Butano Fire Road Airport Open for Business

Butano Fire Road Airport atop a ridge overlooking Butano State Park offers few amenities. You can see the control tower in the distance, looking north.


After an eight-year absence I finally made it out to Butano Fire Road to check out the newly improved airport, which now has a solar-powered control tower. Over the past 30 years my visits to the airport with Jobst Brandt and riders always made for interesting discussions as we stopped to enjoy a soda in the airport waiting area. It’s a bit spartan here to say the least — no seating, no food service, no restrooms, no people movers.

Oh, and no traffic. You’d think the Half Moon Bay airport could work out a deal and transport hikers to the airport rather than making them hike a million miles from Butano State Park. It’s not a paved runway, but a small airplane would have no problem.

I saw dirt aplenty today. There’s the mile of China Grade that’s dirt and then there’s another nine miles on Butano Fire Road. The only longer point-to-point route in the area is Aptos Creek Fire Road and Buzzard Lagoon, which goes for 12 miles on dirt.

Over the years the road has become perfectly OK to use as most of it is now in Butano State Park. I saw no logging activity, although it may still take place from time to time.

One of the nice features of the road is that it’s mostly downhill, with only three steep (11 percent) but short climbs worthy of note. That’s not to say you can’t ride up from Cloverdale. I did that once. Despite being a long climb, there are some nasty steep spots of 15 percent. I decided that was one memorable experience I didn’t need to repeat.

Conditions vary but today with the exception of the occasional sandy spot it was perfect. In 30 years the road has remained a gem for cycling and due to its remote location, it will probably stay that way.

Butano Fire Road extends from China Grade to Cloverdale Road. It’s a long nine-mile downhill — a great way to work muscles you didn’t know you had.

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