Socal - Santa Barbara County - Santa Barbara NickNames: #Buckhorn
From 101 north take 154 north. Follow the signs about 12 miles or so to Paradise Rd. Hang a right and drive for about 7 more miles. Park at Lower Oso campground. You will need a Forest Adventure Pass.
The ride down Buckhorn Trail is very unique. The terrain variety is unsurpassed in this region. It starts off by dumping you very very quickly into the stream bed. Something like 1200' elevation lost in 1.5 miles. It's steep, loose and the recent rains have made a nice rut, but it is also smooth so all you need is good brakes. Once in the stream bed, the surroundings change into a New Englandesque area and things become very flat. Crossings that are doable start popping up, then you get to the real stream. There was evidence of recent significant flooding, so be careful if there is ever a chance of rain (like that happens often!) When I was there, there was way too much water to ride across as the bike would be completely submerged. I had to do some rock hopping, often down or upstream to get across. For the doable crossings, you can check out the redrock area to see what its like since the stream beds are similar. If you bring a water filter, this is probably the best place to fill up. Further down, the dense oak, mud and moss open into semi-arid surroundings and the stream dries up. Shortly thereafter, you'll hit Camuesa Road, where you can hang a right for some fairly nice fireroad climbing, mainly in oaks at the bottom then changing to the Buckhorn environment about 3/4 the way up. Camuesa Rd. is much more rolling and never as steep as the climb up to Little Pine, but having done the ride to the mines before, the other route is also a good option. For an all dirt ride, stick to the fireroad.
My advice if you do it alone like I did is to bring a water filter (or more than 3 liters of water) and plenty of food. It's a pretty long way from help back there. I made the mistake of not filling up along Indian Creek, and had to settle for some more stagnant water on the Santa Ynez. Also, get a map from the ranger station on the way in. I brought a lot more extraneous crap that probably wasn't necessary too.
Total distance (with a stopover in Mono) 34 miles, something like 6000+' of climbing and 5.5 hours with stops. Have fun, it's a good ride.
Ride rating: Advanced
Ride distance: 34 miles Elevation change: ~6000
Singletrack=40% Dirt Road=60%
Mess a 23 year old from Santa Barbara
Thanks for the input Preacher and Andrew.
May both of you ride forever.
Turtleman a Die-hard Enthusiast
Andrew a 32 year old
I'm embarrased to say that I actually got lost on this trail which turned a simple 27 mile exploration loop (I started and finished at Mono campground) into an out-of-water-cramped-to-the-max-can't-even-balance-my-bike death ride. Then, the drive back from Mono CG to Santa Barbara took about another hour... one of the 2 biggest bonks in my 15-year MTB history. This was actually planned as a "pre-ride" of last year's IMBA epic, which I DID NOT attend! After I got home, I discovered that part of the problem with my exhaustion was that my rear axel had snapped inside the hub, giving me tons of rolling resistance. That, and that I'm just a big pussy!!
Anyway, I can tell you that Camuesa Road up to Buckhorn road is a long, but gradual climb. Gibralter Trail past the dam and back out to the Upper Santa Ynez camping areas will be less climbing, but probably more technical (I have not been on this trail for years). Either way, you are in for a big, gruelling ride, with lots of great back country scenery. Take tons of water and be careful not to get lost.