Bicycling Magazine

Santa Cruz, CA: Bonny Doon and Swanton Loop 

Big climbs equal fast descents on this undulating 52-mile tour of redwood forests and oceanside views in Santa Cruz County.

Our Apps

Map Tools

Share Trip
  • E-mail Trip
  • Embed Map
  • Social Bookmarks
    more bookmarks...

Download To

Create a Trip
* Requires a Trip Planner or Elite Membership
Author: Bicycling Magazine
Date: 16 Apr 2008 12:20:56 PM
Activity: Bicycling
State: California (CA)
Distance: Total: 52 mi
Active: 51.97 mi
  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 17822 ft
Total Loss: 18022 ft
Net Change: -200 ft
Difficulty: 7 / 10
Tags: California, Highway 1, Santa Cruz
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

From the Felton Safeway on Mount Hermon Drive, spin north on CA 9. Three miles in, turn left onto the lesser trafficked Alba Road, and gear down for a four-mile climb with sections over a ten percent grade. On the 2,400-foot highpoint, turn left onto Empire Grade and take the fast plunge (some roadies report 50-plus mph speeds). Don't go too fast. The road is windy, the redwoods seem bigger than usual, and sandstone formations are moonlike. The road turns and follows the coastline up CA 1 to the coastal town of Davenport. Pedal on to Swanton Road for a 6.8-mile loop through idyllic farmland and coastal hills. Close loop on CA 1 and continue to Bonny Doon Road for a grinding climb back up to Empire Grade. The last 3.7 miles finish with a fast descent into Felton.  

Local Favor: Grab some post ride calories at the Taqueria Vallarta on the corner of Mount Hermon and CA 9. The burritos are good enough for locals to drive up to an hour to enjoy.

-Mapped by Russ Stevens

Position Format: Datum:

Santa Cruz, CA: Bonny Doon and Swanton Loop

Distance: 52.00 mi Points: 1064
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
# Distance Instruction Distance to next
1 0.00 mi Start - Then go 0.00 mi
2 0.00 mi Start - Safeway Plaza in Feton at the corner of Mt Hermon and Graham Hill Then go 0.05 mi
3 0.05 mi Turn Right - out of parking lot onto Graham Hill Then go 0.22 mi
4 0.27 mi Turn Right - Hwy 9 Then go 3.43 mi
5 3.70 mi Turn Left - Alba Rd Then go 3.92 mi
6 7.61 mi Turn Left - Empire Grade Then go 7.16 mi
7 14.77 mi Turn Right - Smith Grade Then go 5.29 mi
8 20.06 mi Turn Left - Bonny Doon Rd Then go 3.28 mi
9 23.34 mi Turn Right - Hwy 1 Then go 1.31 mi
10 24.65 mi Turn Right - Cement Plant Rd Then go 1.09 mi
11 25.74 mi Turn Right - Highway 1 Then go 0.39 mi
12 26.13 mi Turn Right - Swanton Rd Then go 6.78 mi
13 32.91 mi Turn Left - Hwy 1 Then go 7.64 mi
14 40.55 mi Turn Left - Bonny Doon Then go 3.71 mi
15 44.26 mi Straight - Pine Flat Rd Then go 0.12 mi
16 44.38 mi Turn Right - Martin Rd Then go 1.71 mi
17 46.10 mi Turn Right - Ice Cream Grade Then go 2.11 mi
18 48.21 mi Straight - Felton Empire Then go 3.54 mi
19 51.75 mi Straight - Graham Hill Rd Then go 0.26 mi
20 52.00 mi Turn Left - Safeway

Points of Interest

Felton Fair Parking Lot

Location: 37.051992, -122.068749
Start from the Felton Fair/Safeway parking lot at the corner of Graham Hill and Mt. Hermon. If you're hungry, grab a doughnut and coffee before heading out.

Highway 9

Location: 37.053807, -122.073727
The main artery for San Lorenzo Valley residents, this two-lane highway can be a tight squeeze at times. Best times to ride are Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Narrow Bridge

Location: 37.068049, -122.082675
The first of two narrow bridges; don't stop, but look out for buses and trucks as you cross.

The second and last narrow bridge

Location: 37.069697, -122.084370

Alba Road Climb

Location: 37.092328, -122.096772
Kick-your-ass hard, this two-lane mountain road sporadically climbs at over ten percent grades, ascending hairpin turns precariously gripping washed out hillside. The climb, a 3.9-mile, 2,000-foot test, is seldom used by cars and shaded form the sun, but still dangerous so keep your eyes open.

Climbing Alba

Location: 37.095717, -122.100163

A brief bit of relief on Alba

Location: 37.099003, -122.131362

Santa Cruz Mountains

Location: 37.101331, -122.132263
Looking out over the Santa Cruz Mountains from Alba Road.

Empire Grade

Location: 37.103590, -122.140718
Signs at the top of Alba. After cresting Alba Road, relax with a blazing 8-miles descending 1,835 feet.

Cruising on Empire

Location: 37.057712, -122.123251
Wide, fast and banked, Empire Grade is a local favorite for testing your bike computers speed maximum.

Martin Road

Location: 37.054287, -122.138958
Crumbling Sandstone rock formations litter the terrain along Martin Road.

Bonny Doon Road

Location: 37.037023, -122.152004
So smooth you barely need to use your brakes, this 3.6-mile section drops over 1,000 feet to the ocean and a stunning spin up the coast.

Highway 1

Location: 37.001730, -122.180243
A local favorite, the highway has wide shoulders and room to maneuver. Flat tires are common on this stretch, and evening sunlight can be blinding, so time your ride and be prepared.


Location: 37.011600, -122.195778
El Jarro Mexican restaurant in Davenport. It's small--like 20 seconds riding past small--but Davenport has several great places to refuel. El Jarro Mexican restaurant just off Highway 1 is a local favorite.

Seasonal wildflowers at the start of Swanton

Location: 37.032433, -122.219124
An idyllic coastal back road, wind past farmland, wildflowers, and lonely ranch houses. The road, ridable both ways, is usually ridden from south to north since the screaming final downhill is too much fun to pass up.

Swanton Road

Location: 37.078189, -122.244873


Location: 37.082092, -122.260065
The Pacific Ocean. A fast, tight descent leads back to the Highway. The turns are tight so make sure to keep an eye open for oncoming traffic.

Smith Grade

Location: 37.017494, -122.125740

Enjoying the peace and quiet on Smith Grade

Location: 37.017014, -122.114325
Prehistoric Redwood forest lines a majority of this ride, providing a damn, cool cover during the hot summer months.

Felton Empire

Location: 37.058602, -122.118530
Wickedly fast, this screaming downhill twists around 15 mph horseshoes, but don't get weak knees just yet-locals have been known to drive up to the top multiple times in one day, just to scream back down to Felton, 3-miles below.


Comparable Trips

Comments  Post a comment
0 Trip Comments