A Santa Cruz Mountains Loop, California

Take a ride on a Santa Cruz Mountains Loop in California.

The Pacific Coast Highway. Photo by Joe Berk

Northern California’s San Francisco Peninsula separates San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean, with San Francisco at the northern tip and the Santa Cruz mountains extending south. Think giant redwoods, beautiful scenery, great roads, a rich history, tremendous wealth and awesome riding. This magnificent destination is but a short hop south from San Francisco. It is an amazing loop through the Santa Cruz Mountains and along the Pacific Coast. The area is surprisingly rural for a location so close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Take I-280 south from San Francisco for 30 miles and exit at the sign for Woodside. The loop consists of SR 84 west to Woodside, SR 35 north, SR 92 west, SR 1 south (the Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH), and then SR 84 east again to complete the loop.

Woodside, one of the wealthiest towns in America, comes up quickly once you leave the freeway. It’s rustic appearance is belied by current and former residents, including Charles Schwab, Steve Jobs, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joan Baez, Carl Djerassi (the guy who developed the birth control pill), Larry Ellison (CEO of Oracle Corporation), James Folger (need a cup of coffee?), Kazuo Hirai (Sony’s CEO), Gordon Moore (Intel’s co-founder and originator of Moore’s Law), Prince Vasili Alexandrovich (the nephew of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia), Shirley Temple, John Thompson (Symantec’s CEO), and Nick Woodman (the GoPro guy).

Alice’s Restaurant is at the intersection of SR 35 and SR 84. It’s not the Alice’s Restaurant made famous by Arlo Guthrie, but the founder is named Alice, and hey, why not ride that coattail? SR 35 is called Skyline Boulevard through this stretch for good reason: It’s a twisting 13 miles along the Santa Cruz Mountains ridgeline and the views are stunning (you can see San Francisco Bay on the right and the Pacific on the left).

SR 92 turns west to drop down to the Pacific Coast Highway and Half Moon Bay. It’s a touristy place, but one in which you can’t find a bad restaurant (my favorite is the Greek Taverna as you enter town). Bring money; things are expensive in Half Moon Bay. The major employer is the Ritz Carlton Hotel (it’s that kind of place). Until recently, Half Moon Bay hosted big wave surfing competitions; the area sees 60-foot waves when conditions are right.

State Route 35.  Photo by Joe Berk

5/7/2021 12:39:01 PM

Boy did this article bring back memories. I lived in San Mateo and Half Moon Bay for many years, and I rode these roads too many times to count. Pescadero Creek Rd. to Alpine Rd. and on up to Rt. 35 is a nice little loop. From San Gregorio south on Stage Rd. to Pescadero is another nice little run. Heck! What am I saying? There are beautiful loops all over those hills. Now, I'm ensconced in the Smoky Mountains near Asheville, NC where we have countless great motorcycle roads . . . just no Pacific Ocean.

3/4/2021 6:01:25 PM

a lill magic or fairy land for a Right Coaster. Took 1 and 101 north from Morro Bay to Tillimook as a twenty something on road trip. Made some good life memories for the 60-something. May be complete the trip from there to Vancouver now?

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