Route 130, California, USA
The Diablo Mountains, east of San Jose, offer some of the most spectacular roads in Northern California. Bordering the local state park, Route 130 starts in the foothills by Highway 680, and winds its way up mount Hamilton towards Observatory Peak at 4,213ft (1,284m) above sea level, and down the other side.
Running across Mount Hamilton for 22.5 miles, Route 130 has considerably more gradients than flats, a few short straights, and numerous tight bends, with the occasional hairpin thrown in.
In all, there are 365 curves, and all the tighter corners are cambered the right way. The backdrop is a rock face on one side and a drop on the other. As the population of Mount Hamilton is around 38 people, meeting another car during working hours is rare, so this is a drivers’ road par excellence!
A GT3 is the perfect car for Route 130, as it has the speed, handling and brakes for a truly exhilarating drive, and its good visibility and modest width work where a lower, wider, mid-engined machine would be a liability.
You might graze the tarmac with the plastic front spoiler lip on some undulations if you are going hard enough, but no damage is done.
The downside is that this road was better maintained before the financial crisis. The subsequent lack of funding and a few hard winters have begun to degrade the surface. Thus, you have to be careful of small rocks washed off the cliff face by the occasional rain.
And just like at the Nürburgring, in spring, autumn and winter, the damp patches shaded by the trees do not dry out.
Latitude: 37.3417° N, 121.6431° W
Length of drive: 22.5 miles
Points of interest: Lick Observatory at the peak.
Food and accommodation: One hour away in San Jose
When you reach the summit, you can take a breather at the University of California’s Lick Observatory on Observatory Peak. It takes just over 30 minutes of spirited driving from the highway, covering barely half of Route 130 to get there, and the free, guided tour is well worth taking in.
However, you will need to bring your own lunch, and make sure you fill up before making the ascent, as there are no food or fuel facilities. Even if you don’t go in, the view from the car park to the valley is breathtaking.
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