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 4-7%—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: From our turn-around point, Huasna Rd. continues on past Huasna Valley, now smaller and much less developed. 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 and undeveloped. 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.
From where we started the ride there’s a fair amount of pretty-good riding, none of which I’ve done. Lopez Dr. is a popular bike route that runs a few miles to Lopez Lake. Forking R off Lopez in a few miles is Hi (not High) Mountain Rd., which a reader recommended and looks good on Streetview—it turns to dirt in 6 miles but remains good (all the way to Pozo, I’m told) if you’re set up for dirt. Just to the north of us is Corbett Canyon Rd., a local favorite that looks similarly pleasant on Streetview.
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 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 I did this ride for some reason traffic was a bit heavy and fast-moving. Perhaps Sunday morning is to be avoided. The only reason to ride the Huasna Townsite Rd section are the three interesting dinosaur sculptures on the NE side of the road about a mile down the road. Overall, a really nice ride.
Lopez Drive does become a little more exciting if you keep going. There is a reason for the town name “Arroyo Grande”….it becomes pretty spectacular, actually, if you turn down High Mountain Road. High Mountain Road eventually turns to dirt, but with a good gravel bike I bet one could keep going all the way to Pozo!
Less strenuously, Corbett Canyon is a popular route and it was quite pretty in January!
On Streetview High Mountain Road looks like a good, narrow back road though pleasant country, as does Upper Lopez Canyon Road off it (ULCR seems narrower and rougher). Corbett Canyon looks to be a perfectly pleasant jog through town-outskirts fields.
I’ve ridden it on a road bike with 25mm tires and made it to Pozo, but a gravel bike is definitely the way to go, especially during the wet season.
As a local, let me add that another bonus to this road is the abundance of wildlife, horses, cattle, and dinosaurs.
So that bonus is like a Jurassic perk?
For bonus miles, I suggest going on straight past Huasna township. You will soon do a shorter but more difficult climb than the .8 mile climb leading into the valley. From the cattle guard at the top, the paved road continues for several miles before it turns dirt. There’s not much out there but it’s scenic. Then you have a climb back up to the cattle guard. I rode Huasna Township Road today too and despite all the rain recently the road surface was pretty good.
I rode Hi Mountain Road Friday. Great ride but I doubt the gravel road to Pozo will be passable for quite some time. These are my two favorite rides near San Luis Obispo.