Avila Beach: Huasna Valley-Monarch Butterfly Grove

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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

It’s another day and another ride! Today we’re heading inland to the gentle rolling hills along Huasna Valley to the wide open countryside on Huasna Townsite Rd. The route includes a stop at the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach and a beautiful out and back on Cave Landing Trail for drop-dead views of San Luis Bay.

We make the usual exit out of the KOA to Avila Beach Rd and head south on Shell Beach Rd into Pismo Beach. We hop onto the path alongside US-101 to 5 Cities Dr.

This time, we’re taking the high road to Arroyo Grande by heading east on James Way. The rolling climbs on this smooth road run above US-101 through the older hillside residential neighborhoods and shopping centers. There is a very steep climb up to the top at Rancho Grande Park; it’s 0.3 mile with 14-16% grades!

James Way drops down to Tally Ho Rd and N Mason St into the town of Arroyo Grande. The short stretch through the Historic Village takes us to the turn onto Huasna Rd. Huasna Rd goes through an older residential neighborhood and leads out to the agricultural farmlands along Grande Creek Arroyo.

At the creek crossing, we stay on Huasna Rd and head east on flat terrain through the rich farmlands of the valley.

Huasna Rd continues on rolling hills through the eucalyptus groves out to the open agricultural fields and citrus orchards.

The road winds its way through horse ranches and open pastoral lands with views of the Santa Lucia Range.

With minimal to no traffic, this road is ideal for enjoying the open landscape of the valley. Through this valley, you can see the scattering of small farms, horse and cattle ranches and bee farms.

Huasna Rd continues along the flatlands with views of hillside vineyards, acreage countryside homes and beautiful tall oaks. In front of one of the homes, there is a huge outdoor sculpture of a ball and chains-it looks really heavy!

The road comes to a gorgeous section shaded by sycamores and oaks; it leads us to the climb up towards Tar Spring Ridge-it’s 0.8 mile with 7-8% grades.

The descent drops us down the other side of the valley through the open meadows to Huasna; an unincorporated community in San Luis Obispo County and part of the South County Historical Society.

We continue on Huasna Townsite Rd for the next 2.8 miles on rolling rough pavement through the wide open valley and oak covered hillsides.

This is even dinosaur country with life-sized sculptures taking over the hills-someone knows how to have fun here!

Large ranches and farms are scattered throughout with non-stop views across the valley!

We stop near the end of the paved road at Rotta Ranch; if you go a bit further on the dirt road, you should come across a bridge at Huasna River. We opt to make this our turn around point and lunch stop. This is actually the place to hang out with the friendly residents; they’re out here with their pickup trucks to retrieve their recycling/garbage bins and to pick up mail.

We reverse our way on Huasna Townsite Rd to the climb back up towards Tar Spring Ridge on Huasna Rd; from this side, it’s 0.7 mile with 7-8% grades.

The fun twisty descent takes us down into the valley along gentle rolling hills to the agricultural flatlands.

The next 3.5+ miles SW on School Rd and Branch Mill Rd winds us around and through the rich agricultural farmlands on the outskirts of Arroyo Grande.

At the end of Branch Mill Rd, we make our way through the city streets of Arroyo Grande on E Cherry, Farroll Rd, S 4th St and W Grand to Grover Beach.

CA-1 N takes us to the Monarch Butterfly Grove at Pismo State Beach. The butterflies migrate annually here from November to February. This is a very worthwhile stop; the volunteer staff has telescopes set up for the public to view the clusters of Monarch Butterflies. Looking up without the scope, the Butterflies just look like bunches of brown leaves on the trees. A few pictures I took through the scope actually turned out okay, you can see the vibrant orange and black colors of the wings-WOW!




We stay on CA-1 N and continue along the coastline on Price and Shell Beach Rd. While mapping this route out, I noticed a trail that can connect Pismo Beach to Avila Beach; the Cave Landing Trail. I’m not sure how much of it can be ridden on a road bike, but I’m going to find out.

From Shell Beach Rd, we head west on El Portal Rd through a beautiful neighborhood to Indio Dr; this road leads to a gated community along Bluff Dr. We stop and take a peek at the trail, it’s paved with no signage indicating NO BIKES but there is a sign for folks to pick up after their dogs. So that’s a yes for us to hop onto the trail!

The half mile paved section of Cave Landing Trail has magnificent views of San Luis Bay! The trail ends at Bluff Dr and turns into a narrow packed dirt trail that goes up and over the hill to Avila Beach. I know we won’t be doing that today so we stop and take in the views before turning around.  

The descent on Bluff Dr goes through a beautiful neighborhood of ocean front estate homes. At the bottom of the closed road, there is an open side gate for people to enter/exit.

We get back onto Shell Beach Rd and descend Avila Beach Rd to Ontario. It’s still early so we decide to take the Bob Jones Trail to Avila Beach and pick up something for dinner.

The Bob Jones Trail is a wonderful way to get to and around Avila Beach; the trailhead begins off Ontario Rd and stretches 2.5 flat miles along San Luis Obispo Creek and continues around the Avila Beach Golf Resort to the exit onto Avila Beach Rd.

We stop at the Avila Grocery & Deli to pick up a couple of tacos and a sandwich for dinner. At this time of day, the winds have picked up a bit and the temperature has dropped but that doesn’t keep people away from the beach. Whenever you’re at the beach, it’s always a perfect day regardless of the weather!

We reverse our way back on the Bob Jones Trail to the KOA campground off Ontario Rd.

I’m enjoying riding around the Central Coast and love to take detours to check out different roads and trails. The out and back along Cave Landing Trail is a must do and the Bob Jones Trail is a leisurely traffic free way to get to Avila Beach. Come on out and see for yourself!

Garmin Stats:
58.74 Miles with 3105′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1008′
Max grade: 16%
Terrain: Some Hills

Weather: GREAT! Sunny and warm with partly cloudy skies in the late afternoon. Temps ranged from the mid 40’s to the low 70’s with mild SW winds and 38% humidity.

Life is like a roller coaster, live it, be happy, enjoy life. ~ Avril Lavigne

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Follow this route for today’s ride:

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