I love how Bakersfield continues to impress and the opportunity of Rancheria Road gravel does not disappoint.
During the pandemic, I was scanning around for rides within a two hour drive from Los Angeles and was surprised to find a few were in range around the foothills of the Sierra.
Strava heat maps only tell you so much, but I definitely was encouraged how much Ranchiera Road was trending even though it is fairly isolated.
Doing my first Rock Cobbler on record earlier in the year, I not only was impressed with the riding, but also met Alejandro along the route that was handing out water and other beverages on his own.
Through the power of Instagram, we reconnected before I was passing through and as if Alejandro was reading my mind, he suggested Ranchiera Road.
Looking to do a 4-5 hour ride doing an out and back is the only palatable option which includes fifteen miles that primarily moves you closer to the heavens.
After crossing over the Kern River, it’s roughly two miles of steady paved climbing between sprawling hills that are featureless, but gradation between the golds and browns felt like living abstract art.
Hitting the dirt brought a constant crescendo of oak trees up until reaching the peak that was a fascinating exercise how uniformly nature spaces them apart.
About twenty minutes after going off-road, Rancheria starts see-sawing giving you brief surges of downhills with short punchy responses as punishment.
Rolling by a succession of ranches, the hills soon are bounded to the south where there’s a chance of shade that’s needed as the next three miles clip in at over 9%.
While there are patches of pavement within, you’ll want an early start to mitigate the rising temps.
Rancheria slowly lets off near the top and initially we tried going past the fire road leading to Oak Flat opting to try the Lookout Trail until the summer overgrowth deterred us.
Taking the shorter, more direct option meant we were making up the elevation over a less comfortable distance dealing with pitches in the mid-teens making this three-quarter of a mile segment feel longer than it seems.
You come to the Oak Flat Lookout Tower at the end which is available for rent, but happened to be vacant that day affording us 360 views with a lot to discover.
While you get only a glimpse of the vast Central Valley, looking deeper into the Sierra brings more intrigue of the possibilities with Breckenridge Mountain showing promise on the other side of the Kern River.
I had no qualms about repeating our path on the return as I knew the downhill would be an experience.
The length of this descent is unique, but so was the sweeping curves along with the contrast of the dried out hills with angling below the still verdant oaks.
It was quite the effort to make it up, but Ranchiera Road was a great experience in either direction and just makes you want to do deeper into the foothills.