Jurassic Faces & Applejacks! Portola Valley > La Honda > Alpine Road Cycling Loop


One of my favorite cycling loops is to park my car in Woodside or Portola Valley and do a nice counterclockwise loop over the Santa Cruz mountains! I park in either of two locations: the bottom of Windy Hill Open Space, or behind the newer location of Roberts Market in Portola Valley (Alpine Road at Portola Road). Roberts is a “mandatory” stop for an Arizona Iced tea (or a Boddington’s in a paper bag)  and one of their small pre-packaged scraps of exotic cheese when I’m done. (I’m getting ahead of myself!)


A few miles of flat-to-downhill, heading NW, Portola Road takes you to the bottom of Old La Honda Road (“OLH”). OLH is quite well know by cyclists as a safe and scenic (and steep, but not “insanely steep”) route up to Skyline Blvd, as well as over the other side towards the town of La Honda.

OLH is also used as a measure of fitness in a local club’s ride classification system http://westernwheelersbicycleclub.memberlodge.com/page-1374754 (I used to be a “B” but have moved up to a “C”.) This is the beginning of OLH:


Eventually you’ll climb up past some large and often interesting, homes through the redwood trees, to Skyline Blvd. Crossing over Skyline you’ll eventually break out of the redwoods down to some great coastal views as you descend. This picture actually includes the fogged-over coast in the background:


It’s easy to miss the semi-famous Jurassic Faces, carved into the sandstone:


Look for them on your left, as you descend past the lengthy sandstone cutaway next to the road. This photo is looking back uphill:


…and this photo is that road cut from across the valley:


Eventually the VERY quiet road merges with Highway 84, just before the red barn, which is now part of the (Permit only) La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve:http://www.openspace.org/preserves/pr_la_honda.asp


Highway 84 is a major route to the coast, but it has a decent shoulder and I feel safe in the downhill direction.

Soon you’ll see the little town of La Honda. On your right will be the Fire Station, followed by a small plaza with the Post Office and Country Store. The store has great sandwiches, and you can take them across the street to Applejack’s Bar if you want!



Applejack’s was actually a 19th century blacksmith shop, with some sections of their wood floor being VERY old, or maybe “original”. Their weekday hours are a bit inconsistent and they don’t have a website. Quaint little place! http://www.yelp.com/biz/apple-jacks-la-honda-2


Between Applejacks and the Country Store is the town’s only crosswalk. If you go uphill to the left, you can explore a maze of homes and cottages where most of the residents live.

Continuing down Highway 84, turn left after about a mile onto Pescadero Road. This is also a major route the coast and to (guess where?) “Pescadero!”.

(If you’re interested in going a bit “Further” [sic][“Are you on the bus?”] and looking for an “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”, continue down past the Pescadero Road turnoff. I’ve been told that Ken Kesey’s old place is on the left at 7940 La Honda Road)


Tourists and stronger cyclists usually stay on Pescadero Road to the coast. My usual route is to bear left after about another mile onto the beginning of Alpine Road. (The “bicycles not advised” sign has been there since they “gravelled” the road last year. It’s perfectly fine now!)


Quiet, peaceful redwood forest, with a creek burbling near the road.


…and views of Mindego Hill from the downhill side. Mindego Hill is a landmark hill, recently added to Russian Ridge Open Space, but not yet open http://www.openspace.org/preserves/pr_russian_ridge.asp


…and eventually an intersection to a “back entrance” to Pescadero Creek County Park (“Camp Pomponio Road” from the northeast on the map: https://parks.smcgov.org/sites/parks.smcgov.org/files/Map_from_PescaderoBrochureDec2014.pdf ):


…and later on an intersection for the main entrance to Portola Redwoods State Park http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/539/files/PortolaRedwoodsSP_Web2014.pdf


..and a view due east to Long Ridge OSP, just below Skyline. It’s the headwaters of Peters Creek, marked “Devils Canyon” on old USGS topo maps. (“Thank you” to my frequent hiking companion, Michael B, for identifying those cliffs!)


From here, you’ll continue your uphill “grind” for another ~900 vertical feet until you reach a new parking lot on Alpine Road. There are pit toilets here, but no water. Fear not, though, because you’re less than 200 vertical feet from the top!


From here, you can cross over Skyline Blvd and take (somewhat busy) Page Mill Road down. The better way (IMHO), which takes me back closer to the car, is to turn left off of Page Mill onto the now-closed Alpine Road (red diamond below). It’s open to bicycles and hikers, though it’s not paved. On my skinny tire bike, there are a few short sections that I have to walk down, and I take the gravelly turns slowly.


I find it much more enjoyable than busy Page Mill. Soon enough it re-joins pavement and takes you directly back to Robert’s market in Portola Valley with almost no pedaling!


That’s it! have fun! (About 30 miles and 4000 feet of climbing. Here’s the Strava track: https://www.strava.com/activities/296272735 )

About AlphaRoaming

Random outdoor roaming: hiking, cycling, camping, backpacking & plotting more of the above Grew up on the edges of the Adirondack mountains of New York, just a bit west of Vermont. Now living in Silicon Valley and venturing out when and where I can!
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