Top 5 Motorcycle Rides around Santa Clara, California

Jan 3, 2023

Tags:routesrentersanta clara

Ducati motorcycle ridden near Santa Clara, California.

Santa Clara is in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley—the sprawling hub of technological innovation. Although Santa Clara isn’t as large as San Jose, several high-tech companies and Santa Clara University—the oldest institution of higher learning in the Golden State are headquartered here. Riding a motorcycle, you’ll get the chance to see the greener side of the Bay Area. Don’t have a bike? Read the How to Rent a Motorcycle in California article and get up to speed.

Say goodbye to the crowded highways and suburbs of San Francisco, and say hello to dense redwood forests and deserted back roads. Whether you’re looking for technical, tight, or twisted roads high above the Bay Area, or just want to cruise past the Italianate vineyards and stone wineries of Napa, Northern California is home to every motorcycle enthusiast’s dream. Case in point: these five motorcycle routes. 

Renting a motorcycle has never been easier (read the How to Rent a Motorcycle Safely article). With an online riders-to-renters motorcycle rentals marketplace like Riders Share, all you have to do is pick a city and motorcycle that works best with the routes you’re planning to take. 

1. Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz

One-day trip — 68 miles

There’s no better way to begin a Bay Area exploration than by checking out Northern California’s peninsular coast and mountains. Rather than heading along famous Highway 1, the Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz motorcycle route takes you along challenging but rewarding inland roads.

This route begins in beautiful Half Moon Bay. It cuts inland and sends you up Skyline Boulevard/Route 35. Here you’ll get stunning views from the forested ridgeline which overlooks all of San Jose. Highway 236 will take you around Big Basin Redwoods State Park Loop. Pay it a visit, because the park is home to two massive redwoods known as the “Mother and Father” of the forest. It goes without saying that you should visit the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz for all manner of attractions and diversions. You can even go for a cruise along West Cliff to take in all the amazing Pacific views, including its picturesque lighthouse.

This route requires some technical riding. The beginning portion is an uphill battle, while Highway 236 is narrow and very twisty, cutting between trees and hillside as it works its way around Big Basin. Luckily, the roads are smooth as butter, and every bend has a perfect camber.

Because this route hits Skyline Boulevard, you’re obligated to pay your respects at the motorcycle magnet known as Alice’s Restaurant. On any given day, you’ll find dozens of motorcycles parked outside, and dozens of motorcycle enthusiasts enjoying delicious food. Hop off your motorcycle and join them.

2. Palo Alto to Soquel (Santa Cruz)

One-day trip — 43 miles

If you like the Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz trip, give the Palo Alto to Soquel (Santa Cruz) motorcycle route a try.

This trip leaves Silicon Valley’s suburbs and into the forested mountains between Palo Alto and Santa Cruz. You’ll access stunning vistas by the time you reach Skyline Boulevard along with some exceptionally beautiful forest views on the second leg of this journey. 

The beginning portion, Page Mill Road, is a winding, uphill road and a narrow climb. Route 9 weaves through the forest hillsides, though you should expect an abrupt drop, down to a narrow single track at a junction with Black Road. The first half features fast bends which are a load of fun to swoop around, but the second half is bumpier and offers tighter bends.

You’ll want to stop at Cadalegno’s Store in Soquel for some quality coffee. Capitola Beach is an excellent place to grab an ice cream and soak up the immensity of the Pacific.

3. Page Mill Road

One-day trip — 9 miles

If you rent a sport bike in Santa Clara or want an abridged version of the Palo Alto to Soquel ride, Page Mill Road is the answer.

Page Mill Road is located a few miles from Highway 84. This route starts at the intersection of Page Mill Road and I-280 in Los Altos Hills. You can reach the starting point from Santa Clara if you get on I-280 in town and head north. Once you’re on Page Mill Road, ride to its end at the intersection of Alpine Road and Skyline Boulevard in La Honda.

Page Mill Road, though short, is one of the more challenging roads in the Santa Cruz area. If you’re coming in from Palo Alto, the route is a nine-mile uphill climb to the peak of the mountain range. If you’re coming from the west, you’ll be descending the entire ride. 

As with all the other motorcycle routes nearby, Alice’s is your go-to stop for grub. Whether you eat at Alice’s before or after completing Page Mill Road will depend on the direction you’re coming from.

4. San Jose to Fremont 

One-day trip — 73 miles

Because the San Jose to Fremont motorcycle route makes an epic climb up Mount Hamilton before running through various secluded back roads, you’ll be able to escape the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area without ever leaving it.

Anytime you find yourself on Mount Hamilton, you should check out Lick Observatory. Even if you aren’t looking up at the stars, you can still get amazing views of the Bay Area below (motorcycle enthusiasts often stop here for that very purpose). In contrast to the epic heights of Mount Hamilton, Mines Road will take you over babbling creeks and hills.

Expect tight and steep hairpins as you head up Mount Hamilton on Route 130. The road widens out a bit past Lick Observatory. Expect a few hairpin turns and wide sweeping bends on Mines Road. While Mount Hamilton and Lick Observatory are fairly popular, Mines Road is mostly deserted and devoid of traffic.

If you’re in the mood for food, stop at Junction Bar & Grill, where Mines Road forks off of Route 130—it’s a popular destination with motorcycle enthusiasts. If you’re looking for another motorcycle-friendly joint, try Florence Bar in Fremont.

5. San Francisco to Port Costa

One-day trip — 179 miles

Get ready for some wining and dining because the San Francisco to Port Costa motorcycle route goes through the ritzy Marin and Napa Valley regions of California.

This route starts at the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and offers plenty of scenery. Ride along the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, a rite of passage for Bay Area visitors. After taking some selfies at the scenic viewpoints on the north end of the Bridge, you can enjoy an ice cream on Stinson Beach. Point Reyes is another spot to consider stopping off at—it’s a quiet little town full of old-style buildings. The road that runs through Napa is unbelievably scenic—it cuts through hillside upon hillside covered in sprawling vineyards. You’ll think you’re riding through Italy, not California.

The roads around Stinson Beach usually feature heavy traffic, but ride farther north, and the roads clear up substantially. The roads around Petaluma are wide, smooth, and offer plenty of swooping bends. You’ll find even more fun along the twisties of Routes 121 and 128.

You won’t have any problems finding food or drink on this ride. For food, you can get some excellent lobster from the Warehouse Cafe at the route’s end in Port Costa. As noted above, this route runs through the Napa Valley region of California, which is famous for its wine the world over. Grab a few bottles of top-shelf wine for the road, or visit any one of the dozens of gated stone wineries for wine tasting tours. Berryessa Brewing Co. in Winters is a great place to pick up beers, too.

These routes are impressive, but there are also other options. Read the Best San Francisco Motorcycle Riding Routes, Top-5 Motorcycle Routes Near San Francisco, Top Motorcycle Events in Northern California, and Top 5 Motorcycle Trips Near San Jose, California articles. 

You only need one essential for exploring the Golden State’s wealth of roads. Don’t waste your time or money renting motorcycles from brick-and-mortar operations that don’t fit your needs. Give Riders Share a test and go motorcycling.