Welch Creek-Sunol Wilderness

Saturday, September 12, 2015

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Ride south through San Ramon Valley on San Ramon Valley Rd to Dublin and continue along Foothill Blvd into the town of Sunol.  Roll along La Costa Valley on Calaveras Rd for the super steep scenic climb up through Coal Mine Canyon on Welch Creek Rd to the end of the road. Descend Welch Creek and stay south for an out and back stretch on Geary Rd to Leyden Creek Bridge at Sunol Regional Wilderness. Return north via Pleasanton-Sunol Rd before retracing route back to Danville.

Exit Osage Park onto Brookside and take Orange Blossom and El Capitan to Camino Ramon; this frontage road runs along the west side of I-680 from Danville to Greenbrook Dr in San Ramon.

The next 7.5 flat-rolling miles on San Ramon Valley Rd goes through San Ramon and Dublin; the road name changes to San Ramon Rd as it enters Dublin and changes to Foothill Rd as it crosses over I-580 towards Pleasanton. These roads cut through the residential, business and commercial areas along miles and miles of shopping centers and strip malls.

Traffic is significantly reduced once you pass Stoneridge Shopping Center in Pleasanton. The next 5+ rolling miles on Foothill Rd goes along the edge of Pleasanton Ridge Park and through some very nice residential neighborhoods with huge homes and estates.

Stay on Foothill Rd for the next 1.6 rolling miles into the town of Sunol.

Turn left and cross the RR tracks on Bond St to Main St and Niles Canyon Rd.

The turn on Paloma Rd takes you east through Sunol Valley to Calaveras Rd.

The 3.9 rolling miles on Calaveras Rd takes you along La Costa Valley through several nurseries, a tree farm, an aggregate company and a water treatment plant.

Welch Creek Rd is one of the toughest climbs in the Bay Area-this remote ranch access road stretches four miles from Calaveras Rd to a dead end summit at a cattle gate below Apperson Ridge. The climb itself is 3.9 steep miles with an elevation gain of 1894 feet and an average grade of 9.2%. The narrow single lane road has excellent road surface with 3 cattle guards, minimal to no traffic and a couple of turnout/parking areas. The road winds up along Coal Mine Canyon through the beautiful scenic landscape around Sunol Regional Wilderness. WARNING: this climb is STEEP with gradient ranges of 13-22% almost all the way to the end of the pavement at the top!

Cross the cattle guard from Calaveras Rd onto Welch Creek; the road begins on flat terrain for the first tenth of a mile to the Sunol Regional Wilderness sign.

The road immediately kicks up for a steep 16-22% climb up to mile marker 0.48.

Welch Creek continues with lesser grades of 6-9% up to the next cattle guard.

Welch Creek from mile marker 1.03 to the next cattle guard at mile marker 1.75 has gradient ranges of 12-17%.

At mile marker 1.83, the road kicks up with steeper grades of 17-22% to the Sunol Wilderness gravel turnout/parking area.

The road continues to climb with lesser grades of 14-16% and emerges out from the woodlands to the park’s boundary at the next cattle guard.

Welch Creek opens up along the lower ridge with lesser 11-13% grades followed by a slight descent.

Enjoy the fabulous views of the the rolling hills around Sunol Regional Wilderness!

The road continues to climb along with 13-16% grades up to mile marker 3.52.

Welch Creek continues with grades of 14-18% as it winds up to the open grasslands towards the ridge top community.

At the Y junction at mile 25.8, turn left-the road winds up behind a ranch to the end of the dirt road at the cattle gate below Apperson Ridge.

Enjoy the ridge top views!

It’s a fun twisty descent back down through the canyon to Calaveras Rd. Use caution-there are many blind turns! Watch out for the cattle guards, they’re strategically placed at the curves so don’t lean too much on the turns!

Turn left on Calaveras Rd and head SE to Geary Rd.

The flat-rolling terrain on Geary Rd follows the Alameda Creek into Sunol Regional Wilderness.

Enter through the park gate and stay on Geary Rd; it takes you through the valley floor to the end of the pavement at Leyden Bridge.

Cross over Leyden Creek and turn around at the south end of the bridge and retrace your steps back on Geary Rd.

This big rattlesnake was hanging out in the middle of the road.


Stop at the Old Green Barn Visitor Center.

Return on Geary Rd to Calaveras Rd.

Turn right on Calaveras Rd and return north to Sunol.

At Sunol Corners Little Market, turn right onto Pleasanton-Sunol Rd; this frontage road travels along the RR tracks on the west side of I-680.

The left onto Castlewood Dr takes you across the creek through the Castlewood County Club to Foothill Rd.

The flat-rolling terrain on Foothill Rd leads back to the I-580 interchange.

The road name changes to San Ramon Rd and San Ramon Valley Rd as you roll back through Dublin to San Ramon.

Cross I-680 on Greenbrook Dr and return to Osage Station Park on Camino Ramon to El Capitan, Orange Blossom Way and Brookside Dr.

This is a fantastic flat-rolling ride through the suburbs along San Ramon Valley to Sunol Valley and La Costa Valley. The climb up Welch Creek is a butt-kicker, bring your climbing legs and low gears for the suffer fest up to Apperson Ridge. Bring friends and share the pain! It’s actually a really gorgeous quiet canyon climb through the oak/bay woodlands. I encountered only one car on the climb up to the summit and zero cars on the descent. Get out and challenge yourself!

Garmin Stats:
58 Miles with 3537′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 2026′
Max grade: 22%
Terrain: Flat-rolling with one extremely steep climb

Weather: Warm, humid and breezy with cloudy skies. Temps ranged from the high 50’s to the high 70’s with SW winds.

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Welch Creek

Follow this route for today’s ride:



  1. Thanks for posting this ride! I found it while looking up location information about the August 5 Sunol Fire. I read through the entire post. Your photos and descriptions were excellent! My husband was a biker. He’s done a couple of centuries and likes challenging rides like this. Unfortunately, he has low vision and has given up riding for safety issues. I’ll share your post with him.


  2. i passed by welch creek today when i went on calaveras for the first time. i was tempted to try it out but chickened out. sierra road is already hard enough for me… however, your pictures are great and make me want to try it sometime 🙂


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