Day ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains

Thanks to a couple of weeks off of work, I'm finding myself with a few free days in which to play around on the XT. On this particular day, I decided to head south into the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Better bring some Kleenex — the spring pollen is already out with a vengence!

My first destination was Lexington Reservoir. Alma Bridge Road was nearly empty except for a couple of bicyclists. Even the dam workers were nowhere to be found. It was a nice smooth ride around the reservoir.
Warning: skeletal hands!

It looks like there's some big construction going on at the Summit Store! The store was still open for business, but the parking lot was full of trucks and dirt.

I took Mt Bache over to Highland Way. Highland has some nice new pavement on it now that they're almost done with the construction from the most recent landslides. Yum!
At the intersection with Ormbsy Trail/Buzzard Lagoon, I decided to finally take the latter. I've been riding the XT in the Bay Area for 4 years and I'd never been on Buzzard Lagoon…pfffft, and I call myself a dualsporter.
The sign at the road says access is restricted until mid-April, but it was open all the way through on March 31.
Partway down Buzzard Lagoon is a fork in the road; heading left continues down Buzzard Lagoon and heading right took me to a road that my GPS called Hinckley Creek Road but that Google Maps calls Aptos Creek Road. So there ya go.
This mystery road twists and winds through the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. The park was originally built on land that was clearcut between 1883-1923, so it's neat to see so much forest regrown.

It wasn't a difficult road but it was definitely the most technical of the random dirt roads I've stumbled across in the Bay Area. I had fun with deep washouts, large chunks of slate, some sand, and of course twisty elevation changes.

Unfortunately, the road ended at a gate which looked impossible to get around. But that's OK; that just means backtracking on the same fun road. I retraced my steps back to the Buzzard Lagoon intersection, then took the latter down towards Corralitos.
Buzzard Lagoon is a fun, easy dirt road that has beautiful scenery both within the forest and once it bursts out on the mountain ridge, overlooking Monterey Bay.
Tall redwoods:

A fun little downhill section:

One of the open ridgetop sections:

Buzzard Lagoon winds up on Rider Road, which almost immediately intersects with Eureka Canyon. I headed south down into Soquel to top off my tank and have a Clif bar, when I received some bad new via email.
I wasn't much in the mood to be a tourist and take photos after that, so I pointed north along East Zayante Road until Hwy 35. I took 35, also known as Skyline Blvd, all the way north to Hwy 92, then cut east to go home.
I did stop along the way to pick up the current photo tag:

Skyline offers a great view of Crystal Springs Reservoir, Hwy 280, and San Francisco:

Trip odometer: 147 miles
Moving Time: 4 hours, 57 minutes
Average Moving Speed: 29.7 mph
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3 Responses to Day ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains

  1. AA says:

    thats a nice ride. I mountain bike in that area: up buzzard lagoon from highland to aptos creek rd and into soquel demo forest. Ive seen the gate open but usually its closed and you have to climb over with your bike.

  2. kimmie shui says:

    Hi, My name is kimmie and i’m new to riding, I’m only 5 foot 1 and I’ve been looking at dual sport bikes for a while now but I’m having trouble finding something in the 500cc range that is affordable where i can REACH the ground! I was wondering if you had any suggestions? Also any thoughts on the buell blast? Please email me back =]


    • carolyn says:

      (Also emailed, but in case anyone else is curious…)

      A 500cc dual sport is going to be a bit tricky for someone our size (I’m also 5’1″). A big factor is whether you’re looking to do primarily street with a little off-roading from time to time or if you want a more dirt-oriented bike that is also street legal. If you’re looking for the former, you have a few more options because the bikes won’t have as much ground clearance. The BMW F650GS twin or G650GS thumper are good choices for us shorties — particularly the low chassis versions of each. They’re street-oriented but can definitely do gravel/mud/dirt. More on the dirt side, a lowered DRZ400 might be a decent option. The stock size is a bit tall but it has a ton of ground clearance, so you can lower it easily if you aren’t planning on going over big rocks. If you want something really dirt-oriented you might have to look down into the 250cc class like the XT250, DRZ250, or KLX250.

      As for the Buell Blast, I rented one for a long weekend about 10 years ago. I wrote some impressions here:

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