• Distance 118 km
  • Elevation gain 1110m
  • Difficulty
  • Epic rating

This route takes you on a memorable tour of wine country in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Foxen Canyon Road and Alisos Canyon Road are quiet and tranquil with beautiful vineyard scenery.

Harris Grade Road has the most demanding gradients and is a touch busier than Foxen and Alisos, but still a great winding climb through woodland.

Santa Rosa Road offers a superb return home along the edge of a wide valley, with views of vineyards, farms and agriculture that sustain the area.

Santa Rosa Road, Harris Grade and Foxen Canyon Road all feature on the well-known Solvang Century ride.

For a shorter rides, look at our wine country cycling route 1 and route 2.  For an alternative wine country ride, look at our route 3.

All metrics in this article are approximate.

Highlights

Foxen Canyon Road is one of our favourites due to its twisty, undulating nature and vineyard views. This ride incorporates a good 16.5 km chunk of Foxen as well as the lovely, easygoing Alisos.

The return home on Santa Rosa Road is quiet and picturesque. It gives you a real sense of what this rural part of California is all about.

Foxen Canyon Road with no traffic and fields/trees surround itFoxen Canyon Road
Oak trees on Zaca Station RoadZaca Station Road
Alisos canyon road with central yellow line down the middleAlisos Canyon Road

Route notes

1. Santa Ynez (via Zaca, Foxen and Alisos) to Harris Grade Road: 0-57.5 km

The first 42 km of this ride are the same as the superb first 42 km of the Wine country cycling route 2 ride. You may be tempted to shorten the route by riding Highway 101 between Los Olivos and Los Alamos, but we wouldn’t suggest it; Highway 101 is a busy, major road.

It’s then a gently downhill run along the rural Highway 135 to the start of Harris Grade Road.

 

2. Harris Grade Road to Santa Rosa Road: 57.5-78 km

After you turn off for Harris Grade, you’re surrounded by fields for the first kilometre before the pitch steepens, and you’re winding up 4 km through forest.

The descent has some fun switchbacks, and then it’s a long straight downhill to the main road.

The 8km connecting the bottom of Harris Grade Road to the Santa Rosa Road are forgettable, but it’s worth mentioning that the 2 kilometre section on Highway 1 has a decent shoulder, so you’ve got some distance between yourself and the traffic.

 

3. Santa Rosa Road to Santa Ynez: 78-118 km

Santa Rosa Road offers 26 km of splendid, undulating riding.

It’s the road that locals we spoke to were most keen for us to ride and we can see why they like it. Other than for the odd farm vehicle, it’s peaceful, agricultural and there are vineyard and mountain views too. You may well spot buzzards circling overhead while the relaxed gradients make for enjoyable cycling.

The last 10 km or so are on the 246 home. There’s a decent hard shoulder but expect to be riding with traffic.  If you want to avoid around 8.5 km of this and add an additional 11km to your ride, turn up Ballard Canyon Road into Los Olivos and then back the way you came at the start of the ride, to Santa Ynez.

Zaca Sation Road signpost against a blue skyZaca Station Road sign
Harris Grade Road stretching upwards into mistHarris Grade Road on a misty morning
La Purisima Mission signEntrance to La Purisima Mission State Historic Park

Café stops

At 42 km into your 118 km ride, Los Alamos is a reasonable place to stop for a break. There are a few restaurants, but for something more casual, try Bob’s Well Bread, the best coffee shop and bakery we found in the area. Read more about it here.

It’s also worth considering a stop at La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, which comes at around kilometre 72 of the ride. There’s no café, but if you’re with family, they may enjoy a visit. It’s the most extensively restored mission in California, set in a 2,000-acre park that you can wander around and explore. There’s also a modern and informative visitor centre.

 

Accommodation

We did this ride from the fantastic Farmhouse at MK Ranch, between Santa Ynez and Los Olivos. The 20-acre ranch has plenty of space and the pool, play area and horses were a hit with our children. Choose between the three bedroom house and one-bed option.

If this isn’t what you’re looking for, we have other accommodation suggestions in our ultimate guide to cycling Santa Barbara County.

Or, if you’re not sure which town you want to stay in, take a look at our article on the best towns for cyclists in Santa Ynez Valley.

 

Tips

You may encounter additional traffic on Foxen Canyon Road at weekends, due to wine tasters visiting vineyards. Also take particular care on Highway 1 and the 246.

Santa Rosa Road can become something of a wind tunnel, so pack accordingly.

This ride could be ridden in reverse. The advantage of this would be cycling Highway 246 first and getting to Los Alamos for a break after the halfway point of the ride.

Take a look at our tips for cycling in Southern California before you set out.

Click here for our ultimate guide to planning a cycling holiday in Santa Barbara County.

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Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a road cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com to help make it easy for road cyclists to explore new places by bike.

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