Santa Cruz Mtns: Stevens Cyn-Mt Eden-Pierce-Hwy 9-Skyline-Bear Crk-Big Basin

Sunday, August 3, 2014

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This hilly ride around the Santa Cruz Mountains goes along Stevens Canyon to Mt Eden and Pierce Rd to Hwy 9. The rolling terrain on Skyline Blvd leads to the descent on Bear Creek Rd into Boulder Creek. It continues on CA-236/Big Basin Way for the gorgeous ride through Big Basin Redwoods State Park. At Waterman Gap, the route goes up Hwy 9 to Saratoga Gap before descending to Redwood Gulch and Stevens Canyon.

This ride begins with a short family fun segment through a residential neighborhood in Los Altos.

The first few flat miles along Foothill Expy/Foothill Rd lead us towards the outskirts of town to Stevens Creek County Park.

The road name changes to Stevens Canyon Rd as we enter Fremont Older Open Space Preserve. The rolling terrain runs between the west side of Stevens Creek Reservoir and the east side of Picchetti Ranch Open Space with chaparral and oak covered hills.

Mt Eden Rd sits at the south edge of the County Park and Open Space Preserve; the road winds up around the mountain for 0.7 mile with an average grade of 6.9%.

Mt Eden Rd levels out for a short section along the hillside vineyards with fabulous valley views. The road drops down through a residential neighborhood to Pierce Rd.

Pierce Rd is much steeper than Mt Eden Rd; it’s a 0.7 mile climb with an average grade of 7.6% and steep pitches of 10-12%. The road goes up to the summit at The Mountain Winery with fantastic mountain views! The descent leads us onto Hwy 9/Congress Springs Rd.

We head west on Hwy 9/Congress Springs Rd; this is a steady 5.5 mile, 1883′ climb up to the summit at Saratoga Gap with an average grade of 6.5%. The road cuts through the beautiful shaded woodlands along Saratoga Creek to Redwood Gulch.  

Hwy 9 continues winding its way in and out of the woodlands with fantastic forest vistas to Skyline Blvd/CA-35 at Saratoga Gap. On weekends, this road can get fairly busy with motorcycles/cars traffic.

We head south on Skyline Blvd/CA-35; the first 3.2 rolling miles goes along the top of Castle Rock Ridge to Castle Rock State Park and to the summit at Mount Bielawski.

Skyline Blvd quickly drops down from the ridge towards Black Rd with great mountain vistas!

At the intersection with Black Rd, Skyline Blvd becomes a narrow single lane road. The descending rolling terrain drops down along the ridge through a magnificent forested canyon for four glorious traffic free miles. It rolls by a hillside Christmas tree farm and continues twisting through the canyon to Bear Creek Rd.

We descend Bear Creek Rd for 9.2 miles to Boulder Creek.

We stop for lunch stop at New Leaf Community Market off Hwy 9.

The ride continues north on Big Basin Way/CA-236; the rolling gentle terrain for the first 4.6 miles goes along Boulder Creek through a scattering of residential neighborhoods out to the Boulder Creek Country Club and Taungpulu Monastery.

At the approach to the switchback, Big Basin Way tilts up for a climb up to Sempervirens Outdoor School at Little Basin Rd; it’s 1.8 miles with an average grade of 5.8%.

Big Basin Way gently winds down through the woodlands into the redwoods groves at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Stop at the Big Basin Redwood Store for their berry delicious smoothie; it’s a great cold treat for hot weather riding and it has enough sugar to fuel you for the upcoming climb.

We stay on CA-236/Big Basin Way heading north; the road winds its way up through the park under the shade of old growth redwoods for the first 3.3 miles with an average grade of 4.75%.

The road narrows as it exits the dense stands of redwoods out to the open ridge towards the intersection at China Grade Rd and levels out for the next 0.9 mile. Enjoy the glorious mountains views!

Big Basin Way cuts back under the canopy of towering redwoods and snakes around the forests for another 0.8 mile gentle climb with an average grade of 3%. The road descends for 3.1 miles twisty miles under the dappled sunlight of the redwoods to Hwy 9 at Waterman Gap.

We head north on Hwy 9 for the climb up to Saratoga Gap; it’s 6.1 miles with an average grade of 4.2%. The road winds up along the west edge of the woodlands surrounding Castle Rock State Park.

Make a point to stop at Summit Meadows Trailhead to enjoy the splendid mountain vistas!


Hwy 9 continues gently through the woodlands to the summit at Skyline Blvd.

It’s all downhill from here; we cross Skyline and descend Hwy 9; it’s a fun sweeping downhill on very smooth pavement. Currently there is road construction going on, the road narrows to a single lane with a traffic light-use caution!

From Hwy 9, we turn off onto Redwood Gulch for the steep drop down to Stevens Canyon.

The rolling terrain through Stevens Canyon leads us back along the reservoir.

The flat stretch on Foothill Blvd takes us back to Holt Ave.

This is a fabulous route with lots of climbs through some of the most scenic roads around the Santa Cruz Mountains. You’ll enjoy the narrow stretch along south Skyline Blvd that tumbles into the canyon and the spectacular jaunt through the old growth redwood forests at Big Basin Redwoods State Park-it’s my favorite!

You would think that a ride like this couldn’t get any better but thanks to Brian and Sami “The Flying Finn” the experience and fun factor increases with great riding companions!

Garmin Stats:
69.6 Miles with 7608′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 3091′
Max grade: 12%
Terrain: Extremely hilly

Weather: Overcast early morning skies giving way to brilliant sunshine. Temps ranged from the mid 50’s to the high 80’s. SE winds with 77% humidity

Click here to view the interactive route map & elevation profile


Follow this route for today’s ride:



  1. Thanks Nancy and Michael! Great photos! Look forward to riding with you again soon! 🙂 Yes, lets do Marin for sure! Count me in! Roll on!

    Sami …”The Flying Finn”


  2. Brian, Thanks for having us over-we enjoyed your family’s warm hospitality! Will keep in touch-I’ll plan a ride for us out in Marin. Nancy


  3. Nice write up. That’s my neck of the woods, and that’s one of my favorite loops. Do it all the time.

    Thanks-you live in a great area for cycling! Happy riding! Nancy


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