Tunitas-Lobitos Creek Ride
Panoche Inn, return via Mt. Hamilton on all paved roads. (Optional Dirt Loop: New Idria/Clear Creek /Hwy 25)
This is a good ride to take in the spring and early summer when the meadows are still green. It can be a little sere and savannah-like in summer. The route is paved to the main lunch stop in Panoche and mostly paved all the way to the defunct mining town of New Idria.
Street bike riders may decide to ride out to New Idria and back, or skip that portion and make a loop east on the continuation of J1 (Little Panoche Road) to Interstate 5 and north to either 152 and return via Gilroy or further north to Del Puerto Canyon and return over Mt. Hamilton. It is about 32 miles north on I-5 to Del Puerto and 65 miles from the start of Del Puerto to San Jose via Mt. Hamilton.
Adventuresome riders can cross over the New Idria/Clear Creek Road as described below, and return via the Old Coalinga/Los Gatos Road and Hwy 25.
If you are on a street bike, you will definitely want to backtrack from New Idria to the J 1/Panoche Road just south of the Panoche Inn. If you are on a GS or DualSport bike, from New Idria there is a dirt road continuation route leading back to Hwy. 25 via the Clear Creek Road and Coalinga/Los Gatos Road. The Clear Creek road on the west side of New Idria is ALL DIRT and very difficult when wet. Watch out for 4WD trucks, 2-stroke dirt bikes, hunters, etc. There are campgrounds along the lower elevations on both sides of the mountain.
This is a beautiful ride, at its best in spring and early summer but spectacular in winter. It is best to call ahead to the Panoche Inn to be sure that they are open and prepared to serve you lunch. Beer and similar staples are always available. (Panoche Inn - 831-628-3538.) Be sure to gas up in Hollister before starting out, as there is no gas in Panoche or anywhere else on this route till you get out to I-5.
Leave Mountain View at 9:00 am and take 85 to Almaden to Uvas/McKean Roads to 152 East to 101/25 to Hollister. Stop at Chevron station at south end of Hollister to gas up & regroup (approx. 60 miles, 1 hr. riding time). This is the only gas for the next leg of the ride so gas up without fail! Leave Hollister south on 25 around 10:15.
Take 25 south towards Paicines, and turn left on J 1. The road is just before the Paicines general store. This road is a beautiful country two-laner that follows the east side of the mountain chain that holds the Clear Creek Off-Road riding area. A major chunk of it fell in the creek a couple of years ago and it has all been repaved and smoothed out, making it one of the nicest "cornering exercises" roads in the area. Stop at the Panoche Inn and enjoy an early lunch on the patio at this unique spot. (831-628-3538) Call ahead if you are counting on eating there.
There are three alternate routes back from Panoche:
- Just turn around and ride back down J 1 and return to Hollister the same way you arrived. Return to the Peninsula via Uvas/McKean Road instead of 101 to avoid the traffic. This is the quickest way, gets you back home by early afternoon.
- Turn left just after the Panoche Inn on Little Panoche Road. It is about 20 miles to I-5 north, and about 24 miles north to 152/Pacheco Pass, and another 35 miles back to Gilroy. This is the next shortest way back. This route is all paved,mostly straight highway or freeway.
It is much more interesting to take I-5 further north (about 32 miles) to Del Puerto Canyon Road, which takes you over Mt. Hamilton and back to San Jose via Hwy 130 (San Antonio Valley Road/Mt. Hamilton Road). If you go back over Mt. Hamilton it will take you till late afternoon to get home.
- (Dirtriders Only) Continue on the New Idria Road to New Idria (you can't stop in the village) and return the same way we came, or continue over the dirt road to the summit and back down the west side to Old Coalinga Road and Hwy 25. There is also a backroad route up to San Benito Peak, which cuts off to the left (map-marked S/B Peak/Mexican Lake Road) about a mile below the summit on the east side. This is a good dirt-road route for the "not-quite-ready-for trail-riding" folks. This route can take you home by late afternoon-early evening, depending on how lost you get in Clear Creek...
Ride Safely, watch out for each other and have fun!
PS: Feel welcome to e-mail me if you have any questions about this ride.
PPS It is possible to arrange an outdoor barbeque lunch for your group at the Panoche Inn, but you have to call them a couple days beforehand to arrange it. (831-628-3538)
MAP REFERENCES: Pages 20, 21 & 33 in the DeLorme Southern California Atlas, San Benito County.