Alisos Canyon Loop

Miles of rural countryside and beautiful scenery.

Distance-41.5 miles
Difficulty– Strenuous
Elevation Gain-2,200′ total with one 850′ climb in Drum Canyon and 600′ in Ballard Canyon

If you’ve sampled Foxen Canyon or Figueroa Mountain Road, and you like long country rides, especially ones you can use as training rides to bring you into top shape, the Aliso Loop provides the best of all of these things. The loop makes an excellent middle distance ride with miles of rural countryside and beautiful scenery, most of it, with the exception of Highway 246, on little-traveled roads.

I always begin this ride with a sense of anticipation: most of the rides I do for an afternoon or the morning which means I’m not really able to get way out into the country. But on this one you are way out there.

The ride follows Foxen Canyon for just a bit more than 10 miles, with several climbs and long stretches of country road. Two miles beyond the Fess Parker Winery the road crests and from there you’ll have a screaming half-mile of downhill to the Zaca Mesa Winery. The winery is located under a cluster of huge oaks and set against the side of the hills-in all a beautiful setting. It is a very nice place to stop for a break.

A mile of gentle downhill past the winery brings you to the Alisos Canyon turnoff. If you are out in the springtime this is absolutely wonderful country to be riding through. The valley farmland is a rich green and the hillsides even more so. I would think this is what a ride through the Irish countryside would be like.

The first mile of the ride up Alisos Canyon is a bit of a workout but not too difficult and before you know it you will be cruising downhill through the rest of it-6 miles total from Foxen Canyon to Highway 101. Once you reach the freeway look for a side road on the right side of 101. This is new and makes the 2 miles to Los Alamos much more enjoyable than when you had to ride side by side with fast moving traffic.

There are a number of places you can eat in town as well as a small park right in the middle of town. Los Alamos County Park is a half-mile up Drum Canyon and this is also a nice place for a lunch break.

To find the Drum Canyon turn, look for it just west of the Union Hotel (its fine cuisine perfect for an out-of-the-way and romantic dinner). Turn left on Centennial Avenue. This is the gateway to Drum Canyon and an 850′ climb, the crux of this ride. The route up Drum Canyon is along another of those roads which makes riding in this area so great-it is quiet, rustic, little traveled, and beautiful. It is a 3.5 mile climb to the top of the ridge, with lots of switchbacks. Barely before you can stop to enjoy the views on the other side you’ll find yourself dropping sharply down and into Drum Canyon, a long, open valley dotted with cows and ranches. Five miles of mellow riding bring you to Highway 246.

The next 6 miles to Buellton will be the least fun part of the ride. Though the shoulder is wide, you’ll have lots of cars for company, a far different feeling than the quiet isolation of the country roads you have been enjoying up to this point. If you are lucky, however, the wind will be at your back and you will be in Buellton before you know it.

Once you reach Buellton, continue ahead over the freeway in the direction of Solvang. The Ballard Canyon turnoff is .7 miles. Follow this back to Mattei’s Tavern.


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