Difficulty-Easy to moderate to the end of Happy Canyon; strenuous if you continue up into the mountains
Elevation Gain-Rolling hills with gradual rises and drops to the end of the canyon; steep uphill if you climb up into the San Rafaels
Happy Canyon is as cheerful as its name; rolling hills and tall valley oaks lead across the lower flanks of the San Rafael Mountains into this charming canyon. The road winds through the narrow valley past farm houses, ranch land, cows grazing on the hillsides and some of the fanciest horse breeding stables to be found anywhere. The riding is almost level to the upper end of the canyon. This part of the Valley is excellent for family rides.
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 then curves to the right and past another of the Valley’s glitzy horse breeding ranches. You’ll have several miles of gentle uphills and slight downhills before you really enter the main canyon. From here the riding is almost level and the road follows the right side of this very enchanting canyon for 4.5 miles past a series of farms and horse breeding facilities for another few miles until you reach the end of the easy riding. The last of the horse ranches with its white fences is one of the most beautiful you will find anywhere.
If you continue beyond this point you’ll be heading steeply up into the San Rafael. The first mile is the steepest, taking you up onto the main ridge then through a saddle. Once you’ve this point the riding gets a bit easier and the views out towards Lake Cachuma are spacious and extremely pretty. Ride and far as you feel like climbing; it is another 5 miles to Cachuma Saddle and a 1,000′ in gain to reach it. The nice part is the downhill back into Happy Canyon; you can coast all the way.
Return on Happy Canyon and Armour Ranch roads to the Park and Ride when you’ve had enough.