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This road ride is a loop from Saratoga to Scotts Valley, Felton, Boulder Creek and up and over Highway 9.

Ride: Felton
Date: 7/5/2015
Distance: 55.96 mile loop
Ride Time: ~ 4 hours
Total Ascent: 5,287 feet
Map: See GPS track
Overall Rating: 4

This ride starts off pretty tame with a road ride from Saratoga to Los Gatos. This is enough to get things warmed up and make sure everything is working properly. Once into Los Gatos, the problem is getting to Old Santa Cruz Highway. There isn't really a good way. I don't dare to ride on Highway 17 because it is unsafe and questionable legality. This leaves Los Gatos Creek Trail  from Main St. up to Lexington Dam. This is dirt and gravel and isn't too bad except it gets your pretty road tires dirty. There is one short, dusty and steep section that is difficult to get traction on with road tires and the whole trail has lots of hikers. Once to the top of the dam, turn right on Alma Bridge Road and continue up to Highway 17. There is a small dirt path on the left right at the freeway that takes you to the Bear Creek Road overpass and the end of Old Santa Cruz Highway.

Ride up Old Santa Cruz Highway through the redwoods and several small old towns to Mountain Charlie Road. Turn right here and gear down and it gets pretty steep. The steepest grade is at the beginning, so just gut it out. It gets less steep as you go until you get to the Summit Road junction. Make a sharp right turn here and go over the overpass (not onto the freeway) and continue straight. Mountain Charlie Road was originally a toll road build in 1858 for $6,000 (it pays to stop and read the sign!) that is now a county road. It is all down hill from the summit, giving you a chance to recover from climbing Old Santa Cruz Highway and the first part of Mountain Charlie. It merges into Glenwood Dr. which will take you to Scotts Valley Blvd (turn right) and into Scotts Valley, which seems like a major city by comparison to everything beyond Los Gatos. At a major intersection with a stop light, turn right onto Mt. Herman Rd and continue through and out of town, past the aggregate and cement quarries and eventually into Felton. At the end of Mt. Herman Rd at the junction with Graham Hill Rd you will find the Felton Covered Bridge Park. The neither the park nor the covered bridge are very special and it seemed a bit sketchy, so I would rate the park as a "don't bother" location.

Turn right at Graham Hill Rd and in about 1 block you get to the Highway 9 junction where you want to turn right again and begin the journey home. This will take you through Felton, Ben Lomand, Brookdale and Boulder Creek. Stop in any of these places for food, drink or anything else you will need because there won't be much commercial activity past Boulder Creek. This section of the highway is pretty narrow and has a poor shoulder and has a fair amount of traffic, so hold your line and be predictable. The good news is that the traffic drops significantly past the Highway 236 junction in Boulder Creek, making the rest of the ride much less nerve wracking.

About 3 miles beyond Boulder Creek, the climbing starts in earnest. You will climb about 1800 feet in the next 7.6 miles up to the Saratoga Gap junction. The grade seems to be between 5% and 10% most of the way with a few sections being much steeper. There are plenty of turnouts or wide spots if you need a rest, but you may has well keep pushing up.

Once you reach the Saratoga Gap summit, it will be downhill. You might consider taking a short break at the summit to recuperate before heading down. There is usually a hotdog stand with cold drinks here on weekends if you need it. Once you start heading down, be prepared for a fast descent. There are some place where it is advisable to take the whole lane (and there are road signs permitting this) since there is not much shoulder on the way down in most places and you will be going plenty fast. This takes you all the way into Saratoga and back to the start.

There are several nice sections on the ride: Old Santa Cruz Highway through the redwoods, down Mountain Charlie, the older small towns like Ben Lomand and Boulder Creek and the fast descent down Highway 9. There was quite a bit of climbing if that is what you are looking for. It is worth considering.


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