Posted by: James Wapotich | July 30, 2011

Trail Quest: Red Rock

One of the more popular places in our local backcountry during the summer months is the Lower Santa Ynez River Recreation Area which offers a number of picnic areas and swimholes along the river including Red Rock. However this year’s winter rains along with the much needed water has brought with it some setbacks for visitors. Since January, Paradise Road has been closed at the first river crossing due to the amount of water at the crossing. And although the campgrounds and picnic areas located before the First Crossing, including Sage Hill have remained open, everything past the first crossing has been closed to vehicles.

Earlier this month Paradise Road was opened at the First Crossing, but it was also announced that the bridge at Lower Oso, just past the crossing sustained structural damage during the winter storms. And so while one can now drive to Upper Oso and access trails from there, the road to rest of the Lower Santa Ynez River Recreation Area still remains closed.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Hike Santa Ynez River Mountains Red Rock

Santa Ynez River at the Red Rock Trailhead

This closure can be viewed as a mixed blessing as it provides one a rare opportunity to see the area at a slower pace, whether by foot or bike it’s a chance to visit a part of the Santa Ynez River that you may have just driven by. The closure also means there are less people out there.

The hike to Red Rock and back is about 11.5 miles and one can even find some trail for portions of the hike. There are also several picnic sites along the way, however the restrooms remain closed and you will want to bring plenty of water as there are no spigots or drinking fountains at any of the sites.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Ynez River Mountains Santa Barbara Hike Paradise Road Red Rock

Santa Ynez River Bed between Lower Oso and Falls Day Use

To get to the trailhead take State Route 154 to Paradise Road and continue to the First Crossing. You will need an adventure pass which can be purchased from the kiosk at the crossing. Parking at Lower Oso is limited and so it’s easiest to park at the First Crossing Day Use area and start there. The trail starts at the far side of the Lower Oso Day Area just across the river, however there is path along the southern side of the river which saves you having to cross the river.

From the First Crossing Day Use area walk down to the Santa Ynez River and catch the trail on your right and continue upstream. You’ll then see where the trail from Lower Oso crosses, from here continue upstream on the southern side of the river.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Ynez River Santa Barbara Day Hike Red Rock

Coast Live Oak near the Arroyo Burro Trail

The trail through this section is in good shape as it sees a fair amount of usage from horseback riders from nearby Rancho Oso. The trail leads from Lower Oso all the way to the Falls Day Use area and offers some nice views of the Santa Ynez River. One can also of course hike along the road through this section.

There are three trail branches along this trail and each leads up toward Rancho Oso; in all three cases stay to the left and continue upstream. The trail meanders through the broad floodplain of the Santa Ynez River and is dotted with sage brush and lined with cottonwoods and willow.

Santa Ynez Mountains River Red Rock Santa Barbara Hike Los Padres National Forest

View along the Santa Ynez River near the Camuesa Connector Trail

After the third trail juncture, the trail crosses the Santa Ynez River. All the crossings are knee deep or less this time of year. There are actually two channels of the Santa Ynez River here and so the trail continues upstream between these two channels.

At the one mile mark the trail meets the unmarked Arroyo Burro Trail, here you can cross the river and hike up to Paradise Road or continue upstream along the trail. A half mile later the trail crosses the river and arrives at the Falls Day Use area where there are picnic tables and a great swim hole. This picnic site can make for a nice day hike destination of about 3.5 miles round trip.

Santa Ynez River Mountains Los Padres National Forest Red Rock Paradise Road Santa Barbara Hike

Santa Ynez River near the Camuesa Connector Trail

From the Falls Day Use area continue upstream along the road to the second crossing and then be on the lookout for a trail sign on your left about a half mile later. This trail, located across from an old campground, is part of the Camuesa Connector Trail, but now sees less use as people no longer hike from the camp, but instead park at the new trailhead a half mile further down the road.

From the road this trail cuts more or less straight to the river. The trail is indistinct at first, but if you make your way to the river and cross, you can find the trail on the opposite side. The trail continues upstream on the bank above the river and although grassy is easy to follow. A half mile later the trail intersects with the trail form the road. Here you can cross the river and rejoin road.

From here the remainder of hike is along Paradise Road to the Red Rock Trailhead. At about the 4 mile mark the road crosses the river again and arrives at Live Oak Day Use area, which also has picnic tables and some nice swimholes. The road crosses the river several more times and about a mile later arrives at the Red Rock Trailhead.

Red Rock Los Padres National Forest Santa Ynez River Mountains Santa Barbara Hike Paradise Road

Red Rock

From the trailhead it’s another half mile upstream to Red Rock. The water in the pools along the river are still surprisingly clear and none of the crossings are more than knee deep. Regardless of how far you hike you can find places to swim and will get see to some of the beauty of the Santa Ynez River.

This article originally appeared in section A of the Saturday, July 29th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.


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