OverviewThe great Cathermola Road descends from Loma Ridge Road down to Lake Elsman, south of Mt. Umunhum, in the Sierra Azul area of the Santa Cruz Mountains. On some maps, it is labeled as "Cattermole Road". The Cattermoles were a family from Bremen, Germany, who operated a winery on what is now Cathermola Road in the late 19th century. No buildings remain today. This rocky fire road is very remote and begins and ends in private property. The majority of the road is located within the Sierra Azul Open Space land, yet isn't officially opened due to the fact that private property must be crossed in order to get to the road. This makes riding the road technically legal, getting there is where problems might arise.
Getting ThereJust get onto Summit Road and head southeast from Highway 17. Summit Road is located 6 miles south of Los Gatos on Highway 17.
Trail DescriptionThe full Cathermola loop begins in the town of Los Gatos, yet parking on Summit Road will cut 20 miles and about 1500 feet of climbing off of the route. To do the full ride, begin in LG, hop onto the Los Gatos Creek trail and pedal south, to Lexington Reservoir. Bike up the dam, make a right on Alma Bridge Road, bike to highway 17, take a small singletrack to your left and skirt the highway for about 3/4 mile. Take it until the trail ends, which is Old Santa Cruz Road. Pedal up this road for 4 miles or so until the 4 way at the top. Make a left onto Summit Road.
It's pretty simple: begin on Summit Road and turn left onto Loma Prieta Ave, just a bit before the summit store. LP Ave. will climb steadily along the ridge, straddling the county lines of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. After a couple of miles, the road will turn to dirt and descend a little to Mt. Bache Road/Loma Prieta Way. Go left and the road immediately steepens to a 13%+ grade. It doesn't last long, for the road flattens out again, and then climbs steeply to the gap in the ridge. Pass "Rattlesnake" trail on your right and continue towards Loma Prieta. A rather large intersection will present itself. Go left, upwards. There is a gate and a few 'Area Closed" signs, yet the gate is open and people don't tend to mind bikers up this road very much.
The road will top out at another big intersection. This is where the shady stuff begins. Take the road that continues straight, on the other side of a guard rail that aims you to the right. This road trverses the west flank of Loma Prieta. Go through an open gate that has "No Trespassing" spray painted on it. Continue left at the next intersection. Pass by some houses and soon you'll come to a Mid Pen gate. Once you hop the gate, you are technically legal. This is Loma Ridge Road. Make a hard-left at the junction soon after the gate and bomb down Loma Ridge Road. It will descend a couple hundred feet and then begin climbing again. Keep going until you reach another big intersection, where a road goes left off the road, Cathermola gently veers off to the left, and Loma Ridge Road continues along staright. DO NOT take the first left: this winds up at a trailer park which you will have some views of later. Take Cathermola Road, which veers left and begins to head down. There is another Mid Pen gate after the first bend. Hop this gate and head down Cathermola. It will climb a little in the second canyon, but after that, it descends about 1800 feet down into San Jose Water Company property. You will see signs marking the line. Before you get to the bottom, you have to pass a driveway located just before the last down hill. Once you pass the house, follow the road down into Austrian Gulch and cross a bridge at the creek. Follow the road and it will soon be alongside Lake Elsman, go past the dam, descend, and hop a final gate. This marks the end of the private property. Take the road to Wrights Crossing over Los Gatos Creek and climb out of the canyon via Wrights Station Road. Make a right at Morrill Road and it will take you to Summit Road.
When to BikeThis is best ridden in fall, winter and springs. In the summer months, the climbs can be brutally hot.
WarningTHIS RIDE CROSSES PRIVATE PROPERTY!!!.
You must be careful on the ride, for you never can really tell what can happen if you are caught on this ride. Just use common sense and please be respectful.