Posted by: James Wapotich | May 20, 2011

Trail Quest: Sunset Valley

There are number of hikes that one can create using the network of trails found in the area between Figueroa Mountain and Davy Brown Campground in the Los Padres National Forest. One such hike is through Munch Canyon, then along the White Rock Trail and returning through Sunset Valley. This loop is 6.5 miles and leads through a mix of scenery and terrain.

Los Padres National Forest Davy Brown Munch Canyon Zaca Lake Trail Santa Barbara Backcountry

Munch Valley

The Munch Canyon trailhead is three quarters of a mile before the turnoff for Davy Brown Campground and so the directions are the same as for the campground. From Santa Barbara take State Route 154 past Cachuma Lake to Armour Ranch Road, just before State Route 246. From Armour Ranch Road turn right on Happy Canyon Road, which climbs out of the valley towards Cachuma Saddle. At Cachuma Saddle it meets Figueroa Mountain Road, and continues north, becoming Sunset Valley Road.

Davy Brown Campground is about an hour and half from Santa Barbara. You’ll know if you’ve driven past Davy Brown as the road dead ends two miles later at Nira Campground. Both campgrounds make for great car camping destinations if one wants to spend the night and explore more of the area. All campsites are on a first come, first served basis, no reservations. An adventure pass is required to park or camp within the Los Padres National Forest.

The Munch Canyon trailhead is on the left hand side of Sunset Valley Road driving in, and is marked with a locked gate and small pull out. Do not block the gate.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Backcountry Davy Brown Squirrel Munch Valley Trail

From the Munch Canyon trailhead follow the dirt road south as it crosses the valley floor, on your left you’ll see where the Sunset Valley Trail arrives, which is the return route for this particular loop hike. Continue towards the right as the trail becomes a footpath and begins its climb up Munch Canyon. This time of year there is water in the canyon.

At the about the one mile mark, the trail branches with the trail to the right continuing over towards neighboring Fir Canyon and the Davy Brown Trail. From here continue left up Munch Canyon. The trail becomes more overgrown, which for some can add to the sense of adventure.

At the 2.5-mile mark the Munch Canyon Trail joins the White Rock Trail, which runs from East Pinery Road to Sunset Valley Road. From here continue left on the White Rock Trail, although just a short way up the White Rock Trail to the right one can find the ruins of an abandoned chromite mine. The former buildings were destroyed in the 1993 Marre Fire, but there are enough remnants to see to make it a worthwhile detour. One can also visit the mine site by starting along East Pinery Road, which is about a mile from the mine.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Backcountry Davy Brown Mine Trail

Continuing east along the White Rock Trail, the hike transitions from mostly uphill to mostly downhill. The trail follows a creek part of the way and the last three quarter miles of the trail have been recently worked and make for easy hiking.

At the 4.5-mile mark the White Rock Trail arrives at Sunset Valley Road, from here continue north along the road for three quarters of mile at which point you can catch the beginning of the Sunset Valley Trail on your left. Keep an eye out for traffic, as a lot of people seem to be in a hurry along this road.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Backcountry Munch Canyon Trail

Upper Munch Canyon

The Sunset Valley Trail is the last leg of this loop and follows the valley west for about mile and a quarter. The trail is in good shape, but is a little overgrown along the valley floor.

Regardless of how far you hike you’ll get to see some of the uniqueness of our local backcountry.

This article originally appeared in section A of the May 20th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

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