Gazos Creek Road turns to dust

The always wet section of Hwy 236.

As I was riding on Hwy 236 across wet pavement and through soupy fog, I wondered if Gazos Creek Road would be muddy? I needn’t have worried.

There’s something about this stretch of Hwy 236 about two miles off Hwy 9. It’s the wettest place in Big Basin State Park. It must be a combination of the altitude and location.

As I rode on the little-used North Escape Road, I saw an unbelievable sight — another cyclist, coming up. I think that has happened maybe two times in all the years I’ve been riding here.

It should come as no surprise though, because the park was already packed with cars at 9:30 upon my arrival. It must be the 4th of July holiday crowd. In my four decades riding here, I have noticed a dramatic increase in traffic in recent years.

That’s a mighty big tree section a couple miles from park headquarters.

Fortunately the crowds had no intention of cycling on Gazos Creek Road, although I did see a total of six riders on the eight miles of dirt from park headquarters to the paved Gazos Creek Road — a record.

This being July, I was not surprised that the road had become a sand pit in many sections. Par for the course. With adroit bike handling I managed to avoid most of the dusty sections. It stayed that way for the first six miles before the big descent at Sandy Point.

Gazos Creek Road in the narrows after the steep descent.

I didn’t see any serious road damage from the past winter’s heavy rains. A few places had been cleaned up, but even they didn’t look bad. I think the park rangers do most of the maintenance, although San Mateo County claims the road at the Santa Cruz County line, about two miles out from park headquarters. It’s closed, with gates at both ends, but since most of the road is in the state park, the county hasn’t made any effort to chase away cyclists.

While the sand pits made riding less than ideal, the descent went without a hitch, the loads of rock ballast dumped here in years past now a memory. I still see short stretches of pavement in steep spots, laid down by a landowner who needed to transport some particularly heavy items to his property.

Back on pavement, I glided down the road following the delightful Gazos Creek. A half mile before the right turn to Cloverdale Road I passed a mudslide that required heavy equipment to fix the road.

Gazos Creek Road did not escape the winter’s wrath.

As I continued up Pescadero Road in pleasantly cool weather and high overcast some youths invited me to try blackberries they were picking on the side of the road. I took them up on their offer and we got to talking about blackberries. I learned that there is a variety, Himalaya (5 leaves in a cluster), that is crowding out the native California blackberries (3 leaves in a cluster). They showed me the Himalaya, a much heartier looking plant that yields a lot of berries.

I checked my blackberries growing in the garden and determined they’re the California variety.

Some days the weather and physical abilities click and all is right with the world. Today was one of those days.

7 Responses to “Gazos Creek Road turns to dust”

  1. Simon Fraser Says:

    I’ve done Gazos Creek a couple of times. It’s a good ride, other than the last steep bit before you hit pavement!

    I’m now curious to try Chalks Road up from Hwy 1 into the park.

  2. Raymond Says:

    Chalks passes by residents who are anti-bike.

  3. jamesRides Says:

    I rode this yesterday from the Big Basin direction on a road bike. It’s a beautiful ride, though it is very slow going on the road bike due to sand and rocks. . The steep decline begins after the last gate at the Chalks Road intersection. This section I would say is downright dangerous on a road bike. The descent consists of sustained 15 to 18% grade in multiple places over slippery gravel, rocks, and occasional asphalt. More suited for a mountain bike. At the bottom, where the pavement begins, there is a huge gate put up by the county that says “Road Closed” due to sliding rock.. You have to lift your bike over the gate.

    The best reason to ride this is the paved section – South Fork Gazos Creek road is incredible. The road snakes though a long, tiny ravine full of redwood, and a slight descent grade makes it a joy to ride.

    Ray: just curious, in your numerous rides on this road: did you or Jobst ever ride up this section without having to dismount? Seems impossible on a road bike, and even a mountain bike, but maybe the road used to be in better condition.

    • Ray Hosler Says:

      Jobst Brandt rode up it many times non-stop. I made it once, May 18, 1986. I was in top shape then and rode through Europe that summer. It got easier when small sections were paved to haul heavy objects up the road 10-15 years ago, or so. The descent calls for excellent bike handling. Road condition plays a big part. They gravel the road at times, and that’s when it’s tough.

  4. jamesRides Says:

    Hey Ray,
    Take a look at the photos on this site (Fox Open Project, Adventure Cross Fork Page, in case the URL is blocked).

    These photos are of the Gazos Creek Trail and other Big Basin trails, are they not? (The railroad car with the treehouse in back initially caught my attention)

  5. Raymond Hosler Says:

    James – Yes, it’s Butano Fire Road, Gazos Creek Road, Cloverdale Road. Tree house owner does not like the publicity.

  6. March Rains in San Mateo – Newts on Gazos Creek Fire Road, 2019 | inthegooey Says:

    […] Boomer California’s Native Ferns, Regional Parks Foundation Gazos Creek Road, MTB Project Gazos Creek Road Turns to Dust, Bay Area Rides Life Cycle of Marbled Murrelets, Black Hills Audubon Society Marbled Murrelet, National Audubon […]

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