Distance: 21 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 1680 ft
A Best of the Best descent
This, the most aptly named ride in our list, is the peachiest road in the Paso Robles (pronounced “PASS-o ROH-bulls,” called just “Paso” by locals) area, 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. 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 and it’s not as easy as Mapmyride thinks—I recorded almost 3000 ft of gain. 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.
By the way, the last 3 miles on the ride out look, on the Mapmyride profile, like a steady gradual descent, but in fact it’s a short, delicious little drop followed by pretty rollers.
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’ve got roads to the north, south, and west of you, and they’re all good—Willow Creek Rd., Vineyard Drive (the most boring of the lot), Jack Creek Rd., Chimney Rock Rd., and Adelaida Rd. (marvelous contour and vistas but trafficky). Nacimiento Lake Drive is a big, busy road, only suitable as a connector to something better.
Nothing on the west side of Paso Robles is flat, so if you want flatter look to the east, as Gandalf told Aragorn. The riding to the east of Paso is good but not great. Avoid the straight roads on the map and stick to those that meander, like Estrella Rd., Cross Canyon Rd., and Hog Canyon Rd., and you’ll have a good time. While you’re in that area, the mission is worth a visit.
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.
Looking a little further afield, you’re a short car trip down Hwy 46 from Cambria and the Santa Rosa Creek Road ride, See the Adding Miles section of that ride for two ways to ride from Paso to the coast via back roads. There is also good 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 an extended stay. Cambria is a hamlet, Paso is a large town, and SLO is a city, but each has its (substantial) charms.