San Juan Bautista: San Juan Grade-Elkhorn Slough

Saturday, February 14, 2015

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Ride #5-SJB: This ride begins with a climb out from SJB on San Juan Grade Rd into Monterey County. Continue south through Bolsa Knolls and head north into the town of Prunedale. Meander through the valley and canyons for a stop at Elkhorn Slough with a return east through Aromas. Climb up Carr, Forest and School before dropping onto Anzar Rd to San Juan Valley to SJB.

Head south out of town on The Alameda to Salinas Rd.

Salinas Rd travels through a ranching community at the foothills of the lower peaks around Gabilan Range.

The road name changes to San Juan Grade as it exits the residential ranches and narrows to a single wide lane.The climb on this old scenic byroad up to the ridge is 2.1 miles with an average grade of 5.4%. It winds up under the shaded woodlands with fantastic viewpoints of the lower valley.

The road snakes out and around the bends of the lower mountain ridge with scenic views of the deep chaparral covered slopes.

You’re near the summit when you climb up through the gap to the white fence line at the top of  the ridge.

The road opens up to stunning views of the soft green rolling peaks, valleys and canyons around San Benito County-WOW!

San Juan Grade drops down into French Canyon followed by a short rolling climb to the next high point.

San Juan Grade crosses into Monterey County and winds down through the canyon for the next 3 miles with phenomenal views of the expansive green valley and mountain peaks-WOW!

Enjoy the valley and peaks!


The road cuts under the woodlands and exits out towards Crazy Horse Canyon through the open farmlands and agricultural fields around Salinas Valley.

The flat terrain leads through the farming communities of Gabilan Acres and Bolsa Knolls.

Cut across the valley on Russell Rd and continue north on Harrison Rd; this road parallels US-101 through the flat valley fields before ascending Schneider Hill; it’s 0.3 mile with an average grade of 6.6%.

The climb up Schneider Hill continues as you turn onto Country Meadows Rd; it’s a short 1/10th of a mile up through the hilltop homes followed by a descent towards Pesante Canyon onto Reese Cir.

Cross over US-101 on Prunedale South Rd; this new extension provides a safer connection into Prunedale. Prunedale South Rd runs parallel along the west side of US-101 through a residential community to the CA-156 freeway interchange at Bertta Canyon.

Continue north through Prunedale on Prunedale North Rd; this road goes through a little business district alongside US-101 to the Prunedale Shopping Center on San Miguel Canyon Rd.

Turn east on Moro Rd for a 0.9 mile gentle climb up to Tustin Rd.

Tustin Rd heads north through the canyon for 1.6 miles; it begins with a 1.1 mile through the community ranches with an average grade of 3%.

The road seriously kicks up for the next 0.3 mile with an average grade of 11.4% and steep pitches of 16-17% followed by a short descent into Echo Valley.

Turn left and head west on Echo Valley Rd; the rolling terrain through Echo Valley comes to a T at San Miguel Canyon Rd.

Head north for a short 3/10th of a mile on San Miguel Canyon to Paradise Rd.

The turn on Paradise Rd comes to a immediate climb; it’s 3/10th of a mile with an average grade of 11%! The road continues on a gentle descending terrain through Paradise Canyon; it rolls along through the residential community at Paradise Valley.

Turn out of the canyon onto Walker Valley Rd; this back road heads west to Bayview Rd and Elkhorn Rd.

Head north on Elkhorn Rd for the next rolling 1.2 miles; this narrow two-lane road leads to the entrance of Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Stop at Elkhorn Slough Visitor Center and picnic area.

Continue north on Elkhorn Rd; this road can get fairly busy with a lot of weekend traffic-use caution! The road travels through the shaded woodlands out to the eucalyptus grove before opening up to beautiful left side views of the wetlands and marshes along Elkhorn Slough.

Views of Elkhorn Slough:


The flat terrain on Elkhorn Rd continues to meander along Elkhorn Slough to the end of the road at Hall Rd.

Turn left on Elkhorn Rd/Hall Rd towards Watsonville/Pajaroand make a right onto Garin Rd-take another turn onto Lewis and Vega Rds; the next 4 miles takes you through the idyllic rural countryside on smooth pavement with minimal to no traffic-it’s country riding at its best!

Vega Rd leaves the green meadows and oak woodlands and rolls out through the rich farmlands around Pajaro Valley to San Miguel Canyon.

San Miguel Canyon Rd winds along Pajaro Valley before turning south; the flat terrain goes through the quiet canyon to Tarpey Rd.

Tarpey Rd heads east through the strawberry fields around the Royal Oaks community to San Juan Rd. The short jog north on San Juan Rd leads to the turn onto Aromas Rd.

Aromas Rd takes you through the flat agricultural fields around the east end of Pajaro Valley into the small town of Aromas.

Stop at the Old Fire House Market on Carpenteria Rd for a quick snack and cold drink. The Aromas Library is adjacent to the store-take a peek at the painted murals on the front walls.

Exit Aromas on Carpenteria to Carr Rd; the climb on Carr takes you back into San Benito County. It’s 1.3 miles through a residential neighborhood with an average grade of 6.7%.

The road descends onto Anzar Rd and continues east to Forest Rd. The turn on Forest leads to an immediate climb up through the stand of eucalyptus trees; it’s half a mile long with gradient ranges of 5-8%.

Head east on School Rd for a scenic climb up along the ridge; it’s half a mile with gradient ranges of 7-10%.

The road continues along the ridge on flat-rolling terrain for the next 1.5 miles before dropping down to a T at Anzar Rd.

Enjoy the gorgeous ridge top vistas of Sargent Hills and San Juan Valley!

Anzar Rd crosses under US-101 to the farmlands around San Juan Valley.

Take San Juan Hwy and 1st St into San Juan Bautista for the return to Mission Farms RV Park.

This route takes you through the remote quiet country back roads from San Benito County into Monterey County with astounding views of the surrounding valley meadows, canyons and green rolling hills. You’ll also enjoy the traffic-free roads and the scenic run along Elkhorn Slough!

55.54 Miles with 3924′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 810′
Max grade: 17%
Terrain: Hilly with a few low steep climbs

Weather: Plenty of sunshine and blue skies. Temps ranged from the high 40’s to the low 80’s with breezy NE > NW winds.

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Elkhorn Slough

Follow this route for today’s ride:

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