Deer Creek Road

The PCH and Deer Creek Road

Deer Creek Road connects to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) between Mugu Rock and the Los Angeles county line, just north of Malibu.It quickly rises above the Pacific Ocean offering spectacular views while you drag yourself up the hill. You can see Santa Catalina and Santa Cruz islands in the Channel Islands chain.
Deer Creek is one of the three toughest climbs in Ventura County, in my opinion. The other two are Balcolm Canyon Road and Potrero Road. Deer Creek Road rises 1,380 feet in about 2.5 miles with a grade that ran between 10 to 15% on my Garmin. However, the grade really stayed between 12 to 15%, with the occasional 9% section as the "flat" part. Deer Creek Road starts steep and stays steep.


Riding to Deer Creek Road along the PCH is the easy part and the most fun.From Las Posas Road in
Mugu Rock featured in movies, TV
and nearly every car commercial with
a beach theme.
Camarillo on south through Los Angeles, cyclists can ride on the PCH. The PCH between Camarillo and Zuma Beach in Malibu is fairly flat, with some small rollers. In a car, the rollers swooping around the bends seems hilly and twisty, but as a cyclist it's not bad. The shoulders are wide for the most part and the sightlines are good. The curves are not so sharp so that cars cannot see you at a distance.
The biggest thing that will affect you on the PCH is the wind. The coastline runs east to west between LA and Santa Barbara, so the sea breeze will blow from the west. So going to LA, there is a tailwind, coming back there will be a steady headwind, the notch at Mugu Rock is a real wind tunnel at times. The wind builds as the day wears on, so it pays to ride early. I would say about 30% of the cyclists out on the PCH are riding aero or time trial bikes.
Neptune's Net, on the PCH near the
LA county line.
The biggest distraction is the scenery. It is easy to stare at the waves, or scan the surface of the water looking for dolphins or whales.You can check out the hills that come right down to the edge of the road and the occasional boulder that sit near the side of the road. And the surfers, the fisherman, the occasional exotic car and the bunches of other cyclists on either side of the road. The damage from the Camarillo Springs Fire of May 2013 is slowly fading away. I rode in the Cruisin' the Conejo century ride a few weeks after and seeing burnt tree stumps and ash all along the PCH was sad. Now the hills are green again and the not so barren.
The highlight of a ride along the PCH is Mugu Rock. Mugu Rock is a 150 foot tall volcanic rock that was a part of a ridge before road engineers cut through the ridge. This cut bypassed the original road that passed along the outside of the Rock. You can still see a portion of the old road clinging to the rock above the waves. Nearly every car commercial that shows a car rolling on a curvy road along the ocean, you will see Mugu Rock in the background.

Deer Creek Road

You turn the corner and it gets worse.
The PCH as seen from Deer
Creek Road.
Deer Creek Road is about 2 miles south of Sycamore Canyon and 1 mile north of Neptune's Net and Yerba Buena Road. Yerba Buena rises at an average of 5% to 2,300 feet to a ridge between the Conejo Valley and the Ocean, with a maximum grade of 8%. Deer Creek Road intersects Yerba Buena Road a few miles short of the Circle X Ranch, but it rises to an average 11% with a maximum grade of 16% in 2.4 miles to reach 1,400 feet. As soon as you turn onto Deer Creek, it starts at 10% and stays at 10%, rounds a hairpin and ramps up to 12%. One road, a gentle rise, the other a brutal incline rising sharply above the Pacific Ocean and PCH.
This is one climb where a power meter is valuable. While the road was very steep, I kept an eye on
my power output and tried to keep it below 300 watts. I will be burning matches above 300 watts. So as long as I was still moving up the hill, I was happy. The road stayed between 12 and 15% and the flat spots were 9%. I was surprised that I was to continue up the hill without any complaints from my
legs. But the heat was wearing me out.I was very close to the ocean, but there was no sea breeze cooling the hillside, so it 90 degrees according to my Garmin computer and there was very little wind. Over the years, I have become better and better on hills, but I know that on hot days, my body pulls me back from heat stroke, and my brain starts telling to stop and rest a while.
I was able to get 2 miles into a 2.5 mile climb. The two things holding me back were the heat and my water that was disappearing fast. By my calculation, I was five miles from the Circle X Ranch, the next place that I could refill my water bottles.And it would get hotter on the way there. So I turned around, but I will be back to finish the last half mile of the climb and continue to Yerba Buena Road, the Circle X Ranch, Mulholland Highway and then Decker Canyon. A future ride for the day when the temps are not in the 90s.