Posted by: James Wapotich | April 20, 2015

Trail Quest: Alejandro Trail

Alejandro Canyon is one of a number of small canyons that connect to La Brea Creek in the mountainous area between the Sierra Madre Mountains and Sisquoc River. The trail through the canyon leads to Alejandro Camp, and although the trail is somewhat overgrown, it can make for an interesting day hike.

The hike to Alejandro Camp is about 5.5 miles roundtrip. A loop hike can be made from the camp, by continuing along the trail to Weber Trail, and returning along La Brea Canyon and Colson Canyon Roads to the trailhead. The loop hike is about 8.5 miles roundtrip.

To get to the trailhead from Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 north towards Los Alamos. There are several routes that connect from Highway 101 over to Foxen Canyon Road to reach Tepusquet Road. The shortest, in terms of drive time, is Palmer Canyon Road, which starts north of Los Alamos.

Alejandro Canyon Trail creek camp hike los padres national forest

Alejandro Canyon

Palmer Canyon Road leads over Solomon Hills to the small town of Sisquoc, where it meets Foxen Canyon Road. From there, continue east on Foxen Canyon Road to Tepusquet Road and turn left. Tepusquet Road crosses Sisquoc River and continues north through Tepusquet Canyon, traveling through scenic ranch country.

From Tepusquet Road, look for Colson Canyon Road on the left. The road is unpaved and continues up Colson Canyon. About four miles in, the road arrives at the unmarked turnoff for Colson Campground. The campground has two sites, each with a picnic table and metal fire ring.

Alejandro Trail is about a half mile farther along Colson Canyon Road, and so one option is to walk from the campground. Colson Canyon Road continues its gradual climb up Colson Canyon, arriving at the saddle overlooking Rattlesnake Canyon. From here, Colson Canyon Road continues down towards North Fork La Brea Creek. Just past the saddle, the road is closed to vehicles at a forest service gate. The road has been closed since the 2009 La Brea Fire due fire and flood damage.

Alejandro Canyon Trail map hike Colson Barrel Spring La Brea Creek Weber Los Padres National Forest

Map courtesy Maps.com

At the saddle is the beginning of Alejandro Trail, and across from it is the gated turnoff to Colson Quarry. Parking for Alejandro Trail can be found at the saddle.

From the trailhead, Alejandro Trail climbs up the ridge line that separates Colson and Rattlesnake Canyons. The trail is in good shape and leads through a mix of oak woodland and chaparral. The trail at times is overgrown, and offers views out across both canyons, as well as North Fork La Brea Creek.

The trail then arrives at the ridge that separates Colson and Alejandro Canyons. Here, the trail turns left and continues briefly along the ridge line looking more like a fuel break through the chaparral. The trail arrives at the high point that separates all three canyons.

Colson Alejandro Canyon La Brea creek trail madrone Los Padres National Forest hike trail

Flowering Madrone

From this vantage, the view across Rattlesnake Canyon includes Colson Quarry. The quarry site, which provides flagstone, was established by Henry Antolini. His father, Giovanni Antolini, was a stone mason, who’s work can be seen on the stone arch facing Anacapa Street at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

Past this vantage, Alejandro Trail continues south along the ridge line between Rattlesnake and Alejandro Canyons, before arriving at the top of a small, side canyon that leads down to Alejandro Creek. The trail down to the creek, is a little overgrown, but still followable.

At Alejandro Creek, the trail continues downstream through the canyon. Alejandro Canyon is surprisingly lush, particularly this time of year. The creek is currently flowing intermittently and several small pools along the creek can be found. At one of these pools is a healthy looking madrone tree, an unusual find, as most madrone trees in our area grow on the backside of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Hummingbird Sage Alejandro Canyon colson los Padres National Forest hike trail

Hummingbird Sage

As the trail continues downstream, the canyon starts to widen and, at about the 2.75-mile mark, arrives at the edge of a large meadow.

Alejandro Camp is located at the far end of the meadow under several oak trees. The camp is surrounded by a barb wire fence to keep out wandering cattle, and essentially looks like a corral. There are two sites at the camp, each with a picnic table and fire ring. The camp is named after Alejandro Ontiveros, who used the site as a hunting camp.

Just past the camp, Alejandro Trail begins to move away from the creek and becomes less distinct. The direction of the trail is marked with a brown carsonite signed tied to an oak tree. The trail continues briefly above the creek, passing through another small meadow, before essentially turning 90 degrees and climbing up towards the ridge line that serparates Alejandro Canyon and North Fork La Brea Creek.

Alejandro Trail canyon creek camp los padres national forest hike

Alejandro Trail

About two-thirds of the way up, a large oak tree has fallen along the length of the trail, effectively obscuring it. To add to the confusion, to the right of the downfall is an enticing cattle trail that leads in the wrong direction up to the ridge. By maneuvering around the oak tree, the overgrown trail can be refound as it continues towards the left, and actually starts to head back up Alejandro Canyon before tying into the ridge, where trail conditions start to improve.

At the ridge, Alejandro Trail arrives at a small oak savannah and offers views out towards the Sierra Madres Mountains.

From here, the trail descends down from the ridge and joins a road cut. The unpaved, overgrown road eventually leads to a private ranch, however, just a short way along the road, on the left, is the beginning of Weber Trail. The trail is marked with a brown carsonite sign and descends down towards North Fork La Brea Creek and La Brea Canyon Road.

Alejandro Camp hike trail los padres national forest camp

The meadow near Alejandro Camp

Weber Trail is in generally good shape and leads through interior live oak woodland before transitioning into coast live oak woodland and chaparral. The trail then descends down a series of switchbacks to the canyon floor and arrives at La Brea Canyon Road.

From here, it’s about four miles back to the trailhead along the road. A short side trip can made a half-mile downstream along the road to Barrel Springs Campground.

Prior to the road closure, the campground could be reached with a high-clearance vehicle, and it’s interesting now to walk the road knowing that it’s been closed for the past five years. Much of the road has wild grasses growing on it, and at times is almost invisible.

Barrel Springs Campground has six sites, each with a picnic table and metal fire ring. The campground is shaded by coast live oak and non-native pines, and takes it’s name from the large barrel that used be at the spring to collect water.

For the hike back to the trailhead, continue upstream along La Brea Canyon Road. The road is indistinct at times, but does follow the creek. Where the road meets Rattlesnake Canyon, the route can become confusing. There are several compelling cattle trails that lead up Rattlesnake Canyon, however, the road actually crosses North Fork La Brea Creek here. Because of flood damage from the 2011 winter storms and the plants growing in and along the creek, the crossing is not apparent, and so one has to just make their way across the creek on faith and locate the road on the other side.

The road then continues to the intersection with Colson Canyon Road. Here, the roads are well-marked with road signs. Colson Canyon Road climbs away from the creek and eventually makes its way up Rattlesnake Canyon. The road is in good shape all the way back to the trailhead.

Regardless of how far you go you’ll get see a rarely visited corner of Los Padres National Forest.

This article originally appeared in section A of the April 6th, 2015 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press. Thanks again to Maps.com for producing maps for the articles.

Weber Trail Alejandro Los Padres National Forest hiking backpacking Colson La Brea

Wildflowers are seen along Alejandro Trail


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