By Shawn Cavlan
Highway 17 …. A rite of passage for all of us who grew up in the South Bay or Santa Cruz. Most of us have been stuck on it during mind-numbing traffic or, perhaps, you want to get over the hill and you heard traffic is at a standstill so now you have to change your plans. Well, there are some back roads you can take from a few points on that freeway that will get you out of the gridlock and moving toward your destination.
Bear Creek Road
If you are Southbound on 17 and have just passed Los Gatos, you can take the Bear Creek Road exit. This one is super easy and brings you onto Old Santa Cruz Highway. You follow this windy road until it brings you to Summit Road. From this point you can either go right and merge back onto Hwy 17 going South or, if 17 is still clogged at that point, make a left until you can catch Soquel/San Jose Road. This stretch of highway will bring you to the city of Soquel. From there you can catch Highway 1 or simply take Soquel Dr to wherever your destination is.
This is just like taking Bear Creek, but the exit is a little past Bear Creek. It will be on the left so you will need to get into the left turn lane. Idylwild dead ends into Old Santa Cruz Highway. You can then follow the directions as seen above.
If you are Southbound on 17 and you need to get off at Summit, the exit happens before you get to the actual summit so be on the lookout. From the exit, take the overpass back over the freeway and take Summit Road all the way to San Jose/Soquel Road. You will make a right and this will take you to the city of Soquel. From there you can catch Highway 1 or simply use Soquel Drive.
This is a good alternative route when you need to merge onto Highway 1 South, but it is at a standstill. From Highway 17, take the Pasatiempo Road exit. Make a left back over the freeway. At the stop sign, make a left on El Rancho . At Carbonera Dr, make a right. Follow this until you get to Isbel and make a right. Take Isbel for a bit until you get to a 4 way stop and go straight. You are now on Goss Ave. At Goss you can do a few things. You can make a right onto Branciforte which will bring you into Midtown Santa Cruz. Or you can keep going straight and then make a right onto Rooney. Rooney goes parallel with Highway 1. When you get to Morrissey, you can make a right and this will bring you to Soquel Drive. Soquel can connect you to almost everything.
The exit is just passed the actual summit. Take the exit and go right onto Summit Road. Make a left on Old Santa Cruz Highway and take this all the way to Los Gatos. It will force you to rejoin Highway 17 at that point.
Soquel/San Jose Road
If you are in the Soquel or Aptos area, this is a viable option. Take Porter Street north. This will become Soquel/San Jose Road. This will bring you to Summit Road. Make a left onto Summit. You can either take this and merge onto Highway 17 or, if 17 is too crowded still at this point, make a right onto Old Santa Cruz Highway. This will take you to Los Gatos and at that point will force you onto Highway 17.
**** If it has been raining really hard, do not use Waze. During the last major storms, Waze sent people to roads that had been washed out. You can go onto Twitter and follow @TrafficOn17
Drive Safely 🙂