Old La Honda Road (road loop)
Old La Honda Road is well-known to road bikers. I sometimes refer to some rides as a "benchmark climb". It appears that this particular road might be the mother of all benchmark climbs for road riders in this area. I don't think that's because it's a very challenging climb, since it is not. It must be because it's evenly graded, well-defined, and convenient. I saw one web page that quotes a time even for Lance Armstrong's climb of this road, but I couldn't find any other evidence to substantiate it. There was also a race called "Low-Key Hill Climb Series" that used to be held along this climb, apparently.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the setting of the road is very pretty. The climb takes place on very rugged terrain enveloped in greenery from beginning to end; starting out in the sparse suburban setting of well-to-do Woodside in oak woodlands, with the density of residences diminishing gradually as you get higher, and occasionally snaking through redwoods groves at the higher elevations.
The shortest loop into which you can incorporate an Old La Honda Road climb would involve returning via Route 84. However, I don't find that segment of Route 84 to be very friendly to cyclists (though that doesn't stop many riders): I find the combination of many tight curves and heavy through traffic to be a risky one. So, other than an out-and-back ride, the route you see on this page is my best suggestion for a road ride including Old La Honda that won't require you to devote a big chunk of your day to the ride. You do (the majority of) the climb on Old La Honda Road, the descent on Kings Mountain Road, and connect the two to each other via Skyline Boulevard.
The ride starts near the main intersection of the Woodside town center. Note that the businesses near this intersection have some parking lots, but they all feature signs limiting parking to shoppers. It's not guaranteed that you'll get in trouble the very first time you'd park at one of these lots for your bike ride here, but it's probably a safer bet to do the more civilized thing by obeying the restrictions and opting to park on the roadside along Woodside Road as pointed out at the parking link on your left.
You begin this ride on Whiskey Hill Road. This is a wide suburban two-lane that has generous shoulder space on both sides. Most of your time on this road will consist of a gentle descent that is open on one side to the giant, treeless lawn of The Horse Park at Woodside. There is a quarter-mile uphill segment that arrives as soon as you turn onto Sand Hill Road, but if you don't count that one, your ride continues essentially flatly on average until you arrive at Old La Honda Road.
Once the "real" climb on Old La Honda starts (roughly at the first hairpin curve), it lasts for almost exactly three miles until you meet with Skyline Boulevard, and averages a grade that is a touch under 8%. Naturally, there are brief spots where it's considerably steeper than that, but all such spots recorded by my GPS receiver had a grade less than 14%. The climb will not feel like any special challenge to anyone who is used to doing road climbs, but it's a good workout. The road is very narrow but its traffic is extremely light. There is a double yellow dividing line along the middle in the earliest stretches of the climb, but it soon disappears and doesn't re-emerge until you reach Skyline.
On Skyline Boulevard, after pedaling for only a minute or two, you start a one-mile descent that ends at the intersection of Skyline and Route 84. This descent acts as a nice cool-down segment after the climb on Old La Honda. The intersection at the end of this downhill segment would also serve well as a rest stop or a lunch break, because it features the popular Alice's Restaurant as well as one or two other eateries and a general store. On nice weekends, you'll find this intersection hopping with weekend warriors using it as a rest stop or a meeting point.
When you continue past that intersection, another 2.5-mile climb where you'll be gaining 700 net feet of elevation is what awaits you. The average slope of this climb is noticeably gentler than that of Old La Honda, though. This uphill segment ends at the highest elevation of this route, near the main Skeggs Point parking lot. Skyline Boulevard is pretty popular with people on pleasure rides. (Those same types of people you might find parked at the intersection where Alice's is located.) You'll frequently find exotic or classic sports cars and fast sports bikes whizzing by. It's also fairly common to encounter "club rides", where you see a dozen or more cars or motorcycles of the same brand or type pass by in a convoy. Not surprisingly, a lot of these people have a tendency to speed more than usual, so it might not be a bad idea to time your ride so that you do this portion of your ride at a time of the day when the road might be less crowded; e.g., early in the morning.
Skyline Boulevard is not a very narrow road and (other than the risk posed by fast drivers whizzing by) isn't particularly risky for bikers in general. Still, there is little shoulder space available on the side of the road, and at the occasional places where it actually happens to be reasonably generous, it's unpaved and soft.
Kings Mountain Road arrives about one mile into the descent portion of your loop. This is a narrow and very twisty road that descends for a little over four miles without a break. The overall average grade of this descent is about -7.5%. The first three quarters of the descent (before the entrance of Huddart Park) is a two-lane road divided by a dash yellow line down the middle, where I'd qualify the lane widths as "fair", though there are no marked shoulders. The last quarter of the descent is divided by double yellow solid lines and features lines marking the outer edges of the lanes, but the shoulder space outside those lines (if any) hardly ever exceeds a foot in width. The pavement is quite good and is almost never broken. The descent is fast and exhilarating, with almost all of it taking place under moderate tree cover. While car traffic on this road is very light, it's not non-existent. Make sure you keep that as well as the popularity of this road with cyclists in mind as you decide which speed you should maintain through this descent.
Once you're up in the Peninsula hills, extending your road ride is a simple matter, should you wish to do so. One thing many cyclists do on Old La Honda rides is to keep following this road on the other side of Skyline Boulevard. That would have you descending for 2.5 miles, with views west and southwest toward the lower foothills all the way to the ocean opening up from at least one spot along the way, before you connect to Route 84, which you can follow back up to Skyline. Alternatively, you can follow Route 84 all the way down to Highway 1 instead, before using one of several options to return, such as Tunitas Creek Road. Or you can switch to Pescadero Road along the way and head to Pescadero. And once you're in that area, other good road ride options abound. For those looking for extension possibilities closer to the bay, one of the options easiest to recommend would be to keep following Skyline Boulevard northwest all the way to Route 92, at the cost of missing the Kings Mountain Road descent, and then returning via Cañada Road. Or you could include the Kings Mountain descent anyway, but take Cañada Road northwest as part of a secondary loop that continues by climbing up Route 92 instead of descending it, and ending with a second descent of Kings Mountain Road. One could probably write a whole book about all such routing options within this particular area.
The end of your loop in the Woodside town center is only a few minutes away once you reach flat ground. One advantage of starting and ending the ride in downtown Woodside is that it gives you several good options for a post-ride meal or refreshments. Buck's Restaurant is worth a try even just for the quirky (and genuinely interesting) artifacts that are displayed on its walls and hanging from the ceiling. Meanwhile, Woodside Bakery sells an overwhelming variety of sweets and pastries, and is therefore a good destination for some coffee, in addition to featuring a full restaurant menu. And those are not the only ones.
© Ergin Guney
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