Distance: 21 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2700 ft
This ride comes from FOB (Friend of Bestrides) Brian, who has forgotten more about cycling California back roads than I’ll ever know. It’s hardly in Monterey Bay, but I refuse to create a new state region just for it.
I don’t want to over-sell this ride. It’s fine. It’s good. It’s probably the best ride for thirty or forty miles in any direction, and part of my plan is to show you the best ride near you wherever you happen to find yourself in California or Oregon. But it has some problems, and I wouldn’t drive great distances to ride it. If you’re in Hollister and want to ride, do it.
(To see an interactive version of the map/elevation profile, click on the ride name, upper left, wait for the new map to load, then click on the “full screen” icon, upper right.)
It’s a conventional climb out of an agricultural valley up a draw into the hills surrounding. It begins as a straight 2-lane road among cultivated fields, but soon leaves them and winds and ascends without interruption through round, unpeopled grassy hillsides on a classic 1 ½-lane road without centerline, gradually steepening until you’ve doing short stretches of 10-12%. When you hit a stretch of real work, 15% or so, then go basically level, you’re near the end. You’ll see a saddle ahead of and above you and assume you’re heading for it, but well before you get there the road terminates at a mansion’s gate and you turn around and ride back. Since you don’t ride up to any sort of summit, there are no “top of the world” views at the turn-around—the vistas are at their best along the way. Since it’s a dead-end road with almost no houses after the first few miles, you can expect next to no traffic.
So what’s not to like? Two things. First, it’s a bit vanilla visually. “Lone Tree Road” is a misnomer—there are at least 3 trees on this ride, but in the main it’s grass on rounded hills and that’s it. I can imagine some people loving this landscape, but I am not one of them. Despite the fact that I did the ride at the best possible time, in late spring when the grass was at its lushest.
Second, the road surface is poor (check the photos)—pesky on the ride up, a serious impediment to joy on the descent. The surface deteriorates as you ascend, so the descent improves as you go down.
Adding miles: I’ve heard good things about the two roads going south from San Juan Bautista, the town just to the west of Hollister: San Juan Canyon Rd. and Salinas Rd./San Juan Grade Rd. I’d ride them in that order. If you look on a map of the Hollister area, you’ll see a number of attractive little squiggly black lines running east and south into the hills. I know nothing about those roads, but they look like they’d be worth exploring.
Afterthoughts: This ride is really exposed, so try to do it in cool seasons or early morning. It’s at its prettiest in the spring when the grass is green.
The climb is harder than the total elevation gain suggests, since the first 3 miles are flat—more like, 3000 ft gain in 7 miles.