Difficulty– Moderate to strenuous
Elevation Gain-300′ gain over Gato Ridge near the start of the ride; gradual uphill for 11 miles to Alisos Canyon; 200′ gain over the Alisos ridge near the end.
This may be my favorite road ride anywhere in the county. It has lots of back country roads, little traffic, beautiful countryside scenery and places to stop along the way like the quaint town of Sisquoc or the historic Foxen Canyon Chapel. A stop at the Rancho Sisquoc Winery will make the loop ride complete.
My last ride on this loop was in late April with my friend Chris Childers, who lives in Los Alamos. It was an afternoon ride, a warm spring day with plenty of sunshine and lots of greenery and wildflowers for company: in short, a perfect time to enjoy the beauty of the Los Alamos and Sisquoc valleys.
From downtown Los Alamos you ride a half-mile west on Highway 135 then veer right onto Bell for a mile of gradual uphill to Highway 101. Once you are safely across the freeway the country riding begins. Almost immediately you begin climbing up towards the Gato ridgeline through Howard Canyon and in a half hour you are over the crest and cruising down into Cat Canyon. This is both oil and cattle country and you are likely to see lots of cows and a number of wells.
This is perfect riding territory, with almost level or slightly downhill riding, rarely a car to be spotted, and plenty of time to ride side by side and chat about old times. You’ll have a bit more than 5 miles of this kind of riding in Cat Canyon and another two miles of it on Palmer Road before you reach the small town of Sisquoc. This is historic country, gateway to the San Rafael Wilderness, where a hundred years ago homesteaders meandered past the Sisquoc Store on their way into the wild country where they hoped to start a new life.
After a soft drink or other refreshments at the store, turn right onto Foxen Canyon. The riding is gradual uphill, not too steep, but it is continuous. The scenery, of course, is spectacular. It is 3.6 miles from Sisquoc to the point where the road leaves the Sisquoc Valley and heads up into Foxen Canyon. You’ll spot the white clapboard chapel high on the hill, just to the right of the side road leading to Ranch Sisquoc Winery. Both are worth a visit, though it is a 2-mile side trip to the winery.
Foxen Canyon Road climbs a bit more once you are in the upper canyon but the setting is absolutely enchanting. This last part to Alisos Canyon is 7.6 miles and will test your legs but your eyes won’t mind the countryside views a bit. Once you reach the Alisos intersection, bear right and follow this up over a short grade and a long downhill for 6.5 miles to Highway 101 and then 2.2 miles on the frontage road back to town.