very nice rolling farm and forest land riding out from Santa Rosa to Occidental and back.  I don’t recommend Levi’s ride per se, because I think it’s unfriendly, but the entire route is well worth riding.

As is my method, I’m going to cut out Levi’s 30 miles of merely good riding and just tell you about the great stuff.  It’s all pretty, challenging riding (5530 ft gain, and the poor road surfaces add to the effort).   Perks include redwoods, a classic woodsy village, a Best of the Best descent, and the opportunity to detour to an overnight on the coast.

King’s Ridge Rd. (or King Ridge Rd.—you see it both ways) is a rough, centerline-less sorta-two-lane road that does a lot of climbing and then rolls along a ridge top through beautiful, wild country—rugged ranches and open space.  Traffic is almost non-existent—the last time I rode the 47-mile loop, it was a beautiful holiday and I saw 8 vehicles, or 1 vehicle every 6 miles.  The views from the ridgetop are grand.  You can look north over a series of ridges untouched by Man and imagine that you’re the first human to see it.   The odd thing is, you’re close to right.  If you look at a map of California, you’ll see there’s nothing to the north of you for a hundred miles except a few small, sparsely-traveled roads.   Breathe deeply.  It’s a lonely, inspiring experience (another reason not to do it as part of Levi’s ride, when you have 7,000 riders for company).  It’s not as wild as it used to be, thanks to some invasive vineyards, but it’s still epic.

The bad news is, the road surface varies from poor to lousy for most of the 50 miles.    For some, the rough road surface becomes part of the adventure.  And someone actually repaved 2.2 miles of it (see below), so it’s not as bad as it used to be.

(Note: if you read through the readers’ comments below, you’ll see that the state of the road surfaces on the climb to King’s Ridge is the subject of much debate.  I haven’t seen it in a while, but I gather it’s much improved—by how much is unclear.)

I’ve seen articles which call this ride “the greatest bike ride in America.”  That’s absurd.  It’s good.  It’s in my Best Of the Best, but is actually one of my least favorite rides on that list.

(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.)

(The 3-mile stretch of road marked as unpaved on RWGP’s map is wrong—the route is entirely paved.)

Start at the intersection of River Rd. and Cazadero Highway.    Ride north up Cazadero Hwy to the town of Cazadero through lovely coastal forest.  (If you’re dead set on back-road riding, you can ride up Austin Creek Rd., the smaller, rougher road just on the other side of the creek to the east.  The turn-off from Hwy 116 is unsigned.)  Cazadero Hwy has a glassy road surface, and it’s a barely perceptible climb all the way, perfect for warming up, and a treat when you’re ending the ride and you’re exhausted.  It’s the last really good road surface you’ll see for 40 miles.  Halfway to town, watch for the large, whimsical wooden sculpture of Babe Ruth on your R—if the nice man who does the sculpting is out and about, he might be willing to show you his other works.

Along the top of the ridge
King’s Ridge. Photo by Brian

Cazadero is a hardware store, a church, a firehouse, a general store, and surprise!) some fairly heavy industry.  Ride through Cazadero, make sure you go R at the Y just past town (there’s a clear sign pointing you the right way, and marking the other fork as Ft. Ross Rd., which is your return), and begin a leisurely climb.  The road changes its name somewhere in here to King’s (or King) Ridge Rd.  The climbing is easy until it isn’t—then it’s 1.2 miles of 10-14%, followed by an obvious “summit” that is the Father of all false summits.  You’ll descend and roll and assume you’ve done the hard climbing, but the steep pitch comes back, and you do at least another mile of 10% stuff.  From the beginning of the hard stuff to the end, including the rolling in between, is 4 miles.  It’s all pretty country and the contour is never monotonous.  Pop out onto the ridgetop and ride through miles of big, tiring rollers (you’ll see 14% pitch again, briefly), often along the very spine of the ridge, with the aforesaid grand views.   There’s a great spot where crows ride the thermals coming up the slope to your L and they’re at exactly eye level.  This is open range, so watch for several cattle guards.

Along the top of the ridge. Photo by Brian

At the end of the ridge, you come to a sloppy T where the road to the R (unsigned, I think) is Tin Barn Rd., which is also in Bestrides.  The road to the L is signed “Hauser Bridge Road.”  Go L (do some of our Tin Barn Rd. ride backwards) and plummet down a vicious 12-20% pitch with a rough surface to a steel bridge over a creek.   This descent is zero fun, so ride it just to survive—on one wet Levi’s ride they helicoptered out a few people who went off the road into the crevasse below, and subsequent riders were required to dismount and walk down the hill and across the bridge.   The road is covered with painted “SLOW!” signs to remind you.

On the other side of the creek the road turns up, as roads after bridges must, and you climb at a consistent 10% for 1.5 miles.   When you see the cow on the sign, the hard work is over—you now roll up and down, mostly up, for several miles.  From here on the road is clearly signed (you’re going to Cazadero, not Jenner, remember).  You’ll ride past Timber Cove Rd. (there’s even a stop sign) and later Fort Ross Rd., both entering from the R.  At the next fork go L, onto what is also called Fort Ross Rd. (clearly signed).

At this point, 33 miles into the ride, you’re thinking, “OK, I climbed a ton up to King’s Ridge, descended to Hauser Bridge, climbed it all back, then rode 10 miles, mostly up, to here.  So when do I get all that elevation gain back?”  Answer: right now.  Fort Ross Rd. is 10 miles consisting of a long descent, a decent-sized climb, and a long descent back to that fork just north of Cazadero.  It’s all pretty woods, but the first 3 miles are the prettiest, so enjoy the scenery if you can will navigating an exhilarating slalom.  The first 2.2 miles (the entire first descent plus a bit) have recently been repaved and the road surface is perfect.  The pitch is ideal (c. 7%), the serpentining is constant, the turns are sweetly banked, and every corner is unique.  As a result this is one of the best descents I know of—a Best of the Best descent for sure.

Ft. Ross Road (looking uphill)

Enjoy it, because after the repaved 2.2 miles the old pavement returns, and it’s grim.  It’s exhausting to climb and jarring to descend at speed.  After I rode it, I felt I had been worked over by rubber-hosed goons.  By the way I saw no sign that anyone was planning on extending the repaving any time soon (as of 11/22).

At the fork, continue straight onto Cazadero Hwy., buy an ice cream bar and sit on the Cazadero general store’s porch for a bit to contemplate what you’ve accomplished, then ride the effortless descent to your car.  Now go casually mention to your riding buddies, “Dudes, did King’s Ridge last weekend…”

Shortening the ride: Start in Cazadero (this will save you some miles but almost none of the work).  The loop can’t be cut short, but you can make it a mellow(er) weekend by taking Timber Cover Rd. to Timber Cove and staying overnight at the lovely and (when I was there) surprisingly cheap Timber Cove Inn.  If you do, don’t ride back up Timber Cove Rd. the next day—it will kill your cold legs.  Instead, ride south on Hwy 1 (deserted in the early morning) to warm up and take Fort Ross Rd. (also steep) to get back on our loop.

There’s a chunk of the loop that makes a very sweet 20-mile out-and-back. Start at the top of the climb out of Hauser Bridge, ride to Ft. Ross Rd., descend the super-sweet 2.2 miles of new pavement on Ft. Ross, and return. This gives you about 15 miles of moderate up and down, plus a Best of the Best descent and a beautiful 2.2-mile climb, all on decent to great road surfaces.

If you detour to Meyers Grade, you get this

Adding miles:  You’re in the midst of lots of great riding here.  Going back to the L we took onto Fort Ross Rd.: if you live for fast straight descents, or if you want to see some ocean, don’t take that L—go R onto Meyer’s Grade Rd. (staying on the Gran Fondo route) and get ready for the Meyer’s Grade descent to Hwy 1.  It’s a rocketship ride remembered by everyone who does it (to 14% grade).  It’s all open and in front of you, so you’ll see everything coming and any traffic will be apparent, and there’s a big run-out at the bottom, so it’s as safe as a 50-mph descent can be.

After the descent you will pay a price for coming this way.  You’ll need to ride a substantial stretch of Hwy 1.  This is as pretty a stretch of Hwy 1 as there is, and the road contour is amazing—it’s the stuff of TV automobile ads—but traffic is a hassle.  As I recall, there is no shoulder.  If dodging cars doesn’t bother you, it might be your favorite part of the ride (certainly the most dramatic).  Ride Hwy 1 to Jenner, where you can take the Shoreline Hwy up the Russian River back through Duncans Mills and to your car (moderate traffic), or do what Levi’s does and continue on down the coast to our Coleman Valley Road route, then take the Bohemian Highway from Occidental back to your car.

The Tin Barn/Annapolis Rd. ride sits right to the north of your route and actually overlaps it for a few miles, from the Tin Barn fork to the intersection with Kruse Ranch Road.

From the end point of this ride you’re just down the road from the end point of the Sweetwater Springs Road ride.

See the Adding Miles sections of the Sweetwater Springs and Coleman Valley Road rides for more far-flung possibilities.

Afterthoughts:  Water is an issue on this ride, as it’s all in relatively unpeopled areas after Cazadero.  There is a water bib just after the climb out of the Hauser Bridge canyon, provided for you by the thoughtful monks of the Ratna Ling Retreat Center—watch for it in a dirt turn-out on your R, just before the unmissable main gate.  Still, you might want to dig out your camelbak for this one.

17 thoughts on “King’s Ridge

  1. Jonathan P

    An incredible ride to round out a week riding in/around Napa.
    Jay – we followed your wise tips/advice religiously throughout the week. Thanks for a great site.

  2. jjvc

    There is a drinking fountain on the King Ridge route. It is at the Ratna Ling Retreat Center on Hauser Bridge Road. The center installed it just for cyclists, and there is also a bike rack. It comes just when you really need it.

  3. joe

    A couple of notes from riding this today:

    – Ratna Ling water is awesome. I donated to them via their website to say thank you. I went through about 2.5 L of water before getting there ( I did, in fact, break out the camelbak).

    – Austin Creek Road has signs that it is closed, but it is just a washout of the pavement for about 20 feet. It is no problem for a bicycle or pedestrian to get through. That may change in the rainy season, but I doubt it. Austin Creek Road itself is patched all over the place, but there weren’t any really dangerous potholes or obstacles. A little bit cyclocross/bumpy, but I thought it was worth it to avoid cars.

    – I missed that second turn to stay on Fort Ross Road, and went on to Myers Grade Road inadvertently. So that might be a turn to check out on Google Street View before you head out. Maybe it was just me and not the signage, I was pretty tired by that point. Highway one does not in fact have a shoulder (except in a few interspersed places), although on a Friday, going south, there was not that much traffic and I wasn’t too bothered. Also going downhill for a lot of it so you’re going at almost the same speed is traffic. And it’s only 6 miles to Jenner/116, And 116 going inland has a pretty good shoulder. Highway one on a Sunday, when everyone is going back to San Francisco might be different.

  4. Joseph Morris

    Hauser bridge is being replaced and will be out for several weekends in August/Sept 2017—see

    In what is apparently my annual King Ridge ride (actually semi-annual, I also did it on a rainy day in January—not recommended), I did this in reverse last week.

    I again used 116/River Road to Hwy 1, then up Meyer’s grade to make it a full loop rather than lollipop. Going in reverse means going through Duncan’s Mills first, where I stopped to get pastries at Gold Coast. They are four bucks apiece, which seemed pretty expensive at the time, but they’re big and delicious. Let me tell you, a long grinding climb up Hauser Bridge Road with intermittent bites of a butterhorn pastry is a lot better than a long grinding climb up Hauser Bridge Road by itself. Whether it is pastries or something else, in addition to water, don’t forget to bring enough food on this one. I went through two pastries, two sandwiches, and a box of M&Ms.

    The downside of going in reverse is that you load up on water at Ratna Ling and then do the big climb out of Hauser Bridge. The climb out of there was so steep in that direction I had to walk, and I’m not normally a walker. However, it’s not all that long of a climb. I used about two liters of water from Ratna Ling to Monte Rio.

    Lots of blackberries in August and September. If you wanted to make this a berry-picking tour, you could probably bring a container and make a pretty serious amount of jam when you get home.

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      The terrors of the climb up from Hauser Bridge in this direction are chronicled in the Tin Barn/Annapolis ride. The climb up from the bridge is much easier in the other direction (east to west).

  5. David

    Living in the Bay Area, I’ve been working my way through Jay’s local rides. I rode King’s Ridge on June 16, 2019. I have to agree with Jay that it isn’t at the top of the best-of-the-bay list (Mt. Tam, Mt. Diablo, Mt. Hamilton, Pescadero/Tunitas are all better). Road conditions have changed a bit from Jay’s description due to the heavy rains as well as some resurfacing work:

    – KIng’s Ridge had 4 or 5 spots, all marked, with moderate to severe partial wash outs, mostly in the climbs. It doesn’t affect the ride much as they are readily passable and you are climbing, but some spots are on double-digit grades and the scattered loose gravel and silt make for poor traction. I had to stay seated to avoid wheel spin. I wouldn’t want to be doing the loop clockwise, and hope they repair the road before Levi’s Grand Fondo. I’d rate the road surface as poor to wretched for the moment. Once you get to the rollers, the road is generally as Jay described.

    – Hauser Bridge Road appears to have been patched recently (fairly smooth, not lumpy) down to the bridge. I went slow, based on Bestrides description, waiting for nasty road, but it never appeared. I still wouldn’t bomb the descent. The climb after the bridge isn’t patched.

    – Fort Ross Rd from the Meyer’s Grade turnoff has been completely resurfaced for the first three miles! Fantastic descent. Sight lines aren’t great, so beware the traffic. I didn’t meet any cars on those three miles and it was by far the best 3 miles of the ride. The next 7 miles back to Cazadero are as rough as Jay described.

    I took my rim brake road bike, and found the whole affair pretty jarring. I’d recommend doing this route with bigger tires, maybe a gravel bike, and definitely with disc brakes.

  6. Richard Foster

    I did the standard lollipop version of this ride last summer, 2018 (51.42 miles, 5894 elevation gain). This summer (2019) I just did the loop variant starting and ending on highway 1 just north of Jenner at a nature preserve parking lot: 50.67 miles, 5266 elevation gain.

    I prefer the loop variant. The last descent down to highway 1 is spectacular! Epic views of the California coast. No traffic. good road condition. Wide-open dive bomb the whole way. Once back on Hwy 1, there was a bit of traffic but the road is so winding and downhill you can almost match the pace of traffic, and you’re only on highway 1 for a couple/few fast miles. I personally didn’t find it sketchy, and I’m paranoid of cars.

    In 2018, I found the lollipop section that looped back to Cazadero very rough with lots of climbing, and there might of been views but I don’t remember them. It felt like that section was more of the same, whereas the descent to Jenner this year really offers a whole ride within the ride. Same distance, a few hundred feet less (redundant) climbing. And, I just like loops better than lollipops.

    Regarding water, I was dangerously low (completely out) this year and didn’t know about the zen center water source. I actually looked closely as I rode by but didn’t see anything. I was almost in ‘knock on doors’ mode, but then rolled past the Timber Cover Fire Station. Nobody was home, but they had a spicket on the front of the firehouse. I was able to refill.

    I was on a road bike, but this ride almost requires a gravel bike. As of summer 2019, at least 10 large wash-outs, countless potholes and loose gravel sections. Several cattle gates. Parts of King Ridge Road are barely more than a gravel driveway. In short, it’s awesome!

  7. Jeremy

    Classic ride—thanks for documenting. And yes, the Meyers Grade detour definitely worth it, and the Hwy 1 section to Jenner is fine on a weekday/off-season.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but I believe the correct name is “King Ridge,” not “King’s” (it’s a royal ridge, rather than the ridge owned by the King! 🙂

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      Pedantry is always welcome. The world seems to be going with the non-apostrophical form of the road’s name, but I can’t be bothered to spend the hour it would take to rewrite the code for the post to match. And shouldn’t that be “Meyers’s Grade”?

  8. Jamie Brannon

    The wonderful sculpture garden at the intersection of Timber Cove Rd and Seaview Rd made me forget that I was out of water. The Fire Station there had a faucet on the front of their building. Overall, the poor road surface does detract from the ride quality.

  9. John L.

    This ride chewed me up and spat me out. I’ve done longer rides with more elevation gain, but none of them was as exhausting as this one. Maybe I’m not as fit as I used to be, but I think a big reason why this ride felt so much more taxing was because of the horrible condition of the pavement. Imagine trying to ride your bike up a long ramp made of correlated metal. If you have a gravel bike, you will get good use out of it on this ride, even though there are hardly any unpaved sections.

    In my opinion there is no shame in doing this ride as an out and back to the Ratna Ling Retreat Center (roughly the halfway point). Most of the best scenery is on the first half, through Cazadero and Kings Ridge. Seaview Road hardly offers a view of the sea, especially if you are riding on a day when it’s fogged in. the scenery along Fort Ross Road is underwhelming compared to what you will see climbing up Kings Ridge, and except for a couple of the first miles that were recently repaved, the road conditions are just as bad—definitely not worth the extra climbing to get there. The only reasons I can see to do the full loop are to push your limits, and of course, bragging rights.

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      I have two responses to John’s suggestion. 1) Some people hate rough road surface; some don’t. I do, so King’s Ridge isn’t one of my favorite rides. 2) I’m not sure riding to Ratna Ling and turning around is going to help—if fact I think it might make it worse. I don’t think it will reduce the work load, and descending King’s Ridge might be as rough as descending Fort Ross Rd. In other words, by Ratna Ling most of what John complains about is behind you.

  10. Caleb

    Thanks for this ride description, Jay. This route is glorious!! Riding along the ridge is pure joy. The views and the road contour are just incredible. I did it last weekend (Nov 13 2021) and here are the current conditions:

    About halfway up King Ridge Rd, there is a massive wash-out. There’s construction equipment and a 20-yard gap in the road. Looks like landslide damage. There’s about a 12-inch drop from the pavement into loose grape-sized gravel. It’s well marked, and it’s during a climb. It’s totally impassable for cars, but you can hike a bike through to the other side.

    Fort Ross Rd has been completely resurfaced from the fork all the way down to Niestrath. This makes for a terrific descent. The remaining road surface is still in very good condition. It’s mostly good, a few rough spots, but nothing like King Ridge Rd.

    I rode this on a rim-brake road bike with 28mm tires and I found that setup to be perfectly capable. However there were a couple of steep, wet, and rough downhill segments where I would have preferred disc brakes and wider tires. If you have a gravel or cx bike, you may want to use that.

    I don’t think Mapmyride accurately reports the elevation gain. I clocked 5440 ft on my Wahoo Elemnt, and my partner recorded 5600 ft using the Strava app. There is a LOT of climbing on this ride.

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      Thanks for the update, Caleb. That’s wonderful news about Fort Ross Rd.

      I mention in the home page that Mapmyride seems to underestimate all elevation gain totals. I always recommend people use RidewithGPS for estimating climbing workload. RidewithGPS puts this ride at 5500 ft gain, right where your computers did.

  11. David

    Since August 2021, there has been ongoing road work on King Ridge, and many of the roughest sections have been patched. It is a better experience overall. There are intermittent road closures during the week, but the locals say the road is always open on weekends.

    Meyers Grade is perhaps more extraordinary as a descent than King Ridge is as a ridge ride. I can’t think of another road you can bomb parallel to the California coast with such breathtaking views. The drop toward sea level continues from the end of Meyers Grade for a stretch on Hwy 1, a first-class winding descent. There is no shoulder to speak of for the 6.1 miles to River Road/Hwy 116. If you’re willing to brave it, that part of Hwy 1 is, as Jay suggests, an absolutely stunning stretch of coast. I rode with three friends in a pace line and found that traffic gave us a wide berth, allowing us to simply go our chosen speed without issue.

  12. Drew Levitt

    A spectacular ride. Good to hear the pavement on King Ridge Rd is improving. I’ve always done the descent on Meyers Grade Rd (which is unforgettable and you must not miss it) and have never had any issues on CA-1 from there to Jenner. In fact the switchbacks on 1 down into Russian Gulch are one of the best parts!

    I’d particularly recommend KRR-Tin Barn-Skaggs Springs-CA-1-Kruse Ranch-Seaview-Meyers Grade-CA-1. A vigorous and rewarding loop. Try starting and ending in Occidental; that way if you have any legs left you can add on Coleman Valley Rd at the end of the day.

    A few years ago I tried to stop for a bite on the side of KRR and was run out of town by two unfriendly locals who informed me that the whole road was an easement on private land and that they needed to make sure it didn’t become too popular a hangout spot (which I found to be a laughable concern—the road sees only about 15 cars a day). I had to press on to the intersection with Tin Barn Rd before I could eat lunch. A strange and regrettable encounter.

  13. Stephen G Shaw

    I rode this loop on 3/3/23. I’ve done this ride several times but never with all of the streams full and flowing. It was helpful to hear the gurgling of water while suffering up the several steep pitches that make this ride excellent. I didn’t notice much change in the pavement quality on King Ridge. It was all pretty bad. There was snow along the side of the road, and the ridges to the north were covered in snow and quite beautiful. Heading back to Cazadero, the first descent on Ft. Ross Road was, as Jay described, one of the best. Having 55 psi in my tubeless 43 mm tires took (almost) all of the sting out of the final descent into Cazadero. I recommend at least 28 mm tires to make this ride just a little less…devastating.


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