The ride along Armour Ranch Road down into Happy Canyon is beautiful. Dotted with valley oaks and large horse-breeding ranches, this area is a pleasure to ride through 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 nice respites 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 Road. There are several hills with short, pleasant drops, but the riding is easy and the views across the grass-covered hills to distant mountains are spectacular.
Turn left on Happy Canyon Road. 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 four 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 two miles to Ballard.
Ballard is one of those small jewels which exist in 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, the town 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 Road. To continue on the loop ride, turn right (north) and follow Alamo Pintado 1.3 miles along Alamo Pintado Creek, then turn right, and cross the creek. Immediately beyond the crossing is an intersection. Grand Avenue heads left to Los Olivos. Roblar Avenue continues uphill out of the canyon.
If you love scenic towns like Ballard, you’ll find Los Olivos equally enchanting, and the side trip is 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 Road and turn east onto Roblar Avenue. There is a short climb out of the canyon, but after this the riding is either level or slightly downhill for the next eight miles. Roblar parallels Baseline Avenue—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 Road, and return the way you came. You will have a bit of a climb out of Happy Canyon to Armour Ranch Road, but you won’t find this too difficult.