Category Archives: Southern California

Round Mountain Road

Distance: 32-mile loop
Elevation gain: 1730 ft

Every town has The Ride, the one everybody does because it’s good training and it’s accessible and it’s about the right length and toughness. Depending on the town, The Ride can range from great to tedious, and you can always expect a lot of cycling company. Round Mountain Road is Bakersfield’s go-to ride, and it’s a good one. It’s got a moderate but not excessive amount of climbing, it’s never steep (so you can do it on back-to-back days if you want), it has some grand views of rolling grassy hills and a nice sense of isolation (briefly), and it takes about 2.5 hours, which is most people’s idea of a nice weekend stretch of the legs.

This being Bakersfield, RMR also has some drawbacks. After all, this is the town where the high school sports team calls itself the Drillers. About a third of the route goes through oil fields, which you may find fascinating or repulsive or both. Astonishingly, when you summit Round Mountain itself (the road goes right past the peak), after several miles of climbing in unspoiled isolation, you discover the entire top of the mountain is consumed (some would say, ravaged) by an enormous oil drilling operation which you ride smack through. You also spend about 5 miles on China Grade Loop, one of the ugliest roads I’ve ever ridden. Later, in Shortening the route, I’ll show you how to avoid it.

This is another of those loops where I can’t say which direction is better. I’ve mapped it counterclockwise, but most locals seem to ride it the other way. As I was stopped by the side of the road, a rider came along in my direction and I said, “Am I riding this the wrong way?” She said, “No” and rode on. So that’s settled. After I describe my route I’ll discuss pros and cons.

Begin in Oildale, a suburb of Bakersfield, at the intersection of China Grade Loop and Manor. Parking can be both sparse and dangerous around here, but on the NE corner of our intersection is a huge housing development that offers lots of curbside parking and standard suburban safety. Pick a neat looking house, park in front of it, and note where, so you can find it again.

China Grade Loop

Ride east on China Grade Loop, the most misnamed road you’ll ever see. There is nothing Chinese in sight, there is no grade, and it’s not a loop (the actual loop is nearby where we’re not riding). It’s also a horror—dead flat, dead straight, and heavily trafficked so you’re confined to the shoulder, and that shoulder is full of glass, debris, lumber, road signs, and dead animals, and it’s constantly crossed by frost-heave-style cracks each its own mini-speed-bump (I’m not making this up). And you’re riding through fields of oil wells. Some technology I find rather beautiful. Oil wells are at the other extreme. All that is why we’re doing it first, to get it over with.

Looking north from the climb

Pretty soon (though not soon enough) everything changes: the road begins to meander and roll gently as it follows the contours of the Kern River. Now the road is bordered by expensive hobby-farm mansions, traffic is insignificant, and the road surface is perfect. This is tranquil, sublimely pleasant riding. Somewhere in here the road changes its name to Round Mountain Road, though I didn’t see a sign saying so until it was a long-ago done deal.

About 9 miles in, the road turns up and climbs steadily for about 4.5 miles, to the summit you can eventually see in the distance, on a stretch of road you have to love if you like climbing at all. The pitch is just enough to make you think, “Hey, I’m climbing well today!” and the road surface stays glass. The McMansions fall away and you have the place to yourself, and the views (of where you’ve been to the south and uninhabited rolling hills to the north) keep getting better. It’s an utterly barren landscape that may not be to everyone’s taste (see photos), but I found it transporting.

You can see there are buildings on the mountaintop, but you have to get there to see the extent of the construction. It’s a mini-city up there, like one of those “mining colonies” you see on alien planets being stripped of their minerals in sci fi movies.

Then it’s down. The descent in this direction is about twice the length of the ascent, hence half the pitch, so it’s actually a fairly tame affair. At the bottom you T into S. Granite Road (clearly signed) and take it L. A 3-mile climb, noticeable but never threatening, on the shoulder (really the gutter) of a shabby highway takes you back to Oildale and its oilfields. There is some navigation needed in the end, but the easiest route is simply to take every L you can that’s an obvious major street. That will eventually deposit you back on Manor and your car.

Which way to go?: As usual with loops, it’s all about whether you prefer climbing or descending. In my direction the climbing is steeper (though never approaching steep) and the descending less exciting. In the other direction it’s the other way around—even easier climbing, more exciting descending. The only other factor is the wind: Bakersfield has a westerly habit, so if the wind is up you’ll have it at your back during the climbing and descending if you go clockwise.

Shortening the route (and avoiding China Grade): About half of this loop isn’t all that good—Granite Rd. and China Grade. To ride only the good stuff, drive to the east end of China Grade where the road gets good, start there, ride to the intersection of Round Mountain Rd and S. Granite Rd., and turn around and ride back. This gives you c. 22 miles but of course you end up doing the big climb twice—easily doable, I promise. You can start at the other end if you don’t mind doing the harder climb second.

Adding miles: You can take S. Granite Rd. north (I don’t know what it’s like) and in a few miles run into Woody Road aka Hwy 155, a good ride all the way to Isabella Lake. From China Grade Loop you can take Alfred Harrell Hwy and soon connect with Breckenridge Rd, a grand and challenging climb that drops you off on Caliente Bodfish Rd just north of the stretch that’s a leg of our Caliente Loop.

For other possibilities, see the Adding Miles section of the Caliente Loop ride.

Huasna Road

Distance: 20-mile out and back
Elevation gain: 1410 ft

Most of the rides in Bestrides are fairly taxing, not because I need to be taxed, but because most really good scenery goes up and down. But there are a blessed few rides that offer ample rewards without requiring work (consult the nearly-flat rides list on the Best of the Best page). Huasna Road is one. A mere 20 miles of mostly imperceptible climbing or descending, with one 1-mile moderate hill near the turn-around, it’s perfect for a recovery day or a day with the non-riding spouse, yet the road contour is so seductive (gentle rollers, no long straights) and the scenery so gorgeous (oat-dotted grassy hillsides, riparian oak canopies) that I guarantee even the most hardened of hammerers will be charmed. A perfect ride for the day after you do the thrill-fest that is Prefumo Canyon Road.

A side benefit of this ride is that it motivates you to go to the town of Arroyo Grande, where it starts. Admit it, you’ve never been there. It turns out to be a bustling, sweet little village with oodles of charm, an ice cream parlor, and a patisserie, well worth a post-ride stop.

Two words of caution. 1) I did this ride in April, when the hillsides were green and the wildflowers lush. It might be a bit less stunning in the dead-brown grass of California’s summer. 2) The prevailing wind in this area is westerly, and it can snort, so I would consult the weather with a particular eye on the predicted winds, and plan my ride so I’m not doing the 10-mile return leg into the teeth of a gale.

A number of rides in Bestrides follow Huasna Road’s profile: park at the intersection of a main artery and a small, untrafficked road. Ride the untrafficked road through an agricultural valley, follow the valley until it turns into a narrow creek canyon, follow the creek up a gradually increasing pitch until it turns into an actual climb, ride to the end of the pavement, return. This profile always gives you a nice mix of flat, rolling, steep(er), open, wooded, inhabited, and isolated.

Do not begin at the beginning of Huasna Rd.—it’s big and busy. Drive down Huasna to where Huasna goes off to the R and Lopez Dr. continues straight. A sign at the T tells you that “Lopez Lake” is straight ahead. A sign on the R points to Huasna. Park before the turn, in a handily large dirt turn-out. Ride down Huasna. You will need to negotiate 3 intersections where you might have doubts—follow the signs to Huasna Valley in every case. Notice especially the second, at the intersection of Huasna, School, and El Rancho, where you go R—it’s signed in this direction, but when returning you get signs for School and El Rancho but none for Huasna and you have to take the unnamed fork.

The scenery is generic at first, but it gets better the further you ride, until you get off the valley floor and into the trees, and then it’s downright grand for the rest of the ride. You’re climbing, but so gradually you won’t notice until you ride it going the other way. About 8 miles in, you hit the one and only hill, about 3/4 mile at 4-6%—in other words, just enough to open up your legs.

The descent down the backside is perfect—easy slaloming at 25-30 mph through lazy, banked esses on glass. Way too short. Off the descent you debouche into Huasna Valley, which is very pretty, and Huasna itself, which is about 4 simple ranch houses. The road splits into two in the midst of “downtown,” and you turn around.

The climb back up the hill is just a smidgen harder and longer than the climb up the front side. Then the descent is just as sweet as the descent on the outbound leg was. The rest of the return ride is that sort of 2% descending where you don’t think you’re descending, you just think you’re on the best day of your life. Assuming you’ve timed it right and the winds aren’t bad.

Adding Miles: There isn’t a lot of good riding nearby, to my knowledge. From our turn-around point, Huasna Rd. continues on past Huasna Valley, and apparently cyclists ride a lot of it, but it’s only paved for two more miles, and that pavement is only tolerable chipseal. The first mile is highly recommended, because the scenery is as good as what you’ve been through but it’s much more isolated. Go for the solitude. After that, the road climbs briefly to a summit and you can get an idea of what lies ahead of you if you continue. It looks pretty desolate. Back in Huasna, there’s a sign reading “End county-maintained road 14 miles ahead,” for what that’s worth.

The other road out of Huasna is Huasna Townsite Rd. It runs for about 3 miles until it dead-ends, and the scenery seems fine, but the road surface is a particularly nasty kind of chipseal that seems to be pebbles instead of gravel. If you’ve dreamt of riding Paris-Roubaix, here’s your chance. I hated it.

Back at the start of our ride, at the intersection of Lopez Dr. and Huasna, Lopez Dr. is a popular bike route that runs a few miles to Lopez Lake. I haven’t done it, but it looks to be fairly big, pleasant, open, and largely unexciting.

If you want to look further afield, the SLO area is particularly blessed with route resources, thanks mostly to the SLO Bicycle Club website. There you’ll find a list of favored local rides, though the some 40-odd rides detailed there aren’t evaluated for quality or character. I have a paper ride map of the SLO area called the San Luis Obispo County Bike Map, and it’s a beauty. See if local bike shops still have copies. Downloadable maps of the area are at https://bikeslocounty.org/resources/maps/.

When Huasna Road isn’t in the canopy, it’s still pretty

Prefumo Canyon Road to Avila Beach

Distance: 30 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 3270 ft

(A Best of the Best ride)

I’m delighted to add this ride to Bestrides for two reasons, beyond the obvious one that it’s great: a) it’s in an “under-represented” area of California—San Luis Obispo had no rides in Bestrides before this (there are now two, this and Huasna Road); and b) I was tipped off to it by a reader who told me I had to check it out, which is always my favorite way to discover a ride.

It’s a marvelous ride, full of everything we ride bikes for: beautiful woods, grand vistas, some easy rolling, some moderate climbing, a little tough climbing, some thrilling descending, a charming village at the turn-around—even a bit of rideable dirt. I didn’t put it in the Top Ten best of the best list, but I was sorely tempted. It’s a high-energy thrill-fest, along a creek through dense, magnificent riparian oaks, then up to a mountaintop where you can see forever, then down the back side through more oak canopy to the village of Avila Beach, a perfect spot for getting off the bike, having a bite, whale watching, and all the other things one does at the beach. The last time I was there, the humpbacks where coming out of the water to feed just off the beach.

For a 30-mile ride, it’s a bit of a workout. Most of the 3200 ft of climbing you do in 4 miles—the two miles on either side of the summit. Mapmyride says you’ll do some 12-13% on the ride out and touch 14% on the ride back, and I won’t dispute those numbers.

If you want to see green hillsides, the window is small. I am told that the SLO spring is very short-lived—two weeks or so. Apparently I was supremely lucky to first do this ride in mid-April, when the wildflowers were flourishing and everything was green. But I’ve also done it in the fall and was similarly smitten.

This ride has possibly the grandest vistas in Bestrides after the Santa Rosa Road Wall. On a clear day from the summit you can see much of SLO spread out below you 10 miles to the east and Morro Bay and Morro Rock on the coast 10 miles to the west. Since much of the specialness of the ride is in the vistas, try to find a day with immaculately clear skies.

There’s no reason not to do the ride starting at the other end. It just means you hang out in Avila Beach at the end of the ride instead of at the turn-around.

You can start where Prefumo Canyon Road leaves huge Los Osos Valley Road, but it’s shoulder riding through generic residential/apartment complexes, so I drive the 1/2 mile down PCR to Castillo Ct., park curbside on Castillo and ride from there. The first 3 miles are mellow ascending rollers, so you can warm up on them before doing anything hard. The scenery here is pretty oak riparian woods. Then it gets better, and better, and better.

From mile 3 to the summit (at c. 4.5 miles) you will work, but you won’t mind because there’s a lot going on. The road is never straight and never climbs at one pitch for long, so you get constant breaks and variations, the landscape opens up, and the vistas start. By the time you get to the hilltop summit, the view is unimpeded to the west, north, and east. If you like to complete things, there are short views to the south as well.

Looking north from the summit of Prefumo Road

Roll across the hilltop for a short mile (with several mega-mansions for company), then begin the obvious descent down the back side. Of course you can turn around at the summit if your climbing legs are toast, but you don’t want to, because the rest of the road is really, really pretty. Instantly the road surface, which has been unproblematic, goes to hell, but it doesn’t matter because it only lasts for about 1/4 mile and then you’re on dirt. I’m not big on dirt, but this is rideable (25 mm tires are a good idea), it only lasts a bit over a mile, and the oak canopy on the dirt leg is the best non-vista scenery on the ride. Near the end of the dirt a dirt road goes off to your R at a large gate and a road sign tells you Prefumo Canyon Road is ending and See Canyon Rd. beginning, but it’s easy to miss.

Pismo Beach and Pismo Rock, left, from Prefumo summit

When the dirt ends, you begin two miles of descending that is very different from the slope on the north side of the summit. This is relatively straight, therefore fast, with just enough bending to keep it from being boring (and one big esse curve to catch out the inattentive). It feels good, after all that work, to relax and let the bike rip. Once off the slope, you have 4 miles of effortless riding over easy rollers through a garden-pretty hillside with oaks on one side and often old apple trees on the other. See Canyon apple cider is a local thing, and I encourage you to stop at one of the apple stands and sample the cider. I recommend the See Canyon Fruit Ranch. They’ve been making cider since 1894, so they’ve gotten really good at it.

See Canyon Rd. dead-ends at San Luis Bay Drive. Take it R for 1/2 mile until it dead-ends on Avila Beach Drive (unsigned). Take it to the R and ride the mile or two to town. When you get there you won’t be alone—Avila is the turn-around point for lots of local cycling routes.

Just before SLBD dead-ends at Avila Beach Drive it crosses the Bob Jones Trail (hard to see, heading off to your LEFT surprisingly), a paved rec trail that will take you straight into Avila if you want to avoid the sometimes-busy Avila Beach Drive. It’s very back-water, with informational plaques on the local geology, kids playing on their BMX bikes, a trail-side stream, and lots of root-broken pavement. It’s fun but not exactly road riding—I did much of it at 8 mph.

On the ride back, the first few miles of See Canyon Rd. are dreamy, but the last 2 miles before the dirt are an unaltered, mostly straight grind at a pitch just steep enough to make it work. It’s the only leg of the route I can’t say I enjoy. After the dirt, the short climb to the hilltop is murder—very steep on a bad surface—but, as I said, short. You can see your salvation up ahead of you, which is a comfort.

The descent from the hilltop is at first a bit too rough, a bit too steep, and a bit too full of speed-scrubbing hairpins for aggressive riding. Mistakes can be costly. I overcooked a turn and crashed straight into a rock wall—if it had been an outside turn instead of an inside one, I might still be falling. Instead of maximizing speed, relax and take in the ambience, which is transporting. Once past the 2 miles of steep, the descending is great—dropping rollers through pleasant esses at comfortable and controllable speed on unproblematic pavement. Castillo Ct. comes all too soon.

The rewards of the dirt leg

You’ll see some cars at the two ends of this route, and the hilltop is a popular place for nature lovers and their cars on weekends, but I didn’t find it to be a problem. Passing lines are good, and much of the route is almost deserted. Even in the road’s busiest season, traffic wasn’t at all bad.

Shortening the route: Ride to the summit and turn around, from either end. If you do this, I encourage you to come back the next day and do the other side.

Adding miles: From Avila Beach Drive the Pacific Coast Highway (the surface road that parallels Hwy 101, not the highway itself) runs north (toward SLO) and southeast (along the coast). Both directions have their charms and are worth riding. East is better. That way takes you to Pismo Beach, another charming village built around its pier, the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Preserve (unmissable on your R), and ultimately Grover Beach with its easy access to beachfront at Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve. There’s extensive exploring to be done among the seaside cottage cul-de-sacs and village side streets along the way, and I encourage you to do lots of it.

From Avila Beach, Avila Beach Drive continues for another mile or so and dead-ends at Harford Pier, a charming, bustling wharf with sport fishing, an active pod of seal lions, and two fun restaurants, one at the end of the pier with a patio over the water. Much less touristy than Avila Beach.

Avila Beach

If you’re looking for rides further afield, the SLO area is particularly blessed with route resources, thanks largely to the SLO Bicycle Club website. There you’ll find a list of favored local rides, though the some 40-odd rides detailed there aren’t evaluated for quality or character. I have a paper ride map of the SLO area called the San Luis Obispo County Bike Map, and it highlights every ridable road in the area, though of course it doesn’t rank or grade the rides. See if local bike shops have copies. Downloadable maps of the area are at https://bikeslocounty.org/resources/maps/.

Pecho Valley Road, which runs from Los Osos through Montana De Oro State Park and dead-ends, is a particularly charming stretch of road, all up and down and back and forth through great scenery. Half of it is through a striking eucalyptus grove, half through open rolling hills with grand views of the shoreline. But it’s short (10 miles round trip, 1140 ft of gain), connects with no other good riding, is routinely plagued with motorists, and has no shoulder and little passing room. The road actually continues on the other side of a gate, but it’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant land and I don’t think trespassing would be smiled upon.

Prefumo Canyon Rd: Dropping off the edge of the hilltop on the return to SLO. Downtown SLO is barely visible on either side of the mound at 1:30

Adelaida Road/Chimney Rock Road

Distance: 23.5-mile loop
Elevation gain: 1980 ft

The country west of Paso Robles is a network of sweet, meandering roads with mostly vineyards for backdrop.  This route is the best loop ride in the area and probably the easiest, a charming, pretty ramble that includes a particularly joyful 6-mile stretch of rollercoaster.

Adelaida is a fairly major artery through the Paso wine country, so traffic is an issue.  You’re going to meet a lot of cars if you ride during rush hour or on a weekend.  I drove it at 9 am on a weekday and had to pull over frequently to let mobs of cars pass.  Then I rode it at 11 am on a weekday and pretty much had the road to myself, seeing only the occasional farm or service vehicle.

This ride is equally good done another way, so be sure to see the Alternate route discussion below.

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Santa Rita Road/Cypress Mountain Road

Distance: 45.5-mile loop
Elevation gain: 4860 ft

This ride has a lot of dirt—the only largely dirt ride in Bestrides.  I don’t do dirt, and my bike wasn’t made for dirt, but this is doable dirt as long as you have 25 mm tires, and the pleasures of the route make the dirt worth enduring.   Beyond that, Bestrides has two rides in Paso Robles and a ride in Cambria, and it would be lovely if there was a way to ride from one to the other without the grim tedium of Hwy 46.  This is the way, as the Mandalorian would say.

The route involves two pretty, deliciously isolated stretches of dirt road, both of which climb up and over a summit, one short tough pavement climb, a nice descent on one of Paso Robles’s classic wine trails, and some of the most spectacular vistas in all of Bestrides.  There is one mile of smooth but steep dirt climbing (10%+).

The loop can be started at any point, so just decide where you want to end up and start there.  But don’t go counterclockwise—Cypress Mountain Dr. is much tougher going that way, and the climb on Santa Rita much longer.  And don’t attempt this ride if the ground is wet—the roads will be impassible.

This ride can easily be cut in half if you aren’t up for a long day—just ride what’s above or below Hwy 46, whichever half appeals to you, then return via Hwy 46, which is big, boring, and relatively easy.  Santa Rita Rd. is prettier and easier; Cypress Mountain Dr. has the views.  If I was doing the Cypress Mt. half, I’d ride out Hwy 46 and back on CMR, so Old Creek Rd was downhill.  If you’re saying, “I can do 45 miles standing on my head,” remember that dirt is twice as tiring as pavement, climbing on dirt even more so.

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Caliente Loop

Distance: 44-mile loop
Elevation gain: 4320 ft

If you’re like me, you think Bakersfield is flat, which is what you see driving through on Hwy 5.  But a Friend of Bestrides wrote in to say I had to overcome my prejudices and try the area.  It turns out that Bakersfield, while it is smack in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, is at the Valley’s southernmost tip, so it’s surrounded closely on 3 sides by mountains like the Tehachapis, and there are good roads in those mountains.   The Caliente Loop is the jewel in the crown.

But there’s a problem: I can’t decide which direction is better.  I rode the loop counter-clockwise.  Most locals ride it clockwise.  I’ll describe my ride; then we’ll weigh pros and cons of the two directions.

The loop (called Lion’s Trail by the locals) is essentially three different rides: a gentle meander through a small, rocky creek canyon; a flat and rolling leg across a wide valley dotted with horse farms and sagebrush, and a descent of epic proportions with vistas of the canyons on both sides of the road.

Caliente Creek Road in October

This is a ride you want to time correctly, and the window is small: ideally you’d ride in the spring, when the creek you’ll follow for the first 20 miles is babbling and the grassy fields of the second leg are green.   But spring means spring run-off, and any significant run-off closes the road, because Caliente Creek Rd. has several places where high run-off water flows right over the roadway.  I’d expect to find a “road closed” sign and ford some streams any time before the dry season.

Summer poses its own problems.  Bakersfield in the summer is hot and often windy, and the middle leg through Walker Basin is totally exposed.  On a typical summer day I’d start early enough to get through Walker Basin by 10 AM.

One more word of warning: you will notice the road surface is sprinkled with the remains of dried cow patties. Cows put them there.  This is open range, and you may meet cows standing in the middle of the road at almost any point.  
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Parkfield Grade

Distance: 19 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2770 ft

This is another of those rides that has location going for it.  What else are you going to do if you’re stuck in Coalinga?   It’s a classic climb from the lip of the Hwy 5 corridor up 10 miles through hardscrabble hills of grass, rock, and oak.  The scenery is quite lovely in its way.  It’s at its best in spring when the grassy hills are green.    Grand vistas of the San Joaquin Valley below abound.  The road surface is sound (which is all you can ask, since no one uses this road save the rare ranchers who run a few head of cattle on the hills), and, while the pitch is a tad monotonous, the back-and-forth contour is constantly stimulating.  It’s a fair amount of vert (2000 ft in 6 miles), but it’s just a steady moderate effort, never steep enough to be a grind.  The road turns to dirt at the summit, which will keep most cars out of your playground.  All in all, a thoroughly rewarding little outing.

Avoid this ride (and Hwy 189) during periods of hot sun—it’s fully exposed.  In summer, ride only in early morning.
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Tepusquet Road

Distance: 30 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 3170 ft

What is more delicious than discovering a great ride where you thought there was none?  Tepusquet Road, surely one of the better road names in Bestrides, was suggested to me by a Friend of Bestrides who has local knowledge of Santa Maria.  It’s a delightful surprise.  Rising out of the flat, dry, dusty agricultural fields, it climbs easily and steadily up through lush, shady canopies of riparian oaks to a pass, then makes a joyous little descent into the valley on the other side.   Rewards include grand vistas, lots of banked switchbacks, and a ton of solitude.  Not a life-changing ride, but a very good one, made all the more pleasant by how little you were expecting (or did I ruin the surprise now?).

This is an excellent ride for through-riders, because there’s good riding on either end—see Adding Miles below.

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Maricopa Highway

Distance: 44 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 4900 ft

This road goes by several names: the Maricopa Highway, the Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway, and Highway 33.  The road contour isn’t fascinating.  It’s a “motorcycle road,” designed to be exciting at 60 mph but at 12 mph is fairly tame.  This ride is mostly about the scenery and the solitude.  It’s a remarkably isolated, stark, and rather grand high desert landscape, with varied and striking rock formations and large vistas, land that seems untouched by Man and so harsh that you understand why.

You can do this road several different ways.  You could ride the entire road as an out and back, starting at Meiner’s Oaks on the outskirts of Ojai and turning around at the intersection with Lockwood Valley Rd., giving you a 70-mile day with about 8000 ft of vert—big but not undoable by any means.   But the southern 13 miles, from Meiner’s Oaks to Rose Valley Rd., are a grind going up and not particularly exciting going down—the least rewarding miles on the road (about a mile north of Rose Valley Rd. there’s a small overlook where you can see several miles of what you’re in for).   There’s one moment of interest, Wheeler Gorge, a small rock crevasse bisected by two tunnels, that you’ll be missing if you skip it.  You could ride the entire road one way from south to north, which starts the ride with a 30-mile climb and leaves you with the problem of shuttling back to your car.   You could ride the entire road one way from north to south—certainly better than south to north, because it minimizes the climbing and turns the southern 13 miles into a painless downhill—but you still have the shuttle problem.  The best route is the way I’ve mapped it: start at the Ozena Fire Station just south of the Hwy 33/Lockwood Valley Rd. junction, ride to Rose Valley Rd. and turn around.  This gives you all the good scenery, one good, short climb and one good short descent, and a lot of moderate rolling.  And that’s why they pay me the big bucks.  Of course this does leave you with the problem of how to get to the intersection of Hwy 33 and Lockwood Valley Rd, so the second best route is my route starting at the southern end, which involves you driving 13 miles from Ojai to Rose Valley Rd. and back.  Every route has its own inconveniences.

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Nacimiento-Fergusson Road

Distance: 53 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 4720 ft

( A Best of the Best ride)

This route is covered thoroughly in words and pictures at toughascent.com.

Note 1/2021: This road is officially closed at the moment as a result of last summer’s fires.  See https://www.bigsurcalifornia.org/highway_conditions.html.  See Michael’s comment below.  But also see Joel’s: if the road is closed to cars but bikes are permitted, it might be the perfect time to do the ride.

This is the best ride in California and Oregon.  It’s a long way from anywhere, so you’re going to have to go out of your way to get to it, and it goes from the middle of nowhere to a blank spot on Hwy 1.  This is all to your advantage, because it means you’ll pretty much have the road to yourself (see update below).

It’s one of those rides where you just ride the road, from its start to its finish, then ride back.  In the process you’ll ride through four distinct ecosystems and experience four distinct kinds of riding, each a perfect example of its type: first, easy rollers through a valley full of golden grass and magnificent oaks, then gentle climbing along a pretty creek as it ascends a small riparian canyon, then vigorous climbing as you leave the creek and ascend to a saddle through oak forest, and finally a steep plunge down a steep, twisting road to Hwy 1 with views of the sea and coastline that are simply astonishing.  The riding on the return is different but just as wonderful: a challenging 7-mile climb up from the ocean, a flat-out slaloming descent, an easy roll along the creek, and finally the oaken valley.  It’s all just perfect—you’ll swear Disney built the course.

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