The country feeling begins almost immediately after you turn onto Foxen Canyon Road. The first few miles are level, and the side valley is picturesque. A long hill leads up to the top of the main ridge separating this from another charming canyon and the views from the ridge are wonderful. A quick downhill leads to a number of the valley’s finest wineries—Fess Parker a mile and a half up the road and the Firestone vineyards just down the way.
The abundance of country roads in the Santa Ynez Valley makes almost any ride here a great one; Foxen Canyon Road and Zaca Station Road are no exception. From Mattei’s Tavern, ride several hundred yards west on Highway 154 to Foxen Canyon Road, then turn right. The road leads gradually three miles up into a very pretty canyon with rolling hills. At the canyon’s end a steady half-mile climb to the crest brings dual rewards: incredible views across the western end of the San Rafael Mountains, with Zaca Peak looming directly in front of you; and a breezy cruise down to Zaca Station Road.
When you reach the intersection you have several choices. The sign directly across the road points the way to a handful of wineries, most of them to the right. If you are out for a shorter ride, turn left and coast down Zaca Station Road .6 miles to the Firestone Winery. A short uphill takes you onto a knoll where you’ll find the winery as well as quite picnic areas to rest and enjoy the scenery. The wine-tasting is optional but highly recommended. You’ll love the garden-like courtyard, and there are also tables placed out on the edge of the knoll where you can relax and enjoy the sumptuous valley views.
My personal recommendation, if you have time, is to turn right and continue on Foxen Canyon Road into the upper valley. The road rises gradually, but the pedaling is easy. The scenery is very similar to the lower part of Foxen Canyon Road, but with quite a few more vineyards. It is 3.5 miles to the far upper end of the canyon, and I always try to make it to this point. As you crest the final hill, suddenly the hillsides drops away and you are looking down into Foxen Canyon, one of the prettiest valleys in the county.
If you make it to the viewpoint before turning back, you’ll have two miles of almost continuous downhill coasting to the Fess Parker Winery and another 1.5 miles of additional downhill to the Foxen intersection. It is tempting to take the downhill all the way to the intersection without stopping, but I always spend a bit of time at the winery before continuing on. There are a number of absolutely awesome wineries, but Fess Parker is my favorite, not because of the wine (the wine is good too) but because of the setting. The large oaks frame the San Rafael Mountains perfectly, and lunch at one of the picnic tables located near the bases of these gigantic trees is wonderful. BYOL, of course, and relax in one of the valley’s best scenic locations.
Once you reach the Foxen turnoff you can retrace your route back over the ridge and down to Highway 154 or continue ahead on Zaca Station Road to the lower end of Highway 154 and return on it.
Once upon a time the ride along the side of Highway 101 to 154 was treacherous, but with the construction of the new overpass it isn’t any longer. When you reach the end of Zaca Station Road curve left onto Highway 154. From there it is 2.4 miles of gradual uphill and a short downhill back to Mattei’s Tavern.