Posted by: James Wapotich | December 21, 2015

Trail Quest: Franklin Trail, Phase II

Earlier this year a new section of trail in Carpinteria became open to the public. The trail is the second section of Franklin Trail and is part of an ongoing community effort to reopen this historic trail. Once completed the trail will lead from Carpinteria, over the mountains, to Jameson Lake and the upper Santa Ynez River.

The trail has been closed since the 1970s but is starting to be reopened. In 2013, the first 2.25-mile section of trail opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony that celebrated what was truly a community achievement. Meanwhile, work continued to reopen the remaining two sections that lead to the top of the mountains.

This spring, Phase II was completed, which adds three more miles of open trail and starts to give one a sense of just how long the trail will be once it’s fully open. No longer a mere stroll through the woods, the hike from the trailhead to the end of the second section is about 10.5 miles roundtrip and offers some great views of both the coast and the mountains. The trail is open to hikers, mountain bikes, and equestrians.

Franklin Trail Carpinteria hike backpacking Los Padres National Forest

A view along the coast is seen from Franklin Trail

To get to the trailhead from Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 south to Carpinteria and exit at Linden Avenue. Follow Linden Avenue north towards the mountains and turn left onto Malibu Drive. From Malibu Drive, turn right onto Sterling Avenue and continue to Franklin Park.

From the park, follow the bike path across Franklin Creek and continue upstream along the bike path to Foothill Road. The trail crosses the road, and continues west towards Carpinteria High School. Parking is also permitted at the high school on the weekends, provided there are no school related event happening there.

From the trail kiosk at the high school, the trail continues around the western edge of the campus and travels along the top of the flood control berm installed by the Army Corp of Engineers. The trail is fenced on the school side of the trail. The trail then follows the easement through Persoon Ranch, crossing a bridge and continuing through an avocado orchard, where the trail is fenced on both sides.

Franklin Trail map Santa Barbara Carpinteria hike

Map courtesy Maps.com

At about the one-mile mark, the trail enters Horton Ranch, where the trail opens up. The trail passes through chaparral and climbs a series of switchbacks that immediately deliver views out across Carpinteria and towards the Channel Islands.

About about the two-mile mark, the trail arrives at an Edison access road and levels out some what. Nearby, is the turnoff to Frank’s Bench, which provides a shady rest stop. From here, it’s another quarter-mile along the access road to the beginning of Phase II, which is marked with a small trail kiosk that includes a map of the route showing the mileage. This same map can be found here on Friends of Franklin Trail website.

This second section of trail follows the easement through Rancho Monte Alegre to the beginning of forest service land. Please respect private property.

From the map kiosk, Franklin Trail continues along the access road, which offers views to the east out across Franklin Canyon. The trail traces the contour of the canyon before arriving at the ridge line that separates the Franklin Creek drainage from that of Sutton Creek and it’s from this ridge that one gets their first views of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Franklin Trail Sutton Canyon hiking backpacking Los Padres National Forest Carpinteria

The Santa Ynez Mountains frame a view of Sutton Canyon

From here, the trail continues its climb along the ridge, passing a second bench, before descending down towards a tributary of Sutton Creek, where one can find coast live oak bordered by the chaparral. The trail then climbs away from the creek, rounding another corner and dropping down toward Sutton Creek. In fact, the trail provides a surprising amount of up and down for a trail supposedly making its way to the top of the mountains.

At Sutton Creek, the trail passes through even more oak woodland, before then climbing from the canyon. And it’s through here that it can start to sink in what a gift this trail is to the community, to be able to hike this far into the mountains behind Carpinteria and one day continue over to the other side.

At about the 4.5-mile mark, the trail levels out and arrives at a collection of power line poles and towers. From this large open area one is treated to some exceptional views of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

From here, the trail follows the ridge between Sutton Creek and Carpinteria Creek, and three-quarters of a mile later arrives at the beginning of the third section of trail and National Forest land.

This third section remains closed for safety as it still needs to be cleared and, in places, rebuilt. Nevertheless, it is exciting to stand there knowing that it will become open at some point in the future.

Franklin Trail Carpinteria Los Padres National Forest

Coast Live Oak are seen along Franklin Trail

Once open, the trail will follow the ridge line to the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains, where it meets Divide Peak OHV Road. From there, Franklin Trail continues down the backside of the mountains through Alder Creek towards Jameson Lake. This last part of the trail is already open, and so all that is needed to reopen the full route is the completion of the Phase III section.

Franklin Trail was built in 1913 by the Forest Service to provide recreational access to the backcountry. Originally called Carpinteria-Juncal Trail, the trail lead from Carpinteria to the backside of the mountains and Juncal Canyon, where Jameson Lake is now.

Even before the trail was built, Franklin Canyon was a popular destination. The Franklin Family regularly hosted picnics, camp outs, and community events on their property, which is how the trail also became known as Franklin Trail.

During the late 1930s, the Franklin Family reluctantly closed access to their property after a fire broke out that was attributed to picnickers. Following the closure, people began using the nearby Edison access road to bypass the Franklin property and tie into the trail above Franklin Canyon.

Following the second World War, Carpinteria saw the beginning of what would become its burgeoning avocado industry. By the mid-1970s, access to the trail was closed by landowners over concerns of avocado root rot being spread through their orchards by trail users.

Franklin Trail Carpinteria hiking backpacking Los Padres National Forest

The Santa Ynez Mountains are seen from Franklin Trail

In the mid-2000s, the County’s Riding and Hiking Trails Advisory Committee (CRAHTAC), along with The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and Montecito Trails Foundation, began working with landowners to establish easements to reopen the trail.

In 2011, Friends of Franklin Trail formed to raise the funds needed to build the trail and meet the permitting requirements. Through the group’s leadership the community raised more than $500,000 for the project.

In 2013, one hundred years after the trail was originally built, the first section of the trail was reopened to the public, while work continued to reopen the second section.

In the past year, volunteers working with Santa Barbara Trails Council, and led by long time trails advocate Ray Ford, cut a preliminary line, or p-line, that follows the original tread and marks the route through the third section.

What’s needed to now are the funds to clear and rebuild this last section of trail, as well as pay for the environmental review associated with reestablishing the trail through the National Forest. The 2.7 mile section of trail has not see any maintenance in more than 40 years.

Santa Barbara Trails Council has started a fundraising campaign to raise the $110,000 necessary to complete the work. Earlier this month, Santa Barbara Sierra Club offered a challenge grant that helped raise $10,000, bringing the total raised so far to around $38,000.

To make a donation to help support reopening this third and final section of Franklin Trail go to http://www.sbtrails.org.

This article originally appeared section A of the the December 20th, 2015 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.


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