Zayante Road a Hidden Gem in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Zayante store has everything a rider needs to fuel the ride home.

Zayante store has everything a rider needs to fuel the ride home.


My introduction to Zayante Road came on a particularly frenetic ride led by Jobst Brandt back in 1900 and 80. A fit bunch of riders they were, mostly racers and at the top of their game.

We made our way from Palo Alto over the Santa Cruz Mountains, taking a dirt road (not government approved) that tested our steel and sew-ups like no other. I for one was hammered by the time we reached Santa Cruz, but there was more to come.

Jobst took us up a steep, winding, narrow road that would become one of my favorite routes in the years ahead. But this was no fun ride as attack after attack ensued on the gnarliest climbs of 14 percent. There is one particularly nasty stretch, the last of the steep stuff, topping out at 17 percent. But don’t let that dissuade you.

By the time we reached Skyline about half of us were fried and strung out to find our way home at a manageable pace. I’ll never forget Marc Brandt begging me for a Fig Newton, totally bonked. Jobst had gone on ahead, unfazed by the long ride that clicked in at around 120 miles. Those were the days.

Zayante Road is so remote it sees little traffic, and the view — inspiring as you embrace the redwoods and the deep narrow canyons with creeks below.

On this day I rode down Zayante after climbing Hwy 9, temps in the upper 30s, low 40s. Plentiful sunshine didn’t help much until the return up 9.

Zayante Road will test your riding skills on the twisty, bumpy descent. There’s only one brief gentle climb on the way into the town of Zayante, which has but one store. I stopped for a cup of coffee, a first for me, but it hit the spot and made the ride up 9 go a little faster.

On the easy climb of Quail Hollow Road I spotted a dead pine tree riddled with woodpecker holes. Acorn woodpeckers and others spend hours drilling holes and pushing acorns into dead trees, which is no doubt why this tree was cut. They’re in there tight and, yes, sometimes even woodpeckers can’t get them out.

On the ride up 9 the sun budged the thermometer to the low 50s, but nearing Skyline it dropped back to 44. Not bad for the last weekend ride in January.

Woody had a field day with this tree on Quail Hollow Road.

Woody had a field day with this tree on Quail Hollow Road.

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4 Responses to “Zayante Road a Hidden Gem in the Santa Cruz Mountains”

  1. ted pauly Says:

    excellent post. never been on this road, but have been wanting to for some time now. your description of it makes it all the more enticing. How do you like it as a climb, and what would you compare it to around here? thanks for sharing.

  2. Ray Hosler Says:

    Ted: It’s comparable to Page Mill Road in terms of climbing, but of course it’s much more scenic and secluded.

  3. Barry Chaffin Says:

    I much prefer climbing Zayante over descending. Bear Creek offers a quick return to the valley. I usually descend Hwy 9 to Ben Lomond and take Quail Hollow although you can also go all the way to Felton and Graham Hill Road.

    Regardless, it is a very nice road for cycling.

  4. ted pauly Says:

    well ray, finally made it up zayante…..went for a short loop today, down mt. charlie, into felton, than up zayante. Suprisingly, it had a fair amount of cars near the lower section, and the logging trucks are lots of fun. At any rate, it was hot, and even though it was only a short ride today, I definetly could feel the climb. Mt. Charlie (first time on that one too) is all chopped up, potholes, and so on that I am in no hurry to do that one again to soon. Maybe going up would be better for Charlie. Beautiful countryside all around.

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