Los Padres National Forest – Santa Barbara, CA
Distance: 6.5 miles
Traveled: Red Rock Trailhead to Gibraltar Dam – Loop
For the past 2 years I have been wanting to do this hike. I tried to go back there in the beginning June, but Paradise Road was closed and we were stopped by firefighters that were still putting out hot spots from the White Fire. So, this morning I took advantage of the mild and beautiful January weather and headed up there.
I chose to do the trail as a loop – I started on the high fire road that begins at the end of Paradise Road at the Red Rock. I, personally, don’t totally enjoy hiking on fire roads, but the views were pretty great. The variation in the rock color in the mountains in this area is beautiful – greens, yellows, reds, and white. And judging by the areas mining history, it’s definitely a mineral-rich area.
At about 2 miles the road turns a corner, and views open up toward Gibraltar Dam, from there the trail heads downhill to the river and it intersects with the river trail. I continued straight back up to the reservoir – admittedly I wasn’t incredibly impressed. Dams tend to leave me a little bummed out – I just don’t dig artificial bodies of water that destroy so much.
I headed back down the road to loop around and follow the river trail along the Santa Ynez river for the rest of the way back to the trailhead.
There is so little water down there – it is quite worrisome. There was no moving water on the Santa Ynez, and almost every pool was dry. We need rain terribly!
The trail wanders back and forth over the river – and I actually didn’t find it too easy to follow at some points. I can imagine that if there actually was flowing water the trail would be really difficult to lose.
I passed about 6 different swimming holes along the 3 miles that still had stagnant water, and looking at the usual water line, these spots must be awesome when there is actual water back there.
Overall, it was a beautiful hike – and I’m still surprised it took me so long to finally walk this trail.