Climbs of the Valley Century

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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This is our second day in Napa and we’re riding another century! This route explores the less traveled and lesser known steep hills around Napa Valley on a couple of dead end roads; Atlas Peak Rd & Soda Canyon Rd. Silverado Trail connects the latter northern loop going up Spring Mountain Rd, down St Helena Rd for a climb up Calistoga Rd to Petrified Forest Rd into Calistoga. The return to Napa on Silverado Trail completes this somewhat hilly hundred.

We begin with a short stretch on Silverado Trail to Hardman Ave. It’s a bit cool and overcast with the sun slowly peeking through the clouds-it’s going to warm up!

Atlas Peak Rd is a dead end road that winds up 9.3 miles through the residential country estates and mountain vineyards of the Atlas Peak Appellation Area. The peak juts out of the Vaca Mountain Range and is the highest point in the region at 2263′ above sea level.

The climb from Westgate Rd to the end is 8.2 miles with 1971′ of elevation gain. The first couple of miles are on nice pavement through the neighborhoods and well maintained pet cemetery up to the back ridge with gradient ranges 6-9%. The views of the valley and canyon below are fabulous!

The road levels out for a stretch along the top of a ridge followed by gentle rolling terrain through the vineyards to the top of the next little peak.

The road drops down for about half a mile to Foss Valley at the S Ranch and changes from a two lane road to a single lane with very poor road conditions.

It winds up on 6-10% grades on a wooded narrow rough road through the mountain vineyards. The constant buzzing sounds from the swarms of mosquitoes are an annoyance-I got a few bites on my legs and neck area! Also watch for cars shooting out from the long hidden driveways! The road dead ends in front of a gated residential home-the turn around point. Be careful on the descent, the road is very bumpy till you reach the lower sections of Atlas Peak.

We’re back on Silverado Trail to the next dead end road climb on Soda Canyon Rd; this 8 mile road follows Soda Creek up through the shaded canyon with grades of 4-6% for the first 4 miles.

The steep one plus mile climb from the Volunteer Fire Station up to the summit has grades of 10-15% with an elevation gain of 822 feet! The valley views from the top are spectacular!

The road quickly drops down the other side of the canyon on rolling terrain to the end of Soda Canyon at the gated winery & mountains vineyards-the turn around point. I couldn’t help but notice that I wasn’t hearing any type of noise; cars, motors running or barking dogs, it was peacefully quiet and calm with only the sound of birds chirping-WOW!

We descend Soda Canyon back down to Silverado Trail for the flat rolling climbs through the valley to our lunch stop in St Helena.

The NW loop begins with a steady 4.5 miles climb on Spring Mountain Rd from the Y in the road to the Sonoma County line. This ascent has a total elevation gain of 1738 feet. The road tilts with gradient ranges of 4-8% grades along York Creek under a canopy of trees and towering redwoods.

The major steep section is 2 miles long with an elevation gain of 1078 feet with no breaks in between. The only saving grace to doing this unrelenting climb is the shade under the forest and views of the mountain vineyards.

The road becomes St Helena Rd as it crosses the county line; this bumpy long descent follows Mark West Creek down to Calistoga Rd. Climbing this road would be much better-I’ll route it for future ride.

We continue north on Calistoga Rd and traffic is stopped for about 5-7 minutes; cars are being lead up and down the right side of the road by a pilot car as road workers are busy repaving the opposite side. The steam rising from the hot tar and asphalt under the redwoods sure doesn’t make the steep 10-12% half mile climb any easier!

We reach the summit at the intersection with Porter Creek Rd and continue on Petrified Forest Rd for the descent down to Foothill Blvd into Calistoga.

From Calistoga, we take Lincoln St across town to Silverado Trail. The flat to rolling terrain for last 26.7 miles on Silverado Trail takes us along the valley floor with picture perfect views of Napa Valley!

It’s another fantastic century ride in the bag! The fun descents and varied scenery are the rewards for all the hill climbing and you always get to see what’s on the other side! Come on out and experience it for yourself-bring friends to share the pain!

Garmin Stats:
103.66 Miles with 7884′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 2059′
Max grade: 15%

Weather: FABULOUS! Overcast morning skies giving way to brilliant sunshine. Temps ranged from the low 50’s to the high 90’s with brisk SW winds

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If life was easy….where would all the adventures be?
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