Drum Canyon/Harris Grade

Prescription for the perfect workout: back country roads and excellent scenery.

Distance-35.4 miles
Difficulty– Strenuous
Elevation Gain– Level with two major gains, one of 1000′ over Drum Canyon and one of 700′ over Harris Grade.

The route combines two good climbs with long stretches of valley riding. The climb over to Drum Canyon is filled with golden poppies in the springtime and the valleys are a deep rich green. The Purisima Mission provides the perfect place for a break before tackling the Harris Grade. This is an excellent training ride and very picturesque to boot.

Prescription for the perfect workout: back country roads, excellent scenery, not too much traffic, and a couple of good climbs-this is an apt description of the Drum Canyon/Harris Grade Loop, especially during wildflower season.

Begin from downtown Los Alamos or the county park, which is a half-mile south on Centennial. The climb up towards the Drum Canyon summit is gradual at first but as the hills close in around you the real uphill begins. It is short and sweet, 1,000′ in a bit more than 2 miles, but the views from the top are nice and the downhill coast through Drum Canyon is very cool. Once you reach the bottom of the grade you’ll have 4 miles of gradual downhill through picturesque cattle country to Highway 246.

This is the least fun part of the ride. Though the valley is beautiful and the shoulder wide, there are still quite a few cars. Ride carefully (and definitely single file) for the 8.4 miles of gradual ups and downs to Mission La Purisima.

This is a nice place for a break, and if you are on a more casual trip, it is worth taking the time to explore the Mission grounds and the trails surrounding them.

The Mission is truly “A Place in Time”. Of the 21 Franciscan Missions in California, it is one of only three preserved within the California State Parks system. It is well known as the most fully restored mission, in its most original setting. Indeed, all the major buildings have been rebuilt and furnished as they were at the mission’s zenith in 1820. Along with this, grounds have been planted to reflect the period, livestock of the correct genetic type have been acquired, the original aqueduct and pond system is being maintained, and over 900 surrounding acres have been preserved as a buffer against modern intrusions.

After a well-deserved rest at the Mission continue west on Highway 246 another mile to Rucker Road. This will take you up onto Burton Mesa. In 2.7 miles Rucker intersects with Harris Grade. There is more climbing ahead to get over the Purisima Hills, but not nearly as much as on the first climb out of Los Alamos on the way to Drum Canyon-a bit less than 700′. These are beautiful hills, intense green in the spring and a soft golden yellow in the summer.

The last part of the ride-8.5 miles total-is in the Los Alamos Valley. This is ranch land and the wide valley is under cultivation much of the year. The road is almost level all the way back to town, though slightly uphill, but the wind at your back should compensate.


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