Dual Sport Ride to New Idria and back to Hollister
By popular demand, we have laid out a simple, very non-technical dual sport ride starting from San Juan Bautista and ending in Hollister. This is almost entirely small paved roads and easy dirt roads. There is one optional trail loop (in bold). This ride is very easy in dry weather, but extremely difficult if it is wet or has rained heavily recently. Many of these roads are hard clay, and when wet they turn to an incredibly slippery mush. I warned you!
The best way to get to San Juan Bautista is down Uvas/McKean Road and onto 101. The first stage starts in San Juan Bautista and leaves town on the Salinas/San Juan Grade Road to Old Stage. Road to Gonzales. From Gonzales we will take Gloria Road east (easy dirt road) to Hwy 25 south. We'll regroup at the summit of Gloria Road, and again at the intersection of Gloria and Hwy 25. We hit 25 about 6 miles north of the Pinnacles, and head south to Old Hernandez Road. The turn-off is on the left, marked "San Benito Lateral", and is about 4 miles south of the Pinnacles Intersection. Take this road a short distance (less than a mile) and turn right on Old Hernandez Road. There is one easy water crossing and one slightly deeper one. Both will probably be dry at this time of year. Do not speed on this road, you will be going through farmers' yards and there are one or two surprise ditches.
Old Hernandez joins the Coalinga/Los Gatos Road about 10 miles before the Clear Creek Intersection. We'll regroup here, and again at the entrance to Clear Creek, by the Clear Creek Sign. We will leave the shop as usual at 9:00 am sharp! Be ready, with empty bladders and full tanks. We will not stop for breakfast! There are very limited services available once we get into the Clear Creek portion of this ride, so plan to be self-contained - bring water, lunch stuff, spare gas if your range is less than 100 miles, binocs and camera, and don't forget your tire repair kit & tool kit; it is a long way to call for a tow truck and very expensive.
The first/most important gas stop/regrouping point will be in San Juan Bautista. Stop at the gas station on the west side of town, just as you turn left off Hwy 156. After gassing up head over Old Stage Road if it is open, (easy dirt) and follow Old Stage Road down to Gonzales. If Old Stage is closed, riders will take the paved Salinas/San Juan Grade Road and join up with Old Stage Road on the other side of Fremont Peak. Take Old Stage Road parallel to 101, down to Gonzales. Regroup and gas up again in Gonzales, since it will be about 100+ miles to next gas. I don't know which stations are open in Gonzales, there is a station on the east side of 101.
From Gonzales take Gloria Road east (easy dirt road) to Hwy 25 south. You can regroup at the summit of Gloria Road, and again at the intersection of Gloria and Hwy 25. You'll join 25 about 6 miles north of the Pinnacles, and head south to Old Hernandez Road. The turn-off is on the left, marked "San Benito Lateral", and is about 4 miles south of the Pinnacles Intersection. Take this road a short distance (less than a mile) and turn right on Old Hernandez Road. There is one easy water crossing and one slightly deeper one. Both will probably be dry at this time of year, but if not, use your judgment and look at the other side, use your throttle, and don't stop for any reason!!! Do not speed on this road, you will be going through farmers' yards and there are one or two surprise ditches.
Old Hernandez joins the Coalinga/Los Gatos Road about 10 miles before the Clear Creek Intersection. I suggest a regroup here, and again at the entrance to Clear Creek, by the Clear Creek Sign. This is a well marked dirt road off to the left, which immediately crosses the San Benito River and heads over to New Idria and J1.
Warning! The Clear Creek/New Idria dirt road is heavily travelled by dirt bikes and four-wheelers, so be very cautious on blind curves. Be especially careful on the east side of the mountains, as the road is not well maintained and there may be washouts. Take a lunch break at the summit, see if you can see the Sierras to the East, and try a little hillclimbing if you like. Watch out for dust and ruts when descending from the summit. There is a posted 3-way intersection at the bottom of the mountain, you should bear left to New Idria.
Adventure Alternate Route:It is possible to take a 2-3 mile single-track trail that leaves the main road at the beginning of the climb and detours southeast to the top of San Benito Peak and rejoins the main road via a jeep road at the marked three-way intersection at the bottom of the east side of the mountain, but this is recommended only if you are an experienced off-road rider. Please decide ahead of time if you are going to do this, only attempt this if you are with someone who has done it before. IT IS EASY TO GET LOST ON THIS TRAIL!
Those who take the single-track over San Benito Peak will rejoin the ride at the main New Idria road at the three-way intersection on the east side at the foot of the mountain. Further down the road forks, but both forks lead to New Idria. I usually bear right (past the old mine entrance).
After leaving the mining town of New Idria, you'll return to pavement and go north on J1 through Panoche, stopping at the Panoche Bar and Grill (no gas, just coffee, beer, sodas, etc.) and follow J1 almost all the way to Paicines and 25. Shortly before Paicines, there is a shallow ford to the right across the San Benito River which will take you on a nice dirt road, up Browns Valley Road back to pavement on Santa Anita Road to Santa Ana Road. Be sure to close the gates on Browns Valley Road or the cows will get out and the farmers will get mad at us and lock the gates. Santa Ana Road drops you off in Hollister right at Jerry's Restaurant, where you may stop for an early dinner.
There are three good bail-out points along the ride - where Gloria meets 25 you can go north on 25 and be in Hollister in about half an hour, or where Old Hernandez joins Coalinga/Los Gatos Road you can turn right and be back in Hollister in about an hour. Once you are headed over the Clear Creek/New Idria Road you are committed to a long ride, but after New Idria you can keep going on J1 right to 25 instead of taking Browns Valley Road, and get back to Hollister about 45 minutes sooner. Dinner at Jerry's... or a quick coffee and straight back to the Penninsula.
Street Riders! You can do an all-pavement alternate by joining the group as far as san Juan Bautista, taking Salinas/San Juan Grade Road (which parallels the dirt part of Old Stage Road) over to Old Stage Road, taking Old Stage Road to Gonzales and then continuing south to 146 - to G 15, to Lonoak Road to Hwy 25 south to 198 east to Coalinga. Stop for gas and lunch at Perko's, then go north on the Coalinga/Los Gatos Road, back to Hwy 25, back to Hollister and meet us at Jerry's Restaurant. Mileage is greater, but travel time should be roughly the same. There are some other shorter pavement alternatives that you might prefer; all are easy to follow on the map. G15 south from Soledad to Lonoak Road, then over to 25 and north to Hollister is a nice ride, and much shorter.
This is probably the easiest dualsport ride you will ever get to go on. The river crossings are usually dry, the single track is totally optional, and there are plenty of bail-out points if you get tired. If you find that you are not comfortable with the dirt sections after Old Stage or Gloria, do NOT continue over New Idria, but turn back to Hollister on Highway 25. New Idria is considerably more difficult than these two roads.
Please buddy up, and keep an eye out for the rider behind you. It is no fun to spend time backtracking to look for someone who has bailed out and headed home without telling anyone. If you have questions about riding in the dirt, don't be shy about asking your more experienced fellow riders for advice, or e-mail me here at the shop. Ride at your own pace, and do not ride beyond your ability. Safety and enjoyment first!