San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties Dual Sport Ride
This ride begins in California's Central Coast and gets the adventure rider off the beaten track into Los Padres National Forest and to the wide open spaces of Carrizo Plain National Monument. This is a one day ride with a home base of either one of the many fine hotels in Pismo Beach or peaceful camping in the Carrizo Plain.
Begin the ride at Highway 101 and 166 at Santa Maria, a sleepy little town now that the Michael Jackson trail is over. Depending on your group and how often you stop, this first dirt section could be anywhere from two to four hours. This section does have it's challenges and you should have some offroad experience before trying this.
Follow 166 East to Tepusquet Rd. Turn right and follow the pavement 4-5 miles till you get to a dirt turnoff on your left, Colson Canyon. The next 45 miles or so will take you into the San Rafael Mountains and across many creeks which were all dry rock beds on my visit in Feb 06. You will climb La Brea Canyon Rd, and have incredible views both north and south on Miranda Pine Rd, where I remember fast smooth sweepers, covered with soft pine needles. Sierra Madre Rd. is right on the ridgetop and also offers a little frisky riding or slow poking and shooting photos!
Head for the pavement by taking a left on Bates Rd. which turns into Cottonwood Canyon and leads you right back to Highway 166.
Continue east on 166 to the town of New Cuyama and lunch, There's an old time western roadhouse that serves some decent BBQ.Be sure to gas up here.
After lunch continue east on 166 and a few miles past the turnoff to 33 you will come to a left turn on Soda Lake Rd. Be careful executing this left, it is on top of a hill and traffic will be moving quite fast here. This paved road turns to a graded gravel road that will see a lot of locals in pickups and most any street bike can make this. Soda Lake and Elkhorn Roads generally parallel each other and will head north and meet Highway 58. Depending on your skill level choose to stay on Soda Lake or look for the connector road on your right which will take you to the higher, more scenic Elkhorn Rd. Enjoy wide open space, incredible vistas and stop your bike for a while and just listen. There are not many places left in California quite like this. Carrizo Plain is a major migratory spot for Sandhill Cranes and if you time it right you may hear a flock overhead returning to the lake bed. After rejoining 58 head west towards highway 101 and back to your hotel . You'll pass a turnoff on the left for Pozo Rd, a dirt road that leads to a great little roadhouse in Pozo. Connect to Mountain Rd, which drops you onto Arroyo Grande. Keep this sidetrip in mind for another loop down here.
This area of California offers great street riding and very little traffic so do plan on staying a couple of nights, for spouses or non riders the beach at Pismo and the local wineries both north and south are a big draw. Further afield is the phenomenal loop of 166 out to Taft and then highway 58 west to Santa Margarita. Ojai and highway 33 are another option.
On rating this ride...on a difficulty level maybe a 4 out of 10. I do not consider myself an expert but managed fairly well here. Road conditions do change, with the recent rains all of the dry creek crossing might well be full. Ride prepared and be aware you will be quite far from the nearest aid station. The maps and photos here are only a starting point, please plan your own trip thoroughly.
Ride safe, have fun and enjoy our great state!