Distance-17 miles out to county park and back from Buellton; 26.6 miles from Solvang via Ballard Canyon; 34.7 miles for the entire loop beginning and ending in Buellton.
Difficulty– Moderate for out and back ride; strenuous for the entire loop; no one part of the loop is difficult but it is a long ride.
Elevation Gain– Moderate gains over rolling hills with a number of 200′ to 300′ climbs no major uphills.
Santa Rosa Road provides an extended ride of a different type, with much of the ride following a more remote section of the Santa Ynez River Valley. The hillsides are steep and open, with walnut orchards, organic farms and wineries along the way. Santa Rosa County Park provides a great lunch stop. A stop at the Sanford Winery is a must.
Santa Rosa Road provides a very pleasant short out and back ride to Santa Rosa County Park or a very good a middle distance ride for those who are training for longer distances. The loop circles the Santa Rita Hills and provides an excellent introduction to lower end of the valley, especially along the Santa Ynez River. This is very picturesque country.
If you only have a few hours and want to sample the river road, begin in Buellton. There are a number of places you can park near the intersection of Highway 101 and 246. You can extend this distance by starting from Solvang and curving around through Ballard Canyon. This is a beautiful road and a much nicer place to be riding than along Highway 246. For this route, take Atterdag at the second traffic light and follow it north and continue on Chalk Hills to Ballard Canyon. Turn left on Ballard Canyon, climb the short hill and then coast on down it until you reach Highway 246. It is 3.5 miles of ups and downs on these and just a bit more than a half-mile on 246 to the freeway overpass.
Look for Santa Rosa Road at the first stop sign beyond the freeway, right near Pea Soup Andersons. Turn left (south) on it and within just a few hundred yards you will be back out in the country. For the first .8 miles Santa Rosa parallels the freeway as it crosses the Santa Ynez River and continues past a number of farms, then turns abruptly to the west and follows the river valley downstream. The flood plain has provided the farms with rich topsoil, making this a grower’s paradise.
For the first several miles the road is mostly level and the riding easy. This is great country to share with the kids. About half way to the county park you’ll spot the Sanford Winery on the left. Beyond this the road begins to climb over several hills and at the end of one of them the turnoff to the county park provides a good place to have lunch if you are planning on heading back the way you’ve come.
To continue on the loop, it is another 8.8 miles from the park to Highway 1 and 1.5 miles of easy downhill into the Lompoc Valley. When you reach the stop sign, turn right and continue 2 miles to Highway 246, curve right again and continue on this for 13.5 miles back into Buellton. With luck, you will have the wind at your back all the way.