Las Pilitas Road Lollipop

Distance: 49-mile lollipop (with two sticks)
Elevation gain: 4110 ft

Highway 101 runs north and south between Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, two of Bestrides’s favorite riding haunts. It turns out that every small road east of that stretch of Hwy 101 is good as well. The terrain is all pretty much the same: small rolling hills covered in grass—a luscious green in spring—and dotted with magnificent oaks (the “robles” of Paso Robles). Among the hills are small valleys, meadows, family farms, horse ranches, and smalll vineyards. Every acre is eye candy. The roads skirt the meadows and ranches, follow little streams up small canyons, and roll up and over hill after hill—almost never flat, almost never straight, no long tedious grinds uphill. It isn’t the most exhilarating riding—it lacks long, thrilling descents, awesome gorges, and other big-ticket features—but it’s lovely, idyllic, and tranquil. And car traffic is almost non-existent, if you stay off the main arteries.

Here’s my favorite ride in the area. It’s a lollipop with two sticks, made up of 5 separate roads, and it’s surrounded by other good riding, so it’s easy to contract or expand the mileage, as we’ll discuss in Shortening the Ride and Adding Miles. You can also begin anywhere on the route and ride in either direction. The elevation gain total isn’t insignificant, but none of the route is flat, so you know that the climbing is mild to moderate.

The pleasure of this ride, and any riding in the area, is doubled if you can hit it after the spring rains but before the summer heat turns the grasses brown.

Start at the intersection of Pozo Rd. and Las Pilitas Rd. Ride Pilitas to Park Hill Rd. This is my second-favorite leg of the route, mostly up, and the hardest climbing you’ll do (though it’s never fierce). Like most of this route’s roads, it meanders back and forth and rolls its way up, so the pitch is constantly changing and you can rarely see more than about 1/8th of a mile of road ahead of you. Look at the oaks that surround you—each is unique, and each is a work of art. Stop and listen to the silence—it’s really peaceful up there.

Las Pilitas Road

Turn L on Park Hill and almost immediately go R onto Huer Huero Rd. (Or not. Park Hill is the straightest leg of this route, with the longest unaltered pitches, so riding it up is at times tedious. Huer Huero is steeper and more varied in contour. So my way gives you the best descending and the more boring climbing. If you go down Park Hill and come up Huer Huero you get long, straight descending and more entertaining but harder climbing. You choose.).

Huer Huero (the name is apparently a Spanish approximation of a Native American word) is on the east side of the summit, so it’s a bit dryer than Pilitas. It’s also more developed—Pilitas has almost no signs of human habitation beyond wire fences, but Huer Huero has lots of simple ranch houses. It’s also the worst road surface on our route, or it was when I rode it (4/23), with large patches of upheaved pavement and stretches of dirt and sand in the first half-mile. In fact there was a sign at the beginning reading “Road closed—local traffic only,” which I wisely ignored. There are also about 5 places where water flows over the road in the rainy season. They were about an inch deep when I was there, but it hadn’t rained in a while so this might be an issue if the weather has been wet. All this sounds like the road is a nightmare, but it’s actually very nice—good scenery and some very nice serpentine descending.

Webster Road

Huer Huero ends at Hwy 58, curiously signed here “Calf Canyon Hwy.” Take it to the L. It’s not fun. The scenery is lovely, but it’s all large ups or downs and it’s a busy road, so you’ll have cars whizzing by you at 60 mph as you grind up long pitches at 6 mph, or descend at 35 mph, which is almost worse, on the minimal shoulder for 3.5 miles.

At this point you hit the intersection of Hwy 58 and Hwy 229 running north to Creston. You’re saying to yourself, “The last thing I need is another State highway.” But 229, aka Webster Rd., is like no State highway you’ve ever seen. It’s a wide one-lane roller coaster with a great road surface through gorgeous, manicured landscapes (more rolling grassy hills, more oaks). It’s my favorite leg of the route. It has one substantial climb, which is a rip-roaring whoop-de-doo coming back down—otherwise, it just rolls gently up and down. I saw two vehicles total, out and back.

Park Hill Road

About 2 miles from Creston you pass Rocky Canyon Rd., which looks great on the map but is erroneously identified as paved in RidewithGPS (it isn’t), and Webster exits its little canyon and enters dead flat farm country. So the road goes flat and straight, and you have my permission to turn around. But the reward for riding those 2 flat miles is you get to see Creston, a true tiny California farming community—about ten houses, a cute little church, a restaurant called The Loading Chute, and another with the classic EAT sign on top.

Whenever you choose, turn around and enjoy Hwy 229 going the other way. Back at 58, suffer another 1.5 miles (almost all steeply down) to the intersection with Park Hill Rd. Go L onto Park Hill and climb it back to Las Pilitas. Park Hill is mostly up but never steep, and the pavement is good for a while. Notice Tierra Del Cielo Farm on your R. Since earth and heaven are by definition opposites, I’m not sure what they have in mind.

Las Pilitas Road’s oaks

The return ride down Pilitas to your car is surprisingly wonderful. The scenery is terrific, the road contour is always changing, and (except for one noticeable 1/2-mile of climbing after the bridge near the end) you can use your descending speed to charge up the frequent small risers, so you never work. Delightful. Perfect if the pavement were a mite smoother.

Shortening the ride: One’s natural inclination is drop the two lollipop sticks and just ride the loop, but if you do you’ll be riding the worst part of the route. So I would do the opposite, and ride either Hwy 229 and Las Pilitas Rd. or both, as an out-and-back. Hwy 229 is sweeter; Pilitas is more work and more thrilling.

Adding miles: Basically, from here you can ride forever on good stuff. From Creston you can ride north on what is first called Creston Rd., then Geneseo Rd., then Linne Rd. all the way to Paso Robles, where you can connect with all our Paso routes. From our starting point, Pozo Rd. is good in either direction. You can even go straight on through Pozo itself and circumnavigate Santa Margarita Lake. If you’re set up for dirt and you want to get adventurous, at Pozo you can jump on the other end of Hi Mountain Rd. (discussed in the Adding Miles section of the Huasna Rd. ride) and ride it to all our SLO rides.

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