Solvang: Four Canyons Loop

Thursday, April 4, 2013

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Click here to watch a short video of today’s ride

Today’s cycling adventure heads north on Ballard Canyon to Los Olivos and Foxen Canyon before turning south on Cat Canyon to Los Alamos and Drum Canyon. The return is on CA 246 E to Buellton and Solvang.

The light early morning rain is a deterrent for some people to stay off wet roads and either take the day off from riding or wait for the roads to dry out for a later start time. The forecast calls for clear skies later in the day and I’m certainly an optimist; the conditions don’t look too bad at all-I’m going to ride as planned! Michael prefers to stay dry; he’s going to be my private sag for the entire ride!

The short climb out-of-town on Chalk Hill Rd heads north to Ballard Canyon Rd.

Ballard Canyon is a beautiful quiet canyon with picturesque scenes of the lower Purisima Hills’ pastoral grasslands and meadows dotted with grazing horses, cattle, goats and alpacas.

The soft rolling green hills lined with miles of grape vines fill up the rest of this bucolic landscape. This is gorgeous back country. The gentle climb up to the top of Ballard Canyon has amazing views of the Santa Ynez Valley! I descend down to the end of the road at CA 154 to the edge of Los Olivos.




I cross CA 154 and head north on Foxen Canyon Rd for the next 4.3 miles through another beautiful quiet canyon with horse ranches and contoured green hills with old oaks. You can see the San Rafael Mountains in the far distance. There is a short steep climb up to the top of Firestone Hill; the valley views are stunning!



I continue north on Foxen Canyon Rd at the intersection with Zaca Station Rd. The first few miles are along what is known as the “Foxen Canyon Wine Trail” with many of the Valley’s oldest and best known wineries and vineyards.


The flat terrain eventually leads to a short climb up to Zaca Mesa Winery and the expansive open range with views of the San Rafael Mountains.

The scenic road through the canyon continues to wind through the valley with fabulous views of the Solomon Hills to the south and the San Rafael Mountains to the north.

At the end of Foxen Canyon Rd, I motion for Michael to pull over so I can peel off some layers of clothing-it’s sunny and 70’s out here! While being stopped, we encounter a few cyclists with their own private sag wagon on a mission to complete all the stages of the TOC. They turn out to be other Grizzlies; Matt McHugh and Steve Zavestoski with their friend and Steve’s father-in-law. What a small world we live in! They’re set to complete a very impressive goal-way to go guys!


I take Palmer Rd to Cat Canyon Rd, the third canyon of this ride. It was surprising to see the ERG oil fields along this canyon through the Soloman Hills. The employees are busy out on the fields tending to the drilling rigs and checking the pipelines.


The rolling flat terrain on the bottomlands passes through the open meadows and grasslands with grazing cattle and horses.

The 1.3 miles climb up the canyon begins as soon as you cross the cattle guard. The climbing starts off with gentle grades of 3-5% and steadily increases to steeper gradients of 8-11%! The single narrow lane road wiggles along the side of the mountain with gorgeous views of the canyon and valley as the chaparral covered Soloman Hills rises magnificently above it all.


You’re near the top of Cat Canyon when the ERG tanks comes into sight around the bend. The descent on Cat Canyon goes through Solomon Valley with its acres of vineyards and golden hills and ends at Hwy 101. This is a really dangerous crossing; cars are zipping by at 65-75 mph! Fortunately for me, a car slowed down and allowed me to cross safely over to Bell St.


I stop at the Los Alamos Market to pick up some snacks and cold drinks, but there are no restrooms here. So, I continue to the Subway/Chevron Station down the road. I was just here a few days ago!

Now it’s on to the final canyon of the day-Drum Canyon. I take Centennial St out of town and ride pass the elementary school, Los Alamos Park and the Los Alamos Cemetery. Drum Canyon Rd is a three mile climb that weaves through the Purisima Hills with gentle grades of 3-5% and increases to gradient ranges of 6-9%. This whole stretch of road has full sun exposure with little to no shade.

The long bumpy descent on Drum Canyon begins after crossing the first cattle guard-keep you hands firmly on the handlebar! The six miles along the valley passes through gorgeous colored fields of lupines and yellow wildflowers. Much farmland occupies the majority of the landscape with a few working ranches and farm houses.

At the end of Drum Canyon, I continue east on CA 246 for the last nine miles of the route into Buellton and Solvang.

It turned out to be a fantastic day to be on the bike riding along the beautiful and quiet four canyons surrounding Santa Barbara County. The morning overcast skies gave way to sunny blue skies for the remainder of the day! Much thanks to Michael for watching over my safety for the duration of the whole ride!

The group met for another potluck social hour at the Kronborg followed by dinner at Chomps in Solvang. Michael and I shared a green salad and burger with fries. I also shared an ice cream sundae with Jean. The food is great and the prices are very reasonable.

Garmin Stats:
60.06 miles with 3854′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1537′

Weather: Overcast morning skies then becoming sunny and warm by noon. Temps ranged from the low 50’s to the high 80’s. NW Winds

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
~Marcel Proust


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Follow this route for today’s ride:


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