Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult •
Mileage: 17-34 Elevation Gain: 500+ ft. •
Santa Rosa Road provides an extended ride of a different type, with much of the ride following a remote section of the Santa Ynez River valley. The hillsides are steep and open, with walnut orchards, organic farms. and wineries along the way. Santa Rosa County Park provides a great lunch stop. A stop at the Sanford Winery is a must.
Use Fees : None
Length : 17 miles out to Santa Rosa County Park and back from Buellton; 26.6 miles from Solvang via Ballard Canyon; 34.7 miles for the entire loop beginning and ending in Buellton.
Gain : Moderate gains over rolling hills with a number of 200’ to 300’ climbs. No major uphills.
Difficulty : Moderate for out-and-back ride; Strenuous for the entire loop; no one part of the loop is difficult, but it is a long ride.
From Santa Barbara, Solvang is 43 miles on Highway 101 or 28.5 miles on Highways 154 and 246. Except for Sundays, there is usually plenty of parking in the Mission lot.
If you begin in Buellton, it is 40 miles on Highway 101 or 31.5 miles on Highways 154 and 246. There are plenty of places to park on either side of the freeway on the side roads.
On The Ride
Santa Rosa Road provides a very pleasant short out-and-back ride to Santa Rosa County Park, or a very good a middle-distance ride for those who are training for longer distances. The loop circles the Santa Rita Hills and provides an excellent introduction to lower end of the valley, especially along the Santa Ynez River. This is very picturesque country.
If you only have a few hours and want to sample the river road, begin in Buellton. There are a number of places you can park near the intersection of Highway 101 and 246. You can extend this distance by starting from Solvang and curving around through Ballard Canyon. This is a beautiful road and a much nicer place to ride than Highway 246. For this route, take Atterdag at the second traffic light, follow it north, and continue on Chalk Hills Road to Ballard Canyon Road. Turn left on Ballard Canyon, climb the short hill, and then coast on down it until you reach Highway 246. It is 3.5 miles of ups and downs on these roads and just a bit more than a half-mile on 246 to the freeway overpass.
Look for Santa Rosa Road at the first stop sign beyond the freeway, right near Pea Soup Anderson’s. Turn left (south) on Santa Rosa, and within just a few hundred yards you will be back out in the country. For the first 0.8 miles Santa Rosa Road parallels the freeway as it crosses the Santa Ynez River and continues past a number of farms, then turns abruptly to the west and follows the river valley downstream. The flood plain has provided the farms with rich topsoil, making this a grower’s paradise.
For the first several miles the road is mostly level and the riding easy. This is great country to share with the kids. About halfway to the county park you’ll spot the Sanford Winery on the left. Beyond this the road begins to climb over several hills, and at the end of one of them the turnoff to the county park provides a good place to have lunch if you are planning on heading back the way you’ve come.
To continue on the loop, it is another 8.8 miles from the park to Highway 1 and 1.5 miles of easy downhill into the Lompoc Valley. When you reach the stop sign, turn right and continue two miles to Highway 246, curve right again, and continue on the highway for 13.5 miles back into Buellton. With luck, you will have the wind at your back all the way.
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When heading out on any of our local trails always remember to bring plenty of water and take care while you are out there.