Difficulty– Easy to moderate
Elevation Gain– Rolling hills with gradual rises and drops
The ride along Armour Ranch down into Happy Canyon is beautiful. Dotted with valley oaks and large horse breeding ranches, it is a pleasure to ride through this area in any season. Baseline and Roblar Avenues provide a great way to criss-cross the upper part of the Valley and stops along the way in Ballard and Los Olivos provide a nice respite before looping back to your starting point.
From the Park and Ride, cross Highway 154 (very carefully) and follow Armour Ranch Road for 1.6 miles to Happy Canyon. There are several hills with short pleasant drops but the riding is easy and the views across the grass-covered hills and distant mountains are spectacular.
Turn left on Happy Canyon. The road leads down past horse ranches for a mile to Baseline Avenue. Happy Canyon curves to the right at this point and provides a nice diversion if you want to ride out it a bit before heading up Baseline.
Once you are on Baseline the direction finding is easy: just continue due west on Baseline until you reach the picturesque town of Ballard. The uphills are gentle and the riding almost effortless for the next 4 miles as you head through open grassland, small ranchettes and beautiful scenery to Highway 154. A bit beyond the halfway point to Highway 154, Mora Avenue comes in from the right. After you cross 154, Baseline makes a slight jog to the left then continues another 2 miles to Ballard.
Ballard is one of those small jewels which exist is valleys like this. Just off of Alamo Pintado Road, it is easy to pass by without a notice. It was founded in 1881 and was the very first town settled in the Valley. Originally it was developed as a stage stop by William Ballard, superintendent of the Concord Stage Line. Though history has passed this sleepy little town by, it has not lost its charm and does have several excellent restaurants if you want to enjoy a great meal after the ride.
Baseline Avenue ends at Alamo Pintado. To continue on the loop ride, turn right (north) and follow it 1.3 miles along Alamo Pintado Creek, turn right and cross the creek. Immediately beyond the crossing is an intersection. Grand Avenue heads left to Los Olivos. Roblar continues uphill out of the canyon.
For those of you love scenic towns like Ballard, Los Olivos is equally enchanting and the side trip to it well worth your time. There are a number of relaxing lunch spots, a great selection of both wine tasting rooms and art galleries and plenty of small shops to wander through. My favorite is the Cody Gallery featuring the exquisite serpentine carvings of John Cody. A visit to his shop is worth the trip by itself.
After the visit to Los Olivos, return back down Alamo Pintado and turn east onto Roblar. There is a short climb up out of the canyon but after this the riding is either level or slightly downhill for the next 8 miles. Roblar parallels Baseline-just a bit north of it-for 3.5 miles, with gentle ups and downs to the point where it ends at Mora Avenue. Curve right onto Mora and continue down to Baseline. The 1.5 miles of coasting to Baseline is loads of fun. At Baseline, turn left, coast another 2.5 miles down to Happy Canyon and return the way you came in. You will have a bit of a climb out of Happy Canyon to Armour Ranch Road, but you won’t find this too difficult.