Guide to cycling Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon - Epic Road Rides Back to top
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The Ride Wine country cycling (route 1): Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon loop

Distance

Elevation gain

Difficulty

Epic rating

41 km
380 m 
  
 

Distance

Elevation

41 km
380 m 

Difficulty

Epic rating

  
  

This is an easygoing 41-kilometre ride with around 380 metres of elevation gain. The route takes you through grasslands dotted with oak trees, vineyards, horse ranches and lovely Los Olivos too. 

For longer rides, look at our wine country cycling route 2, route 3 and route 4.

Route map and profile

Route statistics

Related rides

HIGHLIGHTS

Armour Ranch Road and the short stretch on Happy Canyon Road, are a joy to ride: downhill or very gently upward passing horse ranches, vineyards and fields of grass dotted with gnarly oak trees.

Our other favourite section is Ballard Canyon Road. It’s a little slice of cycling heaven, with a short uphill through trees followed by a gently twisting descent past open fields, trees and the odd vineyard. Despite being close to Los Olivos, you feel in the middle of nowhere.

Armour Ranch Road leads down to Happy Canyon Road, through horse ranches and fields

Armour Ranch Road leads to Happy Canyon Road

Cycling Armour Ranch Road and Happy Canyon Road, with bicycle propped up against vineyard fence

Vineyards and fields surround the roads

Ballards Canyon Road stretches into the distance with vines to the left of the road

Ballard Canyon Road

RIDE LOG

1. Santa Ynez to Happy Canyon: 0-9km

The ride starts with well-paved, undulating roads and sweeping views across the valley. Beautifully manicured vineyards and ranches punctuate the scenery. The section down Happy Canyon Road is out and back, so feel free to carry on and extend the ride down this charming road.

2. Happy Canyon to Los Olivos: 9-23km

Long, principally straight roads take you past homes and fields as you circle north towards Los Olivos. The road is only mildly rolling, and you get a taste of rural life.

3. Los Olivos to Ballard Canyon to Santa Ynez: 23-41km

Los Olivos is a charming town and a good place to stop for a coffee (or wine tasting!). It’s then a kilometre climb up through forest to the top of Ballard Canyon, but the average gradient is only 4%, so it’s not tough.

It’s a fun 8km descent down into Solvang. The return to Santa Ynez is along Mission Drive, the 246. There will be traffic on the road but there’s a decent hard shoulder.

Oak trees dot yellow fields of grass on Armour Ranch Road

Oak studded fields

Agricultural fields around Solvang

Agriculture in the Santa Ynez valley

The pretty town of Los Olivos with a flagpole in the middle of the main road

The pretty, small town of Los Olivos

CAFé STOPS

Los Olivos is just over half-way around the loop and is a quiet, pretty town with a good selection of places to eat and drink.

We ate a wonderful dinner at Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Café, 2879 Grand Ave. They also serve lunch.  As the name suggests, they sell wine as well as serve delicious food. The restaurant has contemporary decor, and there was a buzzy atmosphere on the evening we visited. One wall is covered in impressive interlocking diamond-shaped shelves stacked with wine bottles. The Café Farm, located less than a mile away, grows produce specifically for the café.

Alternatively, try Panino at 2900 Grand Ave, for soup and sandwiches. We ate a delicious selection of sandwiches from the Solvang location of this little chain - they were hearty and tasty.

Or if you’re bored of all the wine chat, head to Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co at 2363 Alamo Pintado Ave, for an excellent range of beers from this well-established microbrewery. They don’t serve food, but you can bring your own in.

ACCOMMODATION

We did this ride from our base at the three-bedroom Farmhouse at MK Ranch, half-way between Santa Ynez and Los Olivos. The accommodation was excellent, and the grounds of the ranch are beautiful. 

Want some more choices?

Take a look at more of our accommodation suggestions in our ultimate guide to Santa Barbara County for cyclists. 

Alternatively, our best towns for cyclists in Santa Ynez valley article should help you narrow down the best town for you. Since this is a loop ride, you could easily stay somewhere other than Santa Ynez and start the ride from there.

TIPS

Take care on the 246 between Solvang and Santa Ynez and use the hard shoulder.

Read our tips for cycling in Southern California before you set out.

Click here for our complete guide to planning a cycling holiday in Santa Barbara County.

Found this guide useful?

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