Mt. Madonna Road has never been paved its entire length. Check it out.
You can still lose yourself in dirt out in the wilds of the Santa Cruz Mountains on a road called Summit.
I’ve been riding here since the early 1980s when Jobst Brandt showed us the way from his home in Palo Alto. It’s a long ride from there, but distance never stopped Jobst from finding dirt roads.
Over the decades I’ve seen changes, the most important one being no more hassles. When the Redwood Empire logging company hired a fine East Bay attorney to plead their case back in 2000, they put to rest the notion that Summit Road was private. It’s anything but.
I prefer the northern approach, taking the paved Mt. Bache/Loma Prieta roads. Once at the top of the steep climb, Monterey Bay shines like a beacon to the west. Spread out on the flats there’s the agricultural mecca of Watsonville.
Summit rolls up, down, up, down for eight miles, staying at about 2,900 feet altitude. The climbs aren’t long or steep, just numerous.
You’ll be joined by 4-wheel-drives going by, a lot more than decades ago. People keep moving out here, living off-grid and enjoying their privacy.
How much longer this will last is anyone’s guess. However, with more people comes gentrification. One of these days Summit will be paved. You can bet on it.
One thing you’ll notice out here is the lack of dense tree growth. Blame it on frequent fires. Too many to count. The road is a vital fire break.
I headed down the paved Summit to Mt. Madonna Road, one of the nicest stretches you could ever hope to ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s worth the effort.
There’s another 1.3 miles of dirt on Mt. Madonna Road heading east. It’s darn steep and gravel. Use caution.
Heading back on Uvas Road I checked out the old road, fully exposed now that the reservoir has dried out. Let’s hope for rain.