The Central Coast is known for its smooth, scenic rides along the oceanside on Highway 1. But it’s also a popular destination for dedicated cyclists because it presents the challenges they so crave.
Case in point—”The Wall.” This nearly eight-mile stretch of Santa Rosa Creek Road past Jackson Gate earns its local nickname thanks to its winding incline. It’s an obstacle that welcomes itself to novices but demands experience to master.
Don’t take our word for it—Sam Boardman took on The Wall during his stay on the Central Coast in December 2023, and shared his experience with us. Sam races professionally and trains hard to take on climbs like The Wall. Read on to get a firsthand feel for what challenging this local, legendary incline is like.
About The Wall: Local Favorite, Fulfilling Climb in Cambria
Impressive as The Wall is, that only makes it more appealing to serious cyclists who are local to the Central Coast. Nine miles east from downtown Cambria and as many miles away from Highway 46, you’ll be tested by this path just past Jackson Gate. With an average grade of 9.4%, maxing out at 19.5%, the climb totals over 1,000 feet—it’s the highlight of many of our Central Coast routes: Green Valley Loop, Santa Rosa Creek Route, and Cayucos Loop.
The Ascent: Mastering The Wall on Santa Rosa Creek
As you ride east on Santa Rosa Creek Road and pass Jackson Gate, you’ll immediately notice that it isn’t your typical pristine coastal highway. The pavement is extremely bumpy and is inconsistently chunky, adding to the ruggedness and enhancing the overall challenge you need.
“In many ways, the pavement itself is…very typical of what you see in more rural and sheltered inland foothill areas all throughout the state, which isn’t to say it’s not beautiful—as it most certainly is—but it definitely will leave your muscles buzzing a bit from all the vibrations.”
– Sam Boardman
When you hear the locals talk about “The Wall,” you may think it’s a quick, extreme uphill climb no more than a half-mile long, but it’s really an invigorating test of 15 straight minutes. You may want to consider staying out of the saddle for this enduring stretch of climbing up the rough pavement. Enjoy the adrenaline, and shift your thoughts to the reward on the other side of this climb.
The Peak: Taking in the View from the Top
All your efforts will really be worth it once you behold the prize of the stunning, expansive view. If you really plan ahead, you can get up there just as the sun begins to wane near the horizon. It’s a breathtaking view—worth getting up that hill and staying there for several minutes catching your breath, both from the effort of climbing The Wall and the awe of the panorama stretching all the way to the coast.
The Descent: Concentration & Bliss
Descending from the peak of The Wall down Santa Rosa Creek Road further rewards your seasoned skills. Even with the opportunity (and devilish desire) for breezy speed, take care. While you’ll need to navigate the inconsistent road conditions, you should also keep an eye out for any cars coming around the corner—just stay vigilant on this country road and you’ll cruise downslope in a moment you’ll remember.
“I always make sure that I stay as much to the right as I possibly can on the road to give myself and any possible vehicle enough buffer space.”
– Sam Boardman
Also, time your ride right with the sunlight to ensure proper visibility and help you conquer any road hazards while on your climb or descent.
Preparing for The Wall & Other Central Coast Climbs
When you’re preparing to challenge The Wall, be aware of how long and steep the climb really is. As far as practice goes, any aerobic fitness pays off when it comes time for the ascent. If you have hills where you live, make an effort to integrate them into your regular routine. When you get to it, remember that there’s no shame in stopping for a break mid-climb.
“I am a big believer in the philosophy that you get better at something simply by doing it as much as you can, so the best preparation I could offer to anyone who may be wanting to tackle The Wall is to just ride as much as they can.”
– Sam Boardman
Other Worthy Central Coast Climbs
The Wall may be one of the most famous challenges on the Central Coast, but it’s hardly the final boss of the region. The gravel on Santa Rita Road and riding against the afternoon winds of Highway 1 are just some examples of the incredible ascents of the Central Coast.
Afterward, feel free to explore the area to see what cyclist-friendly stops can be found as rewards for your efforts here. You can also reach out to other experienced cyclists like Sam through our favorite clubs and shops listed on our Resources page.
Plan Your Trip to the Top
As impressive as it may seem, there’s no denying that The Wall is one of the Central Coast’s most defining, worthwhile challenges. It provides the sort of accomplishment that you’ll always appreciate, so plan your visit and get ready to take it on yourself. You won’t regret giving it your all. As Sam said after testing The Wall, “you feel like you are on top of the world.”