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Santa Barbara Ranger District

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General Information

Description - The Santa Barbara Ranger District lies within southern Santa Barbara County where chaparral-covered mountains range in elevation from 1,100 feet near the confluence of Manzana Creek and the Sisquoc River to Madulce Peak, 6,541 feet. The vegetation is primarily chaparral, accentuated with impressive stands of mixed conifers around Madulce Peak and the sandstone formations of Rancho Neuvo. Black bear, mountain lion, and coyote call the District home.

Attractions - The Santa Barbara Ranger District is a popular destination for year-round recreation. There are a number of developed areas offering the nature lover an opportunity to enjoy outdoors just a short distance from the sprawling metropolitan areas of Southern California.

Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area is located along Paradise Road off Highway 154.
Here campers have a choice of several campgrounds each offering slightly varied recreation opportunities such as mountain biking, horse camping, fishing, swimming, etc. The campgrounds also vary from reservation only to first-come, first-served. Other variations include the availability of handicapped accessible sites. All campgrounds include the comforts of developed water, barbecues, fire pits, tables, garbage bins, flush toilets, and RV space (no hookups).

Upper Santa Ynez Recreation Area is located in the Upper Santa Ynez River watershed. The area is accessed via Highway 154 and East Camino Cieio Road or via Highway 192 to Gibraltar Road then east on East Camino Cieio Road to Romero Cameusa Road (the last 10 miles are dirt). About half a dozen campgrounds are located in this area offering access to hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and swimming and fishing in the Santa Ynez River. This area is more rustic in nature; all toilets are vault and all sites are "carry-in / carry-out" - meaning all trash must be packed out!

Group camping is available at Sage Hill Group, which is a flat area next to Santa Ynez River. Oak trees shade some sites, and paved roads provide access. There are 5 group sites, one has 12 corrals and hitching post for equestrian use, holds 25-50 people. Hiking, trail riding, fishing, and swimming are pursued from Sage Hill Group. The site is reservable through the National Reservation System.

There are number of picnic / day use areas: Falls, Live Oak, Lower Oso, White Rock, Red Rock in the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area; La Cumbre Peak, Cieio Vista in the East Camino Cielo Area; and Big Caliente in the Upper Santa Ynez Recreation Area. Check with Forest staff for latest openings and closures; a detailed monthly newsletter is available.

There are several off-highway vehicle routes on Santa Barbara Ranger District. Camuesa starts at Upper Oso Campground and ends one mile from Lower Camuesa Camp (trail length is 12 miles). Buckhorn splits off from the Camuesa Road and goes just beyond Little Pine Mountain (trail length is 8 miles). Divide Peak starts at the Romero Saddle gate off East Camino Cielo Road and ends at Divide Peak (trail length is 12.5 miles). The roads are occasionally closed. Check with the district office for current status.

Santa Barbara Ranger District is host to two wilderness areas. A portion of the San Rafael Wilderness can be accessed via the Santa Cruz Trail out of Upper Oso Campground and from the Indian Creek Trail in the Mono area. This wilderness is mainly covered by chaparral, which consist of chemise, buckhorn, ceanothus, manzanita, scrub oak and yucca. The two waters on the Wilderness are the Sisquoc River and Manzana Creek. Rainbow trout, western pond turtles, aquatic garter snakes, and a flurry of strikingly colorful songbirds inhabit the protected land.

The Dick Smith Wilderness is deep within the Santa Barbara Backcountry and can be accessed via Indian Creek, Buckhorn, or Santa Cruz trails. The Madulce Peak area has some of the most beautiful stands of mixed conifers found in the Forest. The Rancho Nuevo area is more open with massive sandstone rock formations, chaparral, Big Cone Douglas fir, and Great Basin sagebrush.

Trails outside the wilderness areas are available for mountain biking, with the exception of Rattlesnake Trail.

All trail camps have table and fire ring. Campfire permits are required for any gas stove or lantern usage at most trail camps. Check with district office pertaining to closures.

Upper Oso Campground and Sage Hill Group Campground have pipe corrals and extra-long parking spaces that accommodate horse trails. Reservations required.

Check with district office staff for hunting details. Although state hunting brochures list some turkey and wild pig in the area, they tend to stay on private property. Deer hunting, when in season, is very popular just outside the Upper Santa Ynez Recreation Area.

There are three recreational target shooting areas. The largest is located on East Camino Cielo Road at its intersection with Arroyo Burro Road. There are also two sites along West Camino Cielo past the privately operated Winchester Gun Club, which are smaller and more suited for pistols rather than rifles.

Little Caliente and Big Caliente Hot Springs / Day Use Areas, in the Upper Santa Ynez Recreation Area offer hot water in both springs. Check with district office on openings and closures. A high clearance vehicle is recommended on the road to Little Caliente.

Las Cruces Hot Springs also known as Gaviota Hot Springs is a California State Park facility. Travel Highway 101 northbound until you reach the Highway 1 turnoff. Take this turnoff and then follow the frontage road on the east side of the freeway until it ends at the parking lot. A short hike up the trail towards Gaviota Peak and then a right hand turn onto a single-track trail and you are there!

The Santa Barbara Ranger District is close to Santa Barbara, Solvang, Santa Ynez and a number of other smaller communities, which are summer / weekend vacation destinations making it possible to combine a forest and city experience.

Recreation - Come with anticipation to Santa Barbara Ranger District. Aside from the outstanding scenery, a plethora of outdoor activities await: hot springs, horse camping, trout fishing, river swimming, star gazing, wilderness hiking, and more!

Forest visitors on the San Bernardino, Cleveland, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests of Southern California are required to purchase an Adventure Pass and display it on their vehicle when parked in the Forest. The cost is $5 per day or $30 per year and can be purchased in any Forest Service office or over 350 businesses throughout Southern California.

Climate - Climate on the Los Padres varies greatly with elevation and the amount of coastal influence. Areas with more coastal influence experience moderate temperatures year round with fog likely from June through mid-August. Plan your coastal visit in the late summer or fall to ensure the best conditions for viewing the scenery. Also, occasional clear days between winter and spring storms are incomparable. Areas further inland experience greater temperature extremes, with relatively cooler winters and hot summers. Inland areas often receive frost on winter nights. As throughout most of California most of the precipitation comes in the winter months, with April through October normally very dry.

Location - Santa Barbara Ranger District encompasses the southern region of Santa Barbara County. The office is located along Paradise Road off Highway 154.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Cori Doble (San Francisco, CA)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I backpacked in the Ventana wilderness this week with a girlfriend. We hiked into Pine Valley from China Campground and stayed for four days. It was WONDERFUL! The trail was great, and we had a wonderful spot all to ourselves near the river. We had tea with Jack English, and saw three other campers all week (Monday to Thursday).

Filed By: Glory Whole
Number of People Encountered: 50+ ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Not Recommended
Report: Packed in on the Buckhorn trail over the weekend-lost a shoe, broke two teeth while on the trail. Saw so many mountain bikers it was sad. Had an altercation with one in particular asshole. Scenery burnt, dry, American sage country. Not recommended.

Filed By: Ron Cobb
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: My wife and I were just on Figuora Mountain August 12. Very dry. Fire danger high. Smog/fog/haze in the valley high but not in the back country. We saw 2 golden eagles and deer. Monday is a perfect time to be up there. Enjoy!

More Information

Contact Information:
Santa Barbara Ranger District, 3505 Paradise Road , Santa Barbara, CA, 93105, Phone: 805-967-3481, Fax: 805-967-7312, TTY: 805-967-7337

Additional Information:
Los Padres National Forest - Los Padres National Forest lies in the beautiful coastal mountains of central California. It stretches almost 220 miles, from the Carmel Valley area to the western edge of Los Angeles County.


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