Distance: 22 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2700 ft
This is the best ride in the Hollister area, a conventional climb-out-descend-back ride through varied, dramatic, and beautiful terrain (in April), with a mountaintop, a simple State Park, and a stunning view westward at the turn around.
The image of Hollister is hot, dusty, dead flat agricultural fields and a culture stuck in 1955. Some of that is true. Hollister is hot and dry in the summer, and cold and dead in the winter, so I would try hard to schedule my riding for late spring (April) after some rain, when the grass is green and the area is momentarily a gorgeous, lush garden. The town of Hollister and the surrounding agricultural valleys (Santa Ana Valley and San Juan Valley) are pancake flat, but they’re surrounded by small, rolling hills rich with meandering roads offering ideal riding contour. The three Bestrides rides from the area all have substantial climbing. As to the culture, Hollister is not especially hip, but it’s a pleasant, easy-going town, and San Juan Bautista 6 miles away is a small Old California treasure with a grand Spanish mission and adjacent historical State Park well worth an afternoon.
Hollister in April would be a cycling mecca were it not for one thing: the road surfaces in San Benito County typically vary from poor to awful. The only exception I know of is this ride, which is one of the main reasons why it’s #1. The surface isn’t great, but it’s good enough that you can actually enjoy the descending, which isn’t true about large portions of the other two Hollister rides in Bestrides.
The ride is harder than the elevation total suggests. The first 4 miles are very mellow and only net you 500 ft of gain, and the last 3 miles are easy rolling, which leaves you with 2400 ft (by my computer) in the 4 miles in between. Those 4 miles get gradually steeper as you go, so the last 2 miles are serious work. Fremont Peak State Park, your destination, seems to be largely unvisited, so the traffic is next to nothing—on a beautiful weekday midday in April I saw perhaps 6 cars in the 22 miles on a lovely spring weekday, and there was one car in the Park parking lot.