A local secret that’s not as much of a secret anymore, the Planet of the Apes Ride, which runs 18 miles from San Francisco south to Montara, is one of the most unique in the area. Sure, you’ve got the requisite coastline vistas and rolling hills, but the ride, which runs along the abandoned Highway 1, also comes with broken pavement, packed dirt, and some mud here and there. Bottom line: You can conquer it on a road bike, but be sure to bring an extra tube (and a sense of adventure) for this literal off-the-beaten-path trek.
What Makes It Great
It’s hard to believe that in the environs of a city as densely populated as San Francisco a road could be abandoned, but therein lies the appeal of this funky ride. It runs along Old San Pedro Mountain Road, which used to be Highway 1. But the highway was eventually rerouted, and today the old road remains, overgrown and rutted, evoking a sense of a lost civilization—which inspired the Planet of the Apes reference in local cycling circles.
To start the ride in San Francisco, head to the zoo and make your way past Lake Merced, proceeding south to Pacifica. Once there, either ride along Highway 1 or along the dirt levees by the beach until you get to Old San Pedro Road, where the real fun starts, around mile 12. You’ll navigate dirt road, pavement that’s broken in some spots and rutted in others, and even some mud—in some ways, it can feel more like a cyclo-cross course. But keep at it, and eventually, the road will dump you out at Highway 1 in the tiny coastal town of Montara.
Once there, you can ride back to the city for a 360-mile round-trip, or, for an overnight adventure, pack a change of clothes and spend the night in the cozy Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel, which is part of a historic and still operating lighthouse that dates back to 1875. The next morning, after a morning espresso while gazing at the Pacific, savor the otherworldly appeal of the Planet of the Apes ride on the return trip before rejoining civilization in San Francisco.
Who is Going to Love It
Perhaps it’s more helpful to note who will not love Planet of the Apes: hardcore roadies looking for a speed workout, anybody who has just dropped cash on a new road bike, or families—this one would be torture for training wheels or bike trailers. For everyone else, the ride is an interesting, if not refreshing, change of pace from the road; just be prepared to walk through especially tricky sections and make sure to have a spare tube handy. And a mountain bike would work well here, too, especially for the side trails that are full of ramps, jumps, and other fun diversions.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
If it's your first time on this ride, it's recommended to go with someone who is familiar with the route. In addition, you can follow this established route by MapMyRide.