Ride the Backroads
of the Coast Range
Highlights: Conzelman Rd • Panoramic Highway • Ridgecrest Rd • Bolinas Rd • Sir Frances Drake Blvd • Nicasio Valley Rd • Point Reyes Petaluma Rd • Hicks Valley Rd • Marshall-Petaluma Rd • Whitaker Bluff Rd • Joy Rd • Coleman Valley Rd • Highway 1 • Cazadero Highway • King Ridge Rd • Tin Barn Rd • Stewarts Point Rd • Mountain View Rd • Highway 128 • Comptche Ukiah Rd • Orr Springs Rd • Highway 253 • Dutcher Creek Rd • Skaggs Spring Rd • Annapolis Rd
A few years ago, ten plus actually, I designed a motorcycle tour along the Sonoma and Mendocino coastline aptly designated the Goat Trail Tour. This was a tour designed to ride as many remote (paved) backroads as we could fit in the day. The unexpected issue we ran into is riders had no idea what a Goat Trail was or what the term 'Goat Trail' even meant (a road fit only for goats), then showed up on very large motorcycles such as a Goldwing, another on a HD Ultra Classic with sidecar. The creator of Butler Maps called them 'Paved Mountain Trails'. Take your pick of respecitve terms, my tour alumni have grown to call them simply 'Tim roads'. They're not for everybody. If you like your roads perfectly smooth and well-maintained, this is not the motorcycle tour for you, review the other fifteen tours we offer. However, if that's you with the 21-inch front wheel, and you love riding backroads, the Pacific Coast Mountain Range north of San Francisco is full of them. We’re going to pluck out the best of the best.
The Coastal Mountains north of San Francisco are the focus of this all-new motorcycle tour for 2023 centered on Marin, Sonoma & Mendocino Counties being the highlight of the tour. The Coast Range is a low mountain range, but offers many deserted backroads through picturesque remote valleys and lush redwood forests. Our tour together will zigzag through the heart of the Coast Mountain Range.
Marin County is an anomaly within the entire state of California. The county is small by comparison to most other counties in California, a mere 828 square miles. For comparison, San Bernardino County in Southern California is 20,105 square miles, nearly 25x larger land area. Yet, incomes in Marin County are high, with an average income of $121,000 per year. Property is expensive; property taxes (calculated as a percentage of the original purchase price in California) in this tiny county generate $95 billion per year. This pastoral land of rolling green hills and quiet ranches contrasts sharply with life a few miles south across the Golden Gate considering millions of people live moments away.
California is full of backroads. Many in the coastal regions were carved out by loggers, ranchers and enterprising fortune seekers up and over mountain ranges. Over time, many of these paths were widened, just enough, and paved. Then everyone went home. And that was decades ago.
This Pashnit Tour is designed for experienced riders who are at ease riding single lane (paved) backroads. Very large motorcycles are not advised. California backroads can be bumpy, dirty, sandy, tree-shaded, super-twisty, narrow and all other manner of delicious backroad goodness.
Our tour begins in Sausalito, California, north of San Francisco along the edge of San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz Island fills our view as we look across the bay. We'll leave beautiful Sausalito and ride into the Marin Headlands. This short one-way loop out towards the Point Bonita Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful roads in the Bay Area. Shadowed by the Golden Gate Bridge, this region has graced many a book cover with photographers flocking here to capture the Civil War Fortifications still in place guarding San Francisco Bay. With views of the Golden Gate Bride, Angel Island, Alcatraz & downtown San Francisco, it's the perfect start to a twisty weekend together.
After skipping north, we'll ride up into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Our destination is Ridgecrest Blvd, better known as Bolinas Ridge. Once we reach the summit via a twisty convoluted route appropriately called Panoramic Highway, the views in all directions are stupendous overlooking the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean. From our vantage point atop Bolinas Ridge, we can look down on Stinson Beach, but further out to sea is one of the most interesting lighthouses on the West Coast of the United States.
The rolling hills of the Point Reyes Peninsula became known for cattle herds of Devon, Jersey, Guernsey, and later on Holstein, numbering from 100 to 250 cows per ranch that began to populate the Point Reyes Peninsula starting in the 1850s. Cattle ranches were named A-Z with A being closest to the main road and Z Ranch being the furthest point from town. Nearly 1,000,000 pounds of butter were produced in Marin County for the rapidly growing city of San Francisco. With an eager market in San Francisco during the early 1900s, profits grew, and many immigrants arriving in California found employment on dairy farms in Marin County. As the dairy industry evolved through prohibition, the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937, and two world wars, the lifestyle around the Point Reyes Pennisula evolved. Of the original 31 dairies, 13 still thrive today along our route out to the lighthouse.
Point Reyes Lighthouse...
The Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the most scenic regions on the Pacific Coast and is surrounded on three sides by ocean blue. At the furthest point out into the ocean, a lighthouse was constructed, first lit in 1870. Point Reyes Lighthouse, quicky became known as the foggiest & windiest point on the West Coast. Winds of 75 to 100 mph are commonplace, and the highest wind speeds recorded thus far at Point Reyes have reached 133 mph. Fog is present 200-days a year. The lighthouse is located atop a 37-foot tower nearly 300 feet above the ocean. And we should probably mention the lighthouse can only be reached by walking down 308 steps, each numbered so you can keep track when you walk back up. When there isn't fog the other 165 days, the endless expanse of ocean blue spans as far as the eye can see.
During the 2018 restoration of the lighthouse, workers discovered a time capsule hidden inside the wall of the lighthouse dated to August 1929. The time capsule contained many local newspapers than can now be viewed on-line.
There is no fresh water at Point Reyes, yet water was needed in the 1870s to create the steam to power the fog horn. Coal-fired generators that made steam for the fog signals consumed large amounts of water requiring the construction of an elaborate catchment system that was created to store rainwater in the same way a gutter catches all the water off the roof of your house. Rainwater flowed into a 52,000-gallon cistern from a catchment area of 20,000 square feet. During periods of drought, the lighthouse had to have horse-drawn wagons pull water tanks full of water obtained from local ranchers. Today, the concrete catchment and the dome of the cistern is still visible although the need for steam powered fog horns has long since been replaced. Consistent with other designs of the time, the light tower is sixteen sides of forged iron plate bolted to solid rock 294 feet above sea level.
Land on the Point Reyes Peninsula was eventually acquired by the National Park Service as efforts were made to save open spaces from sprawl and development. A few farms are still active as you ride through Point Reyes and we’ll also have to stop at the famous Cypress Tree Tunnel, a long line of cypress trees planted in the 1930s.
East of Bodega is Joy Rd, a fun narrow backroad leading up the ridgeline and then circling back to Occidental. However, at the top of the hill is Coleman Valley Rd leading back out to the ocean down a narrow one lane 8-mile descent to Highway 1. If you love backroads, it’s a romp. As Coleman Valley Rd nears the ocean, the ride pops out of the tree cover offering expansive views of the ocean blue splayed out before you on the north end of the Bodega Bay beaches.
Coleman Valley, Meyers Grade, Hauser Bridge, King Ridge- if those don't ring a bell, then you might be in the majority. Often cut across rolling hills of ranch and cow pastures, with bovine even standing in the middle of the road on occasion, we have found our Goat Trail. King Ridge is one of the highlights of this tour. Picture rolling green terrain, in and out of forest tree tunnels, and views that stretch for miles. King Ridge terminates at Tin Barn, still the middle of nowhere, but the temps drop and you can smell the ocean air. We’re close. Stewarts Point Rd is single lane while dropping elevation rapidly out to the ocean and Highway 1.
The more I stare at the route map of our next day together, the giddier I become. Yeah, that works goes the brain after several days of playing with the mapping program. A balanced day of nonstop twisty finally appears on the screen. More backroads with few people, and even less traffic. Our route today will begin with one of the most beloved sections of road in all of California. The twisties start up moments after our morning launch through a wonderous stretch of coastline along the Pacific Ocean to reach Mountain View Rd.
An hour north of Gualala is a road simply known as Comptche-Ukiah. It’s short, a 15-mile fist bump of frivolity up a redwood canyon with recently repaving. And it’s a favorite, even top ten in the state for some of our more grizzled veteran tour alumni. Meet you in Comptche, and the rapid-fire s-curves pass by in mere fleeting moments, flashes of lean. But the road doesn’t end here, it devolves, as in narrows into a single lane paved trek through Montgomery Woods State Park (think redwoods) and over the Coast Range past Orr Springs. In the late 1800s, “Orr Hot Sulphur Springs” became a resting spot on the Ukiah-Mendocino stagecoach line. It developed into a popular resort for city-dwellers who came seeking health and relaxation. The mineral waters were heralded as bringing great relief to arthritis and rheumatism, and to blood, kidney and liver disorders. The goal, however, is not to soak in the hot springs, it’s ice cream.
And the nearby town of Ukiah has exactly that. Be-Bops Diner is an authentic 1950s diner straight out of the 1973 film American Graffiti. We love this place, and their malts and shakes love us back.
The Anderson Valley is on the other side of the range. To reach it, we need to ride up and over the range via Highway 253. Deliciously fast, 253 throws out an steady cadence of succulent lean angles. The Anderson Valley is thought to have native inhabitants as far back as 5000 years ago, but wasn’t homesteaded by white settlers until 1852 who quickly realized the region was well suited for growing apples and grapes.
In present day, there are wineries in every direction and acre upon acre of grapevines are visible everywhere we ride. There’s still one more feather in the cap, riders simply refer to it as Skaggs. It starts our fast, then narrows, then narrows some more as we make our way back out to the ocean. Skaggs narrows until redwood trees are growing up in the middle of the road and we need to detour around the redwood growing in the middle of the road. Some riders have referred to Skaggs as the Holy Grail of California Motorcycle Roads. That’s a lofty designation, but we think you’ll just have to ride it for yourself and let us know what you think.
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Tour: November 03, 2023
Meet: 777 Bridgeway, Sausalito CA
Arrive: 7:00 AM, Safety Brief 7:30, Depart 8:00 AM
Cost: $460 per rider, $119 Passenger
This tour includes numerous narrow single lane paved mountain roads. The ride includes steep grades to 20% and negotiating tight hair-pin corners. All roads on this tour are paved.
EXPERIENCED RIDERS ONLY:
This tour is strongly not recommended for beginner riders, cruisers, three-wheeled motorcycles or Very Large Motorcycles. Riders are expected to have at least five plus consecutive years of enthusiastic experience on their motorcycle riding remote challenging paved mountain backroads along with at least 5000+ miles of concurrent recent experience.
This tour is limited by the amount of rooms at our host lodging. We have booked rooms months in advance and our tours sell out by the end of January. Get on our mailing list to be the first to know about new rides. Tours are planned & announced in the late fall of each year Book early to ensure a spot on this all new tour. Check with us to see if any spots are open. Once the tour sells out, your name will be added to a waiting list to join the tour group in case someone cancels.