Distance: 21 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2280 ft (RWGPS)
(A Best of the Best descent)
This, the most aptly named ride in our list, is the peachiest climb around Paso Robles (pronounced “PASS-o ROH-bulls,” called just “Paso” by locals), a region of good riding among hilly vineyards. It’s a lot like the Robinson Canyon ride—a perfect little two hours of climbing and descending.
Peachy Canyon Rd. has no extraordinary features, and there isn’t a “Wow” moment in the scenery (Robinson Canyon’s landscape is much more striking)—it’s just very nice, conventional riparian oak woodlands, nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s the road contour that makes the ride special, 21 miles of sweetly varied, always-interesting, not-too-hard up and down and back and forth on a perfect road surface. It’s so flawless it feels like a Virtual Reality ride.
(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.)
Peachy Canyon Rd. one way is a simple Bactrian Camel (i.e. two-humper) ride: climb/descend/climb/descend. The climbing is all moderate, though there is a fair amount of it (2280 ft of gain in 10.5 miles of up). The road works its way up a small creek canyon (at least it looks like a creek should be down there—I can’t see any water) past wineries and through nice riparian oaks. There are perhaps 8 wineries along the ride, and Peachy Canyon Rd. is a main route from Paso to the rest of the western wine country, which means I wouldn’t do this ride on a weekend when the wine tourists are out. Any other time, it’s pretty empty—on a gorgeous Fall Thursday I saw 10 vehicles in 21 miles.
At road’s end, you’ve got good riding in either direction (see Adding Miles), but wherever else you ride, make sure you come back to this spot, because you must not miss the Peachy Canyon Rd. descent, which is one of the best descents in Bestrides. In places it’s a perfect slalom course—the road surface is glass, the contour is constantly varied and interesting, the pitch is just steep enough so you can rip it without much braking, every curve is sweetly banked, and the sight lines are excellent so oncoming cars don’t catch you out.
Adding miles: From the west end of Peachy Canyon Rd. you’re a short ride up Vineyard Dr. from our Adelaida Rd./Chimney Rock Road ride. Also near you are Willow Creek Rd. (which Tammy below says has just been repaved—3/21), Vineyard Drive to your R (busiest road in the area and best ridden downhill), and Jack Creek Rd. Nacimiento Lake Drive is a big, busy road, only suitable as a connector to something better.
If you hate out-and-backs and you’re set up for dirt, you can loop Peachy by riding it one way, then returning via Kiler Canyon Rd, which intersects PCR near PCR’s west end and returns to Paso via some nice canyon scenery. It’s all gravel for its western two-thirds. Of course I would never give up the PCR descent, so I’d only do this riding up Kiler, down Peachy. An even bigger loop including Peachy is laid out by Tammy in her comment below.
Nothing on the west side of Paso Robles is flat, so if you want flatter (or you’re just sick of vineyards) look to the east, as Gandalf told Aragorn. The riding to the northeast of Paso is good if you avoid the straight roads on the map and stick to those that meander, like Estrella Rd., Cross Canyon Rd., and Hog Canyon Rd. While you’re in that area, the mission is worth a visit. The ride to Parkfield is well-regarded—do it as an out and back, and schedule it for when the Parkfield Cafe is open so you can sample their famous burgers. Southeast of Paso, the loop around Santa Margarita Lake (W. Pozo Rd>Parkhill Rd.>Las Pilitas Rd.) is reputed to be good riding, especially in the spring. Don’t fail to stop and check out the Pozo Saloon, a local institution.
A good introduction to the region’s riches is the Great Western Bike Rally, a four-day gathering of riders who camp at the Paso Robles fairgrounds and do pick-up rides in all directions.
You’re 30 miles via Hwy 46 from Cambria and the Santa Rosa Creek Road ride. Or our Santa Rita Rd./Cypress Mountain Rd. ride will let you ride to it. There is also good (not great) riding around San Luis Obispo—the Wildflower Century route (not to be confused with “the Wildflower,” a century out of Chico and the basis for our Table Mt. ride) and the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club (SLOBC) website are good places to find routes.
Afterthoughts: All three communities mentioned here—Paso Robles, Cambria, and San Luis Obispo—reward a visit. Cambria is a hamlet, Paso is a large town, and SLO is a city, but each has its (substantial) charms. Cayucos, a miniscule village south of Cambria, has a cult following and is worth a visit—check out the fish tacos.