Old Lawley Toll-Hwy 29-Big Canyon-Butts Canyon-Ink Grade

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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Today’s ride explores the less-traveled country back roads from Napa County to Lake County. The route goes up Old Lawley Toll Rd and Hwy 29 to Middletown followed by a jaunt up Big Canyon Rd. It drops down Siegler Canyon to Hwy 29  into Lower Lake. It returns south on Hwy 29 to Butts Canyon Rd for the scenic stretch around Detert Reservoir and the white fence lines that borders the Langtry Estate & Vineyards. The climb up Butts Canyon drop down into Pope Valley for the climb on Ink Grade Rd to White Cottage Rd. Cap the ride off with a wild descent on Deer Park Rd to Silverado Trail.

This adventure begins from John Meily Park on Pope St in St Helena to Silverado Trail.

We head north on Silverado Trail for the next 10 miles on flat and mild rolling terrain through the picturesque wineries and vineyards along Napa Valley to the north end at Calistoga.

At the end of Silverado Trail, we continue north on Hwy 29 for 1.4 mile through the upper valley with marvelous views of the valley vineyards and the Mayacamas Mountains.

The turn on Old Lawley Toll Rd aka Lawley Rd/Old Toll Rd is a wonderful detour that takes you off Hwy 29 onto a quiet less traveled single lane back road. It rises up the hillside beneath Mt St Helena and reconnects to Hwy 29 after 3.4 miles. The first flat mile runs through the scenic vineyards and small ranch community along Jericho Canyon.

The road kicks up on the switchback at Jericho Canyon Vineyard for the next 2.4 tranquil miles with an average grade of 7.7% and steep pitches of 10-12%. The road winds up through the canyon with magnificent views of the hillside vineyards, dense forests and craggy buttresses known as The Palisades.

Old Lawley Toll Rd continues snaking up the mountain under the shade of the woodlands to an old beautiful well preserved log cabin.

The road winds its way up the canyon to Hwy 29 with superb scenery-hillside vineyards and grand mountain views!  

Hwy 29 N continues up Mt St Helena for the next 2.4 miles; this road serves as one of the main arteries for traffic from Napa and Sonoma Counties to Lake County and beyond. This utilitarian road weaves up the mountain with a series of S-bends to the summit at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park with no shoulder area. Fortunately there are several sections of road with a long passing lane which gives ample room between us and vehicles.

From the summit, Hwy 29 gently descends for the next couple of miles into Lake County. It continues on flat-rolling terrain through the ranches, vineyards and Twin Pines Casino at Middletown Rancheria along Collayomi Valley into Middletown.

At Middletown, the route heads up scenic Big Canyon Rd; this remote road stretches 12.7 miles north to Sielgler Canyon Rd in Lower Lake with a four mile section of hard packed gravel/dirt.

Big Canyon Rd exits town to the Harbin Creek crossing and continues on flat terrain through the ranches and long meadows along Collayomi Valley with great views of Harbin Mountain.

The road tilts up for a short 3/10th of a climb to Harbin Springs Rd.

At the Y intersection, the pavement ends on Big Canyon Rd; the road continues  on bumpy hard packed gravel/dirt for the next four miles on a very gradual grade with gentle rollers through the open valley meadows into Cockerell Canyon.

The rolling terrain through the canyon follows the curvatures of Big Canyon Creek to the switchback at Ettawa Springs Rd; I was quite surprised to hear the sound of trickling water flowing along the creek!

At Ettawa Springs Rd, the road winds up along the hillside beneath Seigler Mountain to the summit at Howard Springs for 1.2 miles with an average grade of 6.5%. Look around and enjoy the gorgeous mountain views!

Big Canyon Rd drops down into Seigler Valley and continues on rolling terrain through the valley meadows and ranches to Seigler Canyon Rd.

The fun descent on Seigler Canyon Rd wiggles down alongside Seigler Creek onto Hwy 29 S to our lunch stop in Lower Lake.

Hwy 29 S takes us up and over to the open ranch lands and meadows along Excelsior Valley and Little High Valley.

The road continues pass Hidden Valley Lake-a gated resort community in Lake County. A stop at the Hidden Valley Food Mart is a great welcome for a cold drink on this hot day!

The flat terrain on Hwy 29 S through Coyote Valley takes us onto the rolling climb which leads back to Middletown.

The turn onto Butts Canyon Rd takes us east out of town pass the historic Middletown Cemetery and through the small ranching community and wide open pastoral meadows around Long Valley.

At Oak Hill Rd, the flat-rolling terrain continues along 3 splendid miles of picturesque white fence lined road around Detert Reservoir out to Langtry Estate & Vineyards at Guenoc Valley.

The short hump on Butts Canyon exits the valley and crosses back into Napa County as it drops down towards Snell Valley.

Butts Canyon Rd continues through a section of the 4300 acres burn zone of the Butts Fire that started on July 1, 2014. It’s good to see that some of the burnt hillsides are already sprouting new growth!

The climb up Butts Canyon to the summit is 0.8 mile with an average grade of 8.4% and steep pitches of 10-12%.

The road drops down into Pope Valley and continues with on flat-rolling terrain along Swartz Creek towards Aetna Springs.

The road name changes to Pope Valley Rd as it sweeps around the valley floor through the ranches and vineyards. Keep a lookout for the hub caps hanging along the roadside fence at Litto’s Hubcap Ranch; it’s a California registered historical landmark!

We make a brief stop at the Pope Valley Winery; it’s a bike friendly place with picnic tables and a separate building with restrooms located next to the tasting room.

We stay on Pope Valley Rd and roll along the scenic valley with acreage vineyards to Ink Grade Rd.

Ink Grade Rd is a fabulous less traveled back road that climbs up towards Howell Mountain on a single lane with literally no traffic. The road starts off with a half mile climb with an average grade of 6.3%; it winds up along the hillside with gorgeous mountain and woodlands vistas.

Ink Grade Rd wiggles up along the ridge for the next 1.1 rolling miles through the woodlands to the narrow switchback over Burton Creek.

The road slightly kicks up again and continues to steadily climb for the next 2.5 miles with an average grade of 5.9%. It winds up long the open hillside vineyards and under the woodlands to the hillside orchard.

The leafy woodlands give way to towering mixed conifers as you continue up the narrow road between the guardrail and mossy rock walls.

Ink Grade Rd levels out as you exit the woods out to a small clearing towards White Cottage Rd.

The climbing isn’t quite over just yet, the turn onto White Cottage Rd has a short 3/10th of a mile pitch before descending Angwin‘s residential neighborhoods out to the estate vineyards near Four Corners. If you look to the west for a split second, you can see that the road is still pretty high up the mountain at around 1600’!

At Four Corners, we hang a right onto Deer Park Rd; this road quickly plunges down Howell Mountain to Silverado Trail on super smooth pavement-use caution!

The flats on Silverado Trail lead us back to John Meily Park in St Helena.

This is a wonderful route through some of the beautiful back roads around Napa and Lake Counties. The ride finishes off with a super crazy spectacular downhill and flat run along Napa Valley-what can be better than that?  Thanks to Wyatt for taking on this adventure!

Garmin Stats:
90.05 Miles with 6040′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 2238′
Max grade: 12%
Terrain: Hilly

Weather: Sunny and hot with temps ranging in the mid 50’s to the mid 90’s. NW winds with 68% humidity.

Click here to view the interactive route map & elevation profile


Follow this route for today’s ride:


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