Riding in the Bay Area may at first conjure images of congested freeways and busy urban streets. And that pretty accurately describes riding Highway 101 and nearby towns from the San Jose Valley all the way to San Francisco, particularly on a weekday. But there is at least one popular motorcycle route and destination nearby where riders can escape to scenic vistas and plenty of curves.
Alice’s Restaurant is a popular Bay Area destination easily reached from Highway 1 or from the San Jose valley and located on arguably the best riding roads in the area. Locals, and riders passing through who know, will draw parallels between Skyline Boulevard and Mulholland Drive in southern California, both storied roads featuring a popular roadside diner. Alice’s makes our list of great motorcycle destinations.
Meet Up At Alice’s Restaurant
Alice’s Restaurant is a small diner tucked in the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Motorcyclists, drivers, and bike riders all share a special affection for this place, not so much for the food but more to share a camaraderie with like-minded enthusiasts.
Like the Rock Store in the hills above Malibu, Alice’s has become the place where Bay Area riders gather on weekends. The clientele is a mix of locals and tourists. A high percentage arrive on motorcycles, and of those, judging by a quick look around the parking lot, sport bikes are the most popular models. No matter, people are there to take in the fresh forest air and mingle and share a common love for motorcycling.
The restaurant offers casual dining inside and on the deck. Breakfast options are traditional fare with a few menu specials often named for popular sportbikes. Lunch & dinner are equally traditional with the addition of a few outstanding BBQ items. Overall, customer reviews are favorable, and prices are reasonable in the $10 to $15 range. Alice’s delivers a great Bay Area destination experience for the money.
Riding to Alice’s is not like striking out on the Loneliest Highway in America (i.e. US Route 50) where gas is a legitimate concern. But for those coming up from a long day on the coast, a top-up may be needed. And conveniently Alice’s serves up gas from a small filling station next door. It’s not cheap, but then it beats walking.
Trace the Santa Cruz Mountains on Skyline Boulevard
Regardless which direction you travel on Highway 1, a side-trip to Alice’s Restaurant is worthwhile, and for some a nice change of scenery from the coast. The above map shows the suggested route arcs above Highway 1 from Pescadero State Beach on the south to Half Moon Bay on the north. Starting the ride from either end is equally scenic, only the corners feel different.
For those riding from the San Jose area, take Sand Hill Road out of Menlo Park toward La Honda Road which meets up with Skyline Boulevard at a spot often called Four Corners. The accompanying map shows this route option as well.
All roads on this route are well paved and mostly two lane double yellows. The terrain itself varies, passing through open fields broken up by narrow redwood-lined twisty sections. Like so many scenic roads, Skyline Boulevard is marked by many picture-taking overlooks and turnouts.
Traffic can be heavy depending on the season and day of the week, with weekends being busy pretty much year-round. Passing slow movers is possible but remember a good chunk of the roadway is marked double yellow no passing. Keep that in mind when you find yourself relaxing behind an RV on an uninteresting, but pass permitting, stretch of road. Plan ahead, seize the moment. This seems like a good time to also mention that the California Highway Patrol keeps an eye on Skyline Boulevard.
A couple other things to know about the route. Skyline is popular with sports car enthusiasts so don’t crowd the center line in the turns. And bicycle riders also make use of the road and may be just beyond the next blind corner. So be careful not to run wide.
Riders have their choice of two paths (at least) to Skyline Boulevard and Alice’s Restaurant from the Pacific Coast Highway. Routes can be taken in either direction, but are described riding from the south to the north. Alice’s is the logical mid-point.
The South Section – Pescadero Creek Road and La Honda Road
The turn onto Pescadero Creek Road off CA-1 comes up right before the point at which the highway passes the south end of Pescadero State Beach. Take Pescadero Road east away from the coast to begin climbing into the Santa Cruz Mountains. The road is well paved and at first seems unremarkable. But give it time. Lanes become more narrow, confined, with a weaving pattern of sweeping corners.
Further up the way, near Memorial County Park, the turns get tighter and the road takes on a new personality. Still sufficiently paved and marked, but the pace seems to increase as turns come quickly among the passing redwoods. Truly a most enjoyable ride all the way to La Honda Road (CA-84).
At La Honda, make a turn to the north and follow it all the way to the intersection with Skyline Boulevard. In terms of corner thrills per mile, La Honda delivers but with a bit less intensity than the last stretch of Pescadero Road. Still, a fun ride winding through classic northern California hill sides.
Eventually the road opens up to Alice’s Restaurant at the Four Corners intersection where La Honda meets Skyline Boulevard (CA-35).
The North Section – Skyline Boulevard to Half Moon Bay
The Four Corners intersection of Skyline Boulevard and La Honda Road at first looks like a badly designed shopping center parking lot. Cars and bikes line the roadside and even take space among the in the tree-filled median. On one side is Alice’s Restaurant and on the other the Skywood Trading Post.
This north section of the route leaves Alice’s Restaurant along Skyline Boulevard toward Half Moon Bay. The roadway continues the redwood forest theme from La Honda, but with more relaxed corners. Occasionally the trees break away to open views of the hillside.
Watch for the Skeggs Point scenic view pullout. The pullout faces east exposing views of Woodside, Redwood City, and Menlo Park. The cities below are a reminder that city life is mere miles away from the tranquil rural roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Keep on Skyline Boulevard through the Kings Mountain area. The road straightens out quite a bit from here, with only gentle turns to provide a distraction from the never-ending redwoods. Soon enough the road opens up to ranches on either side and a sense takes hold that the Pacific is nearby. This stretch of road, less than a mile before the turnoff to Half Moon Bay, has some of the best ocean facing views from Skyline Boulevard. The Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir on the east side of the road also comes into view.
Follow the signs at the junction with California Highway 92 toward Half Moon Bay. Don’t be surprised by the traffic on CA-92; it’s a busy route connecting San Mateo on the east with Half Moon Bay on the Pacific. If traffic weren’t enough, the road itself is largely uneventful saved only by the scenery that shouts Northern California coastal community.
Half Moon Bay is small seaside town, a short 20 miles south of San Francisco, with coffee shops, restaurants, lodging, and plenty of local shopping. Anyone wanting to stay in the Bay Area and in a more peaceful setting than San Francisco, should consider an overnight stay. Enjoy wide open views of the Pacific all day, including occasional whale sightings, morning mist, and afternoon sunsets.
A Northern California Experience
Riders of all kinds are sure to enjoy a ride up to Alice’s Restaurant. With its rustic atmosphere, countless bikes and sportscars, and time to hang out with fellow riders, where better to spend a couple hours off the bike?
Anyone riding through the Bay Area, whether taking CA1 along the coast or slabbing it on CA-101 inland, should work in the Skyline Boulevard route with a stop at Alice’s Restaurant. There’s so much to enjoy in this relatively short ride. From incredible redwood forests, to rural vistas, ocean views, and picturesque Half Moon Bay. Add to that the top Bay Area motorcycle roads and you have a combo plate that’s hard to resist.