After having a successful Bikepacking trip with Sam and Josh I was pretty eager to start planning the next one. My days in California are numbered and taking advantage of every beautiful weekend is a priority. Josh had work but Sam immediately jumped on board and started planning a rad route taking us through the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Within the first 30 minutes I was navigating a small rock garden through Saratoga Gap and went over the bars. Most of the impact was absorbed by stomach which landed directly onto a rock. I feel pretty lucky since a couple inches higher I could have landed on my chest which could have been catastrophic. I am stoked that Sam caught it on his GoPro!
Left : Sam navigates one of the many gates along the Long Ridge Open Space Preserve and Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve.
Right : Sam made sure we stayed on track. We got turned around a few times on this trip but that wouldn't happen until later in the day.
"Borel Hill is a minor peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is located in Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, near Portola Valley and Palo Alto, California. Borel Hill is a popular destination in the spring when it is covered in wildflowers, primarily poppies and lupine. In the winter, Borel Hill frequently sees snow, a fact that sometimes takes those who live closer to the San Francisco Bay by surprise."
After a quick stint down Skyline and through a short Fire Road on the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve we arrived at Alices. Alices is a popular destination for motorcyclists and tourists since it sits at the junction of Skyline and La Honda.
After leaving Alices we had a few miles on Skyline before we got to Skeggs AKA El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve. As we hugged the side of the road fearing every car that flew past us we spotted a dirt path that looked like it was running parallel with Skyline. After navigating through a patch of Poison Oak we were safely tucked away from the reckless drivers on Skyline and making our way towards Skeggs!
The mystery trail eventually took us to Wunderlich County Park which ended up taking us all the way to Skeggs! After exiting the park we did see a No Bicycles sign but there wasn't one where we entered.
Skeggs (El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve) was a treat. Sam has been talking about it for awhile and I am glad he pushed me to ride it.
"Thirty-six miles of multi-use trail are available for exploration at this 2,817-acre Preserve. While this Preserve is extremely popular with bicyclists, it also has lots of hearty hiking and horseback riding opportunities. Visitors to the Preserve will find mixed evergreen and redwood forests, creekside trails, coastal and forest views, and special features, such as rare sandstone formations."
At this point in the ride the sun was setting and we really needed to get to camp. We made the decision to abandon our original route to Butano and backtrack to Skyline. Once on Skyline we booked it to La Honda where we started the 24 mile journey to camp. We were beat and daylight was slipping away.
We lost the light towards the bottom of La Honda and had to navigate the back roads of Pescadero in the dark. Those last 15 miles were so peaceful. We mostly suffered in silence taking in the darkness one pedal stroke after another. Looking back; I believe that I can speak for the both of us and say that those last 15 miles were pretty special.
When we finally rolled into town we pedaled straight to Mercado & Taqueria De Amigos where we ordered burritos and downed some tall boys. With our bellies full we bought some more supplies and then rode the additional five miles to Butano State Park. The campgrounds were full but luckily the camp hosts were awake and were kind enough to let us set camp by their RV.
The rest of the night is a blur.We got an early start and after thanking our camp hosts we made our way to the Olmo Fire Road. Olmo was extremely challenging. Roughly three miles straight up with gradients as steep as 30%!!! This was also the first trail in which we regularly saw Banana Slugs.
Olmo eventually connects with the Butano Fire Road which took us China Grade. China Grade linked us up with Johansen which is another fire road that took us into Big Basin.
Johansen splits giving you the option to keep right on Johansen or veer left onto Middle Ridge Road. We took Middle Ridge because Sam had a plan to roast some secret trails.
Middle Ridge brought us to the Big Basin store where we picked up lunch and some beers to drink at a waterfall Sam knew about.
After filling up our water bottles we rode down Hihn Hammond Road and linked up with the historical Last Chance Road. Our Krebs map said that a section of Last Chance was open to bikes but we did notice a No Bicycles sign at the trail head. We were pretty set on our route and went for it. Last Chance was incredible and definitely my favorite Single Track of the entire trip.
Notable features :
- Lush single track rarely ridden. - A waterfall with deep holes to soak in on hot days. - Technical rock gardens that were CX bike friendly. - A tricky creek crossing.
This is where things got interesting. Last Chance Road leaves Big Basin and turns into an actual road which is unfortunately private. Residents are extremely protective of their land yet most people would agree that the road should be made public. We kept our heads down and just tried to get down the hill as fast as possible. We were confronted twice by residents that were visibly upset but Sam was able to diffuse the situation both times.
Sam and I were stoked when we made it to Swanson Road! We successfully navigated through Last Chance Road and were just over an hour away from Santa Cruz.
We concluded our trip by washing our legs and arms with Tecnu in the Pacific Ocean. Sam spotted some whales while I continued to eat everything left in my jersey pockets.
Trip notes :
- Be more careful navigating rock gardens on a cx bike. - Watch out for speeding motorists on Skyline and La Honda. - Motorcycles frequently slide out and crash on La Honda. - Skip Alices and bring a lunch. Too much time wasted. - Mercado & Taqueria De Amigos in Pescadero rules. Open until 9pm. - The camp hosts at Butano State Park are awesome.
Trip Stats :
- 1 night and 2 days. - 110 + miles. - 10,000 + feet of climbing. - 0 flats or mechanicals
Check out the full routes below :