Posted by: James Wapotich | April 15, 2012

Trail Quest: Camuesa Connector Trail

The Camuesa Connector Trail is one of the lesser known hiking trials along Paradise Road, and while this trail may be better known to mountain bikers, it does make for some great exploring of the area around the Santa Ynez River. The hike along the trail is about 8 miles roundtrip.

True to its name the Camuesa Connector Trail connects Paradise Road to the Buckhorn-Camuesa Road and therein lies the appeal to mountain bikers, as one can make a great loop ride. Mountain bikers typically start at Upper Oso, ride the Buckhorn-Camuesa Road to the connector trail, take the trail down to Paradise Road and then ride back out along Paradise Road to Lower Oso, returning to Upper Oso, about 10 miles roundtrip.

Santa Ynez River Camuesa Connector Trail Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Hike

A view of the Santa Ynez River from the Camuesa Connector Trail

To get to the trailhead from Santa Barbara take State Route 154 over San Marcos Pass to Paradise Road and turn left on to Paradise Road. Continue past the first Santa Ynez River crossing and the Lower Oso Day Use area towards Red Rock, and also past the Falls Day Use area, crossing the Santa Ynez River a second time. From that second river crossing the trailhead is roughly one mile further and on the left.

The trailhead is marked with a sign, but it is still easy to miss. You’ll know if you’ve gone to far as you’ll cross the Santa Ynez River a third time and arrive at the Live Oak Day Use area. Parking for the trailhead is found along the side of the road. An adventure pass is still required to park or camp in this part of the Los Padres National Forest. From the trailhead the trail immediately crosses the Santa Ynez River and often requires getting your feet wet as there are no easy rock hops to be found nearby.

At one time there used to be a campground, just after the second river crossing, along Paradise Road about half mile before where the trailhead is now. And so I imagine that the Camuesa Connector Trail actually connected the campground with the Buckhorn-Camuesa Road and represented an alternate route into the backcountry as there is still an old remnant trail along the river that one can find and follow that connects up with the rest of the trail.

Santa Ynez River Los Padres National Forest Paradise Road Santa Barbara Hike

A view along the Santa Ynez River portion of the trail

To start at this end of the trail look for a pullout on your left about a half mile after the second river crossing, the trail is unmarked, but is fairly distinct at first. The trail heads toward the Santa Ynez River and quickly disappears, however it is relatively easy to refind the trail on the opposite bank and so the trick is to just find a suitable place to cross the river and then start looking for the trail on the other side.

The trail is somewhat faint but traces the edge of a long grassy meadow as it heads east along the river, and a half mile later joins the Camuesa Connector Trail where it crosses the Santa Ynez River.

From here the Camuesa Connector Trail climbs away from the river through oak and chaparral offering some great view of the Santa Ynez River valley. About a half mile later the trail arrives at a sort of overlook offering views of the Live Oak Day Use area and the Matias Connector Trail across the valley.

Scrub Jay Los Padres Nation Forest

Scrub Jay

Here the trail transitions and starts to follow a small canyon, which at first leads through open, grassy hills and then into a more narrow canyon filled with chaparral. It is through this section that the trail takes on a feeling of remoteness. The trail itself is in good shape and has recently been worked by the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers.

At about the 3 mile mark from the trailhead the Camuesa Connector Trail crests the ridge and descends into one last small valley before arriving at the Buckhorn-Camuesa Road. At the road one is treated to some great views of Little Pine Mountain across the way.

Camuesa Connector Trail Los Padres National Forest

Alexander Peak is seen in the background as the Camuesa Connector Trail meets the Buckhorn-Camuesa Road

From here you can extend your hike by continuing east along the Buckhorn-Camuesa Road to the campsite at Hidden Potrero. From this trail juncture Hidden Potrero is about 3 miles round trip and you’ll want to keep an eye out for the motorcycle and OHV traffic that makes use of the road. Hidden Potrero is a small meadow or pasture, potrero being the Spanish word for pasture. The campsite has a picnic table and fire ring and can make for a nice place to stop and rest.

Regardless of how for you go you will get to see some unique views of the Santa Ynez River and get to explore some of our local backcountry.

This article originally appeared in section A of the April 15th, 2012 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Black Tail Deer Los Padres National Forest

Black Tail Deer

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