If you want a ride to the sea, this route is a great choice.
It’s an enjoyable journey along Santa Rosa Road, past mile upon mile of vines and along quiet backroads.
Jalama Road is a memorable 14km descent to the wild, crashing surf. Towards the bottom of the descent, you’ll enjoy far-reaching views along the unmarred coastline.
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Jalama Road is awesome. It winds through oak forest, past Spanish moss covered trees, acres of sagebrush and scrub oak, down to a wild and deserted coastline. At the base, you’ll find nothing but a small seaside holiday village sitting next to a long sandy beach and foaming surf (more information about Jalama beach, here).
Be sure to call in at the tiny Jalama beach café/general store. Its low ceilings and well-stocked, floor to ceiling shelves are cosy and give a feeling of a bygone era. The Jalama burger they serve from the adjoining kitchen is also superb, but perhaps to be avoided if you’re doing the return leg by bike!
1. Santa Ynez to end of the Santa Rosa Road: 0-39.5 km
The ride starts with a 12km grind along Highway 246 to Buellton. There’s a hard shoulder, but you’ll be riding with traffic.
Things improve as you turn onto the Santa Rosa Road for 26 km. The road takes an undulating path through vineyards, fields and farms. As there are fewer vineyards than Foxen Canyon Road, there is less car-based traffic, but you may come across more tractors and agricultural vehicles.
2. Santa Rosa Road to Jalama beach: 39.5-67.5 km
Jalama Road is fun. It’s all gentle up and down, with one hill in the middle that requires some extended effort.
The scenery is gorgeous: sometimes gnarly riparian oak forest dripping with Spanish moss, at other times grassy, scrubby hills. A couple of kilometres from the end, you climb over a small ridge, and the ocean and coastline are laid out before you. The road drops steeply away in front of you, and it’s a speedy plummet to the beach.
3. Jalama beach to Santa Ynez: 67.5-133.5km
Dragging yourself back onto the bike after a stop at the beach is never easy. Particularly when you’ve got 67 km ahead of you, and the first thing to tackle is a climb.
But once you’re back over the big lump on Jalama Road, things should get easier, and it should be an enjoyable return home on Santa Rosa Road.
Once you’ve left Buellton, unless you make a diversion into Lompoc, you’re on your own until you reach the General Store at Jalama beach (see comments above).
We did this ride from the Farmhouse at MK Ranch, between Santa Ynez and Los Olivos. We would totally recommend it. Our children loved the pool, play area, horses and animals. We loved the rose garden and fire pit. There is a three-bedroom house (which we stayed in) and also a one-bed option.
For other accommodation suggestions, check out our ultimate guide to Santa Barbara County for cyclists.
Or, for tips on the different towns, take a look at our article on the best towns for cyclists in Santa Barbara valley.
Though we think this is one of the best beach bike rides in Southern California, be aware that it can get busy at weekends. In particular, you’ll find lots of surfers and families heading to the beach down Jalama Road.
The ride includes an unavoidable 4.5 km stretch on Highway 1. There’s a generous hard shoulder, but it’s not the most enjoyable part of the ride. Extra care should be taken here.
Santa Rosa Road can be very windy, so pack accordingly.
Take a look at our tips for cycling in Southern California before you set out.
Click here for our complete guide to planning a cycling holiday in Santa Barbara County.
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Don’t miss our other Santa Barbara County rides: see the related rides section above.
Check out our ultimate guide to cycling Santa Barbara County and other articles on the region, below.+
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