Ken's favorite Silicon Valley road bicycle rides
The year round pleasant weather, interesting terrain, and beautiful scenery
make the San Francisco peninsula a great place for road bicycle riding. Here
are some of my favorite bicycle routes.
Click on each link for a street map and detailed route description.
These maps were generated by a mapping program that assumes a constant 15mph
speed. Since you probably won't ride at the same speed both up and down hills,
you can ignore the route time stamps.
Click your browser's BACK button to return here from the map pages.
These rides travel through the rolling foothills of San Mateo County.
Except for the last ride, the hills are not long and these are great rides
for the winter when days are shorter and weather is less predictable.
The hilly loops in the next section all travel up to Skyline Blvd.,
which is sometimes cold and wet during the winter.
Portola Valley Loop (17 miles, 840 feet of climbing)
- the classic Stanford area ride
Loop (28 miles, 1300 feet of climbing)
- continue from Portola Valley through Woodside to the scenic hills
of Redwood City
Canada and Crystal Springs Loop (41 miles, 2200 feet of climbing)
- north along scenic Canada Road to the Crystal Springs reservoirs,
return via suburban Alameda de las Pulgas
Local hill training (33 miles, 3200 feet of climbing)
- you don't need to go all the way to Skyline to find 15% grades;
this is a tour of some monsters in Los Altos Hills and Portola Valley.
This route goes by the Alpine Inn twice; if you're tired when you
get there the first time, stop for a beer and do the second (much harder)
half of the ride another day.
These hilly rides all climb up to Skyline Blvd. (sometimes twice) for great
views of both the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Note that Skyline and the coast can be cool and foggy during the summer.
I recommend bringing at least a wind vest, especially for early morning rides.
During the winter, tights and long sleeves are usually a good idea.
East and West Old La Honda (35 miles, 3300 feet of climbing)
- east Old La Honda Rd. is the easiest climb to Skyline; this route also
climbs scenic west Old La Honda Rd. in a figure 8
- Page Mill and Kings Mountain (38 miles, 3800 feet of climbing)
- this scenic route can be done in either direction for two very different
(but both very fun) experiences.
Kings Mountain is more shaded and has an constant grade.
Page Mill is more sunny with mixed steeper and flatter sections.
Alpine Road (38 miles, 4100 feet of climbing)
- a very beautiful (and sometimes very warm) climb on the west side of
and Alpine Road (68 miles, 5700 feet of climbing)
- a longer version of the previous ride, including the Pacific coast and the
towns of San Gregario and Pescadero
Creek (54 miles, 4700 feet of climbing)
- have lunch at the beach, then climb back to Skyline through a dark cool
- Page Mill, Pescadero, and Half Moon Bay (84 miles, 8000 feet of climbing)
- two great climbs (Page Mill and Tunitas Creek), plus a tour of the old stage coach route connecting the rural coast-side towns of Pescadero, San Gregorio, and Half Moon Bay
Skyline Loop (64 miles, 5200 feet of climbing)
- take the (in)famous Redwood Gulch route up to Skyline, then head north
along the ridge for great views of the bay and ocean.
The Highway 92 descent can have a lot of traffic, but a skilled rider can
usually keep up. For a shorter route, descend via Page Mill Road or
Kings Mountain Road instead.
- Big Basin
Loop (82 miles, 7400 feet of climbing)
- climb Redwood Gulch like the previous loop, but head south to the beautiful
Big Basin Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz. The return climb up Highway 9
is long, but not too steep.
These routes all start at Peers Park in Palo Alto, mostly because
that is near where I live. Peers Park is at the corner of Stanford Ave.
and Park Ave. a few blocks east of Stanford University. If you live
elsewhere, you can reach Peers Park via
to the California Avenue station which is a couple of blocks south of the park.
Bicycles are free on Caltrain, though space can be tight during commute hours.
For bicycle routes to Peers Park, see the bike routes map on the
City of Palo Alto web site. Park Ave. is a major bike route running
from Stanford University to downtown Mountain View. You can also cross under
the Caltrain tracks at the train station to access Palo Alto's Bryant Street
bicycle boulevard to downtown Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
California Avenue has a grocery store for snacks and several moderately priced
restaurants for post-ride meals. For last minute equipment purchases
or repairs, try Bike Connection
at the corner of Stanford Ave. and El Camino Real.
There are rest rooms, water fountains, and grocery stores along all these
routes. Here are some of the more useful ones:
- Santa Clara County foothills
- Arastradero Preserve on Arastradero Road in Palo Alto has a water
fountain and rest rooms
- Foothill Park on Page Mill Road has water fountains and rest rooms
- in Los Altos, Shoup Park and Mackenzie Park (both 2 blocks off
Foothill Expressway) have water and rest rooms
- in Cupertino, Rancho San Antonio County Park (Cristo Rey Rd. west
of Foothill) has rest rooms and water fountains
- Stevens Creek County Park at the intersection of Stevens Canyon Road
and Mount Eden Road has water and rest rooms
- San Mateo County foothills
- at the corner of Alpine Rd. and Portola Rd., there is a water fountain
behind the bushes
- Woodside Store (museum) at the bottom of Kings Mountain Road has
a water fountain and rest rooms (restroom has limited hours)
- Robert's Market in Woodside has sandwiches to go
- Pulgas Water Temple on Canada Road has water and portable toilets
- Sawyer Camp recreational trail off lower Skyline has water
(near the north end of the trail) and portable toilets
(and is a scenic bike ride, especially mid-week when crowds are low)
- Skyline area
- near the top of Page Mill Road (at the 0.4 mile marker,
about half a mile below Montebello Preserve) there is
a water fountain on the south side of the road
- on Skyline Blvd., there is water outside the fire station near Highway
9 and outside the store at Skylonda (intersection of Skyline Blvd. and Hwy.
- Skylonda also has a restaurant, grocery store, deli (with outside
picnic tables), and portable toilets
- there are many open space preserves along Skyline Blvd. with pit
toilets, but none have drinking water
- Kings Mountain store on Skyline Blvd. appears to be permanently closed
- west of Skyline
- McDonald County Park on Pescadero Rd. near La Honda has water and rest rooms
- there are grocery stores with deli counters serving sandwiches,
salads, Gatorade, and other goodies to go in Skylonda, La Honda, Pescadero,
San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay, and Boulder Creek
- there are several beach parks along Highway 1 with pit toilets,
but no water
If you've lived in the San Francisco area for a while, you know that
weather conditions can vary considerably between "microclimates".
The TV and newspaper weather forecasts focus on the major cities, but
are may not be very accurate for the rural areas where cyclists like to ride.
I generally check the Internet weather sites like the
National Weather Service and
Accuweather before riding,
especially for morning and evening rides when fog and wind are more likely
to affect your ride.
When the La Honda weather forecast is cool or foggy, you would be wise
to bring at least a wind vest on your Skyline rides.
Of course, bicycling on public streets involves sharing the road with motor
vehicles. Bicycling is generally safe if you follow the state vehicle code
and also apply your common sense. Ride in a predictable fashion, wear visible
colors, and watch carefully for cars to your sides (intersections, driveways,
parking spaces). In California, bicycle helmets are required for children
and are a good idea for adults.
The City of Palo Alto offers a bicycle Street Skills course which
I recommend for cyclists of all experience levels. The course is free to
Palo Alto residents and inexpensive for non-residents. You can find more
information on the
City of Palo Alto web site.
There is also a good on-line introduction to bicycle safety called
Bicycling Street Smarts.
I tried to find routes that generally avoid heavy traffic, though traffic
still happens, especially during commute hours. Most of the routes do involve
freeway interchanges, which are often poorly designed for bicycles. Take
care to merge carefully, but quickly, away from on-ramp areas.
This is especially
important at the I-280 and (westbound) Page Mill Road interchange where there
are 3 on-ramps and a bike lane on the left side of the road. Children, please
ask your parents to show you the correct way to navigate through these areas.
Bike clubs are a great way to ride with other people, learn new routes, learn
about bikes, and generally have fun. There are two big recreational bike
clubs in the Silicon Valley area. Both lead a dozen or more rides every week
at several different ability levels. Guest are welcome on rides, but membership
is pretty cheap as well. The Western
start most of their rides in the northern half of Santa Clara county and
southern end of San Mateo county (Palo Alto, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Menlo
Park, etc.). The Almaden Cycle Touring Club
starts most of their rides in the southern half of Santa Clara county (San
Jose, Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, etc.). The club web sites have more
info on the clubs, as well as ride schedules (guests are welcome) and route
descriptions for many of their rides.
There are also several racing clubs in the area. As a non-racer, I don't
know much about them, but many seem to be associated with local bike shops
or universities. There is a list of California bike racing clubs on the
Northern California/Nevada Cycling Association web site.
There are a number of bicycle advocacy organizations that lobby for improved
bicycle saftey. The main local organizations are the
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition
(for Santa Clara County) and the Peninsula
Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition (for San Mateo County).
There are dozens of good bike shops in the area. I haven't tried them all,
so won't recommend anyone in particular here (except for the ones near the
ride starting point that I listed above).
A couple of local shops with good web sites, however, are
and Palo Alto Bicycles.
The web sites have maps and route descriptions for many good rides.
Local bike shops also sell books and maps describing local bike rides.
If you're interested in Silicon Valley mountain biking, check out
my mountain bike page.
All documents and photographs on this web site are
Copyright © 2003-2005 by Kenton Lee, Palo Alto, California, USA.
All Rights Reserved.