Central Coast California
San Benito County, California
San Benito - COUNTY
State Highway, very good - PAVEMENT
Numerous - CURVES
None. Last Gas in Tres Pinos - GAS
Quick Ride: Remote Central Coast road headed out of Hollister through ranching country. Much-loved ride for local riders. Curvaceous, long straights, no gas.
63 Miles of Bliss
There's something unique about this road, and I think I've finally realized what it is. It's the length, that unimpeded length. Highway 25 is but another deserted stretch of pavement that's become a playground for all sorts for motorcyclists of any persuasion. You might even say this road has its own fan base. A road built with motorcyclists in mind.
Highway 25 heads south out of Hollister, home to one of California's biggest biker rallies. Hollister Independence Rally is held each July 4th weekend. The event is free and open to the public. Main Street in Hollister is closed off, and the street is opened up to vendors, bikes, and live music. Dating back to 1947, the rally was set as an iconic event after the film The Wild One was released in 1953. The 1997 50th anniversary event drew 100,000 bikers. Log on to the website for the event to get this year’s latest updates.
Highway 25 is likely one of California's poster-child motorcycle roads. It's one of these ignored roads surrounded by bigger and better, well-traveled roads. Interstate 5 to the east, 101 Freeway to the west. In between is this little gem, and any motorcyclist will love this road. It will keep you off the main highways while providing a north-south path for your journey.
Smooth pavement headed off into the distance. I can go fast. I can go slow. See Dick play. See Dick grin. No people. Very few cars. Flip down the throttle lock, right hand on hip, nothing but the sound of the motor and wind whipping past. Tranquil. Nothing quite like it.
There are some very long straights on the northern portion, so if you're expecting an adrenalized canyon ride, this isn't one of them. Just cruise along and enjoy the long straights that stretch off to the distant ridgeline, the twisties will come soon enough.
Tres Pinos is the official beginning of Highway 25 and the end for northbound riders. Tres Pinos is the last place to get gas along this remote area of California. The next gas headed southbound along Highway 25 is San Miguel, 96 miles south. If your bike only has a 100-mile range, that might be a useful piece of information. Gas is also available in Coalinga (east) or King City (west).
There is no gas along Highway 25 or at the south end of it. There aren't any towns out here beyond Tres Pinos, just a series of ranches and cows. The ranches have been here for so long, they are labeled on my paper map with the families that own them: Bear Valley, San Topo, La Laguna Vieja, Oswald, and Nyswonger Ranches line this long stretch.
Across the street from the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Tres Pinos, you may see parachutists descending or hang-gliders soaring on warm current above. The Mission Soaring Center Launch Site overlooks the San Benito Country Golf and Country Club. The launch site dates to the early 1970s, when hand gliding took off as a pastime.
The San Benito Fairgrounds are at the south end of Tres Pinos and the San Benito County fair generally takes place in October each year.
Next Services 76 Miles- the sign says as you get out beyond these small communities, although the ride is about a good 100 miles depending on which direction you're headed.
Paicines is five miles south of Tres Pinos and allows access to the west end of Panoche Road, which heads eastward over to Interstate 5. Paicines is little more than a T-shaped intersection, but there is a small market that offers snacks. Read the description for this ride.
Panoche Rd connects over to Interstate 5
Panoche Rd also provides a path to New Idria and is a favorite ride for dual-sport riders. Little Panoche Rd continues the eastward trek to Interstate 5 to reach into the Central Valley. This is not a highway and is single lane in the mid-section. Panoche Rd has very bumpy, neglected pavement in some portions. There is no gas along this route, or when you reach Interstate 5 on the other side of the range. However, riding out to the Panoche Inn, dating back to the 1930s, is a favorite pastime for local riders. New Idria is a Superfund site from all the mining of quicksilver, better known as mercury, stretching as far back as the 1850s, but there are still old buildings there, making it a destination for those seeking out Ghost Towns.
Leaving Paicines, you’ll ride by the Paicines Reservoir. The small Paicines Reservoir, built in 1913, is a favorite of bird watchers after some bald eagles were spotted nesting there. Also known as a Sag Pond, the land is sinking because it lies over the two faults strands.
Adjacent to the Paicines General Store is the Blossom Hill Winery, bought out in 2017 and re-named Alba Coast Winery. The name Alba means ‘dawn’ or ‘sunrise’ in Italian. With capacity for 4 million cases a year, you’ll see huge tanks in a broad group alongside the road that make that number believable. On the north side of Panoche Road are the large buildings of Diablo Chateau & Estate Wines.
Cienega Rd (pronounced see-en-a-gah) parallels this northerly stretch of Highway 25 as a more twisty alternative to the long straights. The word Cienega means swamp or wetlands, although with the region being so dry, I can’t make the connection.
The northern end of Cienega also provides the entrance to Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area, so be on the lookout for trucks pulling trailers of dirt bikes and UTVs. The off-road park is divided into different areas based on the type of vehicle. Cienega Rd is 18 miles north to south and worth the detour. It passes by an elementary school in the mid-section, several wineries and a large RV campground on the south end.
The south end of Cienega is six miles south of Tres Pinos and one mile south of Paicines. Once you pass by the entrance to Cienega, Highway 25 truly gets revved up. The longest straights are here, the first stretch is bone straight seven miles long, with many more to come. As Highway 25 passes over the San Benito River, the Diablo Range presents itself on the east side of the road. Some of the best photos of the range are here. This area is brilliant green during spring time.
If you want to get away from all the rush and congestion, this is it. Keep in mind, it can get ridiculously hot out here in the summers, 100-degree days are the norm. While riding in summer, wear a cool vest. Temps during a heat wave in the late 1940s hit 117 at Pinnacles. Thankfully, in spring, the landscape explodes into a blanket of green and vast fields of wildflowers across rolling meadows. Heavy rains in winter months can exaggerate these events even further and create super blooms, where these grassy meadows and hillsides are covered in colorful wildflowers.
Highway 25 is paved across the dry grasslands in summer with relatively low elevation changes, this means you get a thrill ride that's up-down back-forth left-right. This can be a very fast ride if you choose.
Much of Highway 25 is cut into the base of the Diablo mountain range, a low coastal range running parallel to the ocean north-south. Cut into the base of the range also makes the ride swoopy. Motorcyclists love riding this kind of road. The valley begins to narrow, and numerous trees dot the landscape.
Thirteen miles south of Tres Pinos is La Gloria Rd. This is a single lane dirt ranch road and the pavement doesn’t start up until you reach the Swiss Rifle Club eight miles from the 101 Freeway. Total distance from Highway 25 over the range to Gonzalez is 20 miles. At Gloria Rd, a sign for curvy road appears, next 38 miles. That feels good to see that sign. Make sure you are in front of traffic as you pass by La Gloria Rd and head into the twisties. These are all left-right-lefts, no hairpins or rapid elevation changes. When they built Highway 25 in the mid-1930s, no one paved the road right down the middle of the valley like they would today, rather, they carved it into the hillside and adhered to the contour of the land.
After riding 23 miles south out of Tres Pinos, you'll see a side road for Highway 146. This is an enjoyable 5-mile jaunt into a national park few are familiar with. Speeds within the park boundaries are slow and there will be tourist traffic.
Pinnacles is a relatively unknown National Monument spanning 41 square miles that was promoted to a National Park in 2012. The region is known for towering rock spires and talus caves. The term pinnacles originates from the rocky spires that remain from an ancient volcanic field. Hiking trails crisscross the land, but note again, this region can get very hot during summers. Best to visit during spring, when winter rains turn the land green and the flowers are in full bloom. Pinnacles is a great place for hiking and there are 26 miles of trails in the park to check out the rock formations. There is also an eastern entrance to the park, but Highway 146 was never connected across the park, even though both sides have the same name.
After Pinnacles National Park, delicious pavement starts up. South of Pinnacles several years ago, several potholes appeared on Hwy 25 including one that was about 3 feet in diameter. Routine road maintenance took care of this but the road may be crumbled in some parts. As usual, it’s worth mentioning to be ever on the lookout for sand on the inside of corners, kicked up by trucks cutting the corners.
Twelve miles south of Pinnacles National Park, nearing the mid-section of Highway 25 in a sharp pop-up S-turn for Coalinga Road headed off east towards Coalinga. Note vehicles cut this corner and the turn onto Coalinga Rd is often completely covered in gravel which may bleed onto Highway 25. Coalinga Rd is a forgotten 50-mile long backroad you might want to try. It can be narrow, but is paved and has the scenic Hernandez Reservoir in the middle to check out. There’s also a gem mine, the California State Gem Mine, that’s open to the public via reservations, in operation since 1907.
Coalinga Rd connects Highway 25 with Coalinga
I have added this road to our Pashnit Tour route with groups of 10+ bikes behind me, and it can be a steady and fast road, although some portions narrow to single-lane paved ranch road, into the north side of Coalinga where the ride joins up with Highway 33. If you ride into Coalinga, you can make a loop with Highway 198 and circle back around on Highway 25. Coalinga has gas and eats.
Two miles further down the road is the Bitterwater intersection. Bitterwater Rd (not to be confused with the other Bitterwater Rd in San Luis Obispo County) connects via an up-and-over to King City, fourteen miles away. If you need gas, Bitterwater Rd or Lonoak Rd are your best bet, as they both head into King City.
Another nine miles south of Bitterwater is a curious sight at Lonoak Rd. You’ll see antique cars shoved into the creek bed. Best viewed from the bridge over Lewis Creek, you’ll need to ride a few hundred yards onto Lonoak to the bridge to see the old cars. The adage is, the cars, some dating to the 1940s, were placed there in the outside bends of the creek to reduce erosion. It’s an interesting picture of roadside Americana.
Antique cars in Lewis Creek viewed from Lonoak Rd
Ten miles further south is the intersection with Highway 198 where this ride unceremoniously ends. Highway 25 essentially goes nowhere. It heads due south from Hollister atop the San Andreas Fault all the way to Highway 198 and ends in the middle of ranching country. There’s a stop sign. That’s it.
Across the highway is Peachtree Indian Valley Rd. In a parallel dimension, Highway 25 should have been carved, graded and cut into the hillsides to continue south, but it doesn’t. It abruptly ends, yet offers a teasing hint across the highway on the south side with Peachtree Indian Valley Rd, a single lane paved ranch road that connects to San Miguel for gas and basic eats.
You’ll often find motorcycles parked here at Highway 25 & 198 taking a break plus more at the north end of Peachtree Indian Valley Rd. If you need gas, options are continuing south via Peachtree Indian Valley Rd to San Miguel, which is another 40 miles distant.
Highway 198 heads west to the tiny farming community of San Lucas, but no gas or services here, nor when you reach the 101 freeway either. Best bet is King City to the north (although Lonoak Rd would have been a more direct route. Headed east from the Hwy 25/198 intersection, it’s another 34 miles to Coalinga which has normal services. The point is knowing your range and planning ahead when riding out into these remote areas of the Coast Range.
Highway 25 has everything you’ve ever wanted in an enjoyable ride. Remote, intensely scenic in spring, unimpeded views of the countryside, the Diablo Range on the east side and Gabilan Range on the west side with major highways on the other sides of those ranges keep all the traffic off this road. The curves in the mid-section are super-fun, and the long straights are an added quality most roads don’t have. Highway 25 also provides an alluring leg in any north-south journey between Los Angeles and San Francisco that isn’t headed up Highway 1 Big Sur and does not involve any sort of freeway.
Another Point of View
From Hollister, take 25 south. Go fast and scare yourself. Go slow and enjoy the forgotten land between I-5 and 101.
It has everything from loooong straights (I have pictures of my speedo showing, errr, well, slightly more than 55) to blind decreasing radius corners covered with dust. 25 ends at Highway 198, but if you jog left 20ish meters and then right on Peach Tree Road you can continue down to 101 at San Miguel.
Peach Tree is more of a ranch road, not much traffic and not as well maintained. Because of that I figured it would not be patrolled. I spent a very enjoyable hour sliding from verge to verge in a hot turbo hatchback, then stopped to take some photos. As I was getting back in the car, a smiling CHP pulled up to make sure everything was ok.
Lucy heartily recommends hiking in Pinnacles National Monument for amazing views and weirdy scenery
For those coming up from LA on the 101, you might try getting off of at San Miguel (just north of Paso Robles), and go north on Indian Valley/Peach Tree Road to 198, west a few miles, and picking up Highway 25.
Another alternative is to take Los Gatos - Coalinga Road out of Coalinga...about 50 miles long, it meets with 25 about 20 miles north of the 198/25 intersection.
Peachtree Indian Valley Rd continues south to San Miguel. Scroll>
Excerpted from Michael's San Jose to Valencia Road Trip...
The rain picks up as I head down Highway 25, taking it slow. This is a good road for going fast, but the rain has my speed down. I pass a few cars with windshield wipers going and wonder what they think of me. No bikes on the road. One long stretch sees the speedo reach towards 100, but mostly it's third gear work. After taking a run at the century mark, I see a small animal run across the road and head into the bushes... a coyote or bobcat maybe. It reminds me that this is still pretty wild country, despite the occasional house back against the hills. I wonder if motorcycle riders have fewer auto accidents than non-riders.
There was one vista, coming over the crest of a hill, looking down into the valley that was quite beautiful. Dark olive-green oak trees on the slopes of the hills fading into short, bright green grass with the road snaking down through the valley floor. And up above, touching the far hilltops, a deck of grey clouds, marbled dark and light.
Highway 25 - Photo Gallery
MORE INFO: Highway 25
RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR
56 Miles (Tres Pinos to Hwy 198) - LENGTH
Main highway, well-maintained - PAVEMENT
Numerous - CURVES
Hollister, King City - LODGING
1600 ft- PEAK ELEVATION
LISTED CONNECTING SIDEROADS:
Highway 146 - Pinnacles NP
Gloria Rd (dirt)
Peachtree Indian Valley Rd
Pinnacles National Park