Posted by: James Wapotich | March 11, 2011

Trail Quest: Birabent Canyon

The hike to Birabent Canyon is just one of a number of hikes that can be found near Figueroa Mountain and is a great opportunity to visit this part of Santa Barbara County. The hike in is along the La Jolla Trail, which leads to Ballard Camp in Birabent Canyon. The hike to the camp and back is about 3.5 miles round trip.

Los Padres National Forest Birabent Canyon Figueroa Mountain Ballard Camp Santa Barbara Day Hike

To get to the trailhead, from Los Olivos take Figueroa Mountain Road for about 10 miles to just past the Figueroa Mountain Ranger Station. The drive leads one through some incredible scenery as the road climbs its way into the mountains. In fact a stop at the first lookout within the Figueroa Mountain Recreation Area is must as it provides some great views of the Santa Ynez Valley.

Continue along Figueroa Mountain Road, past the ranger station and begin looking for a turnout on your right and a side road called Tunnel Road. The trailhead is on opposite side of the road, but the road sign is easier to spot. You’ll know you’ve gone too far if you arrive at Figueroa Mountain Campground. An adventure pass is required.

Los Padres National Forest Birabent Canyon  Figueroa Mountain Santa Barbara Day Hike Ballard Camp

From the trailhead, the La Jolla Trail starts off level as it meanders through grassy hills dotted with Pines and Oaks, and then begins its descent into Birabent Canyon. The scenery at this point is a real treat with both views of the canyon and the many pines conveying a sense of being in the mountains. About halfway down the plants transition to chaparral with Oak and Manzanita the most prominent. The hike in is downhill the entire way so make sure to pace yourself for the hike back out.

The trail then arrives at the creek and at Ballard Camp. The camp itself is not that interesting, having been badly damaged by a fallen oak tree and brings to mind the saying that it is the journey and not the destination that is important. However, the second campsite 200 feet downstream does make for a suitable resting place. And this time of year there is water in the creek.

Los Padres National Forest Figueroa Mountain Ballard Camp Santa Barbara Day Hike Los Olivos Birabent Canyon Bear

Bear sign on a Sycamore

The trail does continue downstream for another quarter mile, becoming progressively more overgrown until it turns into more of a bear trail as evidenced by the fresh bear tracks on the ground and bear markings on some of the trees. The trail at one time led towards Zaca Peak.

Regardless of how far you hike you’ll be treated to some great views of the canyon and a memorable drive through the mountains.

This article originally appeared in section A of the March 11th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

If you have a trail report, I’d love to hear it. thedreamingland@gmail.com


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