Distance: 21 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2700 ft
A few words about riding around Hollister generally.
First, Hollister’s image 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 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 is a small Old California treasure with a grand Spanish mission and adjacent historical State Park well worth an afternoon.
Second, the road surfaces in San Benito County all vary from poor to awful. You just have to live with it (or ride somewhere else). The one exception is our Fremont Peak ride, where the surface is OK.
Lone Tree Road is a straight climb and descent out-and-back out of an agricultural valley up a draw into the surrounding hills surrounding. It’s only the third or fourth best ride in the Hollister area, after Fremont Peak and San Juan Grade and perhaps Cienega Rd (see Adding Miles below). The climb is challenging and harder than the total elevation gain suggests, since the first 3 miles are flat—more like, 3000 ft gain in 7 miles. Expect a fair amount of 8-12% stuff.
The ride has three drawbacks. 1) The road surface is poor (see above)—an irritant on the ride up, a serious impediment to joy on the descent. The surface deteriorates as you ascend, so you could turn around if and when it gets unpleasant. 2) The scenery is all the same and a bit vanilla—grassy, rounded hills. “Lone Tree Road” is a pretty accurate name. I can imagine some people loving this landscape, but for me it’s just OK. The scenery on our other two area rides (Fremont Peak and San Juan Grade) is much better. Since there is next to no cover, I wouldn’t do this ride on a hot, sunny afternoon. 3) There is no summit, pass, or other “top of the world” culmination providing you with the grand vista—the road hits a gate before you summit and you turn around.
All that not withstanding, it’s still a good ride and worth doing.
(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.)
Park at the west end of Lone Tree Road and ride it until it dead-ends. 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 it’s a dead-end road with almost no houses after the first few miles, you can expect next to no traffic.
Adding miles: It’s 12 miles from Lone Tree Road to the other local rides in Bestrides, San Juan Grade and Fremont Peak, both out of San Juan Bautista. Midway between you pass Cienega Rd. (“see EN uh guh”), the most popular bike route in the area, an easy, charming, and gorgeous (in April) meander through riparian oaks and small, unpretentious farms that locals do as a loop and I would do as an out-and-back (18 miles one way), since the return on Hwy 25 is a drag. Another sweet little back road, discussed at length in the Adding Miles section of the San Juan Grade ride, is School Road, a few miles west of San Juan Bautista. A longer ride that’s reputed to be worth doing goes from Paicines to Panoche.