Pedaling the Pacific

Monterey's Old Coastal Road

This energetic 18.7-mile loop, which starts just south of Monterey, California, links the Old Coastal Road, a gravel highway, and the newer Pacific Coast Highway (CA 1). Starting on the old section of highway, you'll climb up and over three hills, one of them three miles long. The downhills are the trickiest where runoff has created ruts in the road.

You'll ride through several distinct changes of scenery. The first mile passes through dry hillsides of brush. At the bottom of the canyon, the road follows a stream and surrounds you with lush ferns and redwoods. If you're riding on a hot day, you'll appreciate being shaded on the uphill. The top of the road breaks out of the trees into open grassland with a few scattered oaks and a spectacular view of both the blue Pacific and the coastal headlands.

General Location: Fourteen miles south of Monterey. (Click Here For Map)

Elevation Change: The ride starts at 276', then climbs to 400' at the top of the first hill. The elevation drops down to 200' at Sierra Creek before reaching 1,000' on the second hill summit. Another great downhill whisks you to the Little Sur River at 120', and back up you go to the third and final summit at 942'. The last descent brings you back to CA 1, about 8 miles south of where you parked.

Season: Riding in this area is possible throughout the year due to the temperate Mediterranean coastal climate. Spring wildflowers are beautiful in the meadows along this road; California golden poppy and iris sometimes reveal themselves as early as January. The summer months pack CA 1 with tourists, so traffic on this section is often heavy. Fall usually remains sunny along the central coast, while much of the north coast may be under storm clouds.

Services: There are no facilities available on this ride. However, at the end of the Old Coastal Road, you can turn south on CA 1 and in 3 miles reach a small convenience store and restaurant. This detour adds 6 miles to the loop, but after a hard ride, a cold drink in 3 miles might sound better than a hot car in 8. For a large selection of hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores, go north to Monterey. For camping, travel south to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, (408) 667-2315.

Hazards: Keep your speed in control on the downhills—some sections are rocky and rutted from runoff.

Rescue Index: There are houses on this road but no promises that anyone will be home. The nearest help would be on CA 1, where you might be able to flag down a motorist. The nearest public phone is at the convenience store 3 miles south of the southern end of this ride.

Land status: State highway and access road.

Maps: Any reasonably detailed highway map of the Big Sur/Monterey area will show the Old Coastal Road.

Finding the trail: From the Carmel River Bridge on CA 1, it's 12.5 miles to an unnamed bridge, followed by another bridge in a half mile. Just before the second bridge, the Old Coastal Road leaves the highway on your left. Park your car on the west side of CA 1 or at the beginning of the Old Coastal Road.

For additional information:

Aquarian Bicycles
486 Washington
Monterey, CA 93940
(408) 375-2144

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 27 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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