Santa Cruz Trail Restoration

Oso Canyon & Santa Cruz Trail, Rey Fire, August 20, 2016

If you’ve spent any time exploring the Santa Barbara Backcountry then no doubt your path has taken you along the Santa Cruz Trail, which extends from Upper Oso Campground to Mission Pine Spring.  Santa Cruz is the most popular trail in the SB Backcountry and was used daily by dozens of hikers, mountain bikers, backpackers, equestrians, peak baggers, bird watchers, trail runners and hunters.  Santa Cruz Trail is the main backcountry entrance for the southern San Rafael Wilderness and passes many famous camps including Santa Cruz Station, Mission Pine Basin, Little Pine Spring, Flores Flat and 19 Oaks.  While backpacking and camping are popular along the Santa Cruz Trail, the majority of trail users are either day-hikers seeking the grand views atop Little Pine Mtn or mountain bikers enjoying the epic Little Pine Loop ride.  Santa Cruz Trail was one of the best, until……

On Thursday August 18, 2016 an oak tree near White Rock Day Use Area in the Lower Santa Ynez River Recreation Area off Paradise Rd fell across a power line.  The downed power line landed in a grassy field which ignited and became known as the Rey Fire.  The Rey Fire would burn for the next couple of weeks eventually destroying 32,606 acres across mostly Los Padres Forest land.  Included in the destruction was 5.6 miles of the Santa Cruz Trail between Upper Oso and Little Pine Spring.  A total of 7 miles of trails along the Santa Cruz Trail were damaged when you include the 19 Oaks and Happy Hollow (Little Pine) spur trails.

Santa Cruz Trail Cribwall Section

Sadly we lose trails each year to wildfire damage, many of them can be somewhat quickly reopened and restored with the help of volunteer trail crews.  What’s unique about the Santa Cruz Trail is that it contains sections of engineered cribwall and trail support that are beyond the skills of volunteers to restore.  Due to these unique cribwalls the cost for restoring the Santa Cruz Trail is quite large and will most likely require the help of a structural engineer or advanced trail builders.  The LPFA has been working with the Forest Service to design a plan to restore the Santa Cruz Trail and we’ve organized fundraising efforts to help the process of getting the Santa Cruz Trail back on the maps.

Closup of Destroyed Cribwall


To date the LPFA has raised close to $20,000 towards the restoration of the Santa Cruz Trail.  These funds have come from REI, Sierra Club and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants as well as hosted fundraising events at the Balboa Building and Draughtsmen Aleworks.  In addition we are collecting private donations that will be put towards the work on the Santa Cruz Trail.  If you are interested in helping either through donations or by volunteering along the trail, contact us at  Together we can bring the Santa Cruz Trail back to life!



• We have led multiple volunteer projects along the Santa Cruz Trail and have restored the trail up to 19 Oaks Camp.

• We’ve partnered with a local scout troop and have rebuilt the main campsite and toilet at 19 Oaks Camp.

• We will be continuing work above 19 Oaks along the Santa Cruz Trail up to “Dead Dog Meadow” in winter 2017-18.  This work will be performed by a combination of IMBA trail crews and LPFA volunteers.

• More information is available at



DID YOU KNOW: The Santa Cruz Trail is one of only two designated National Recreation Trails (NRT) in the Los Padres Forest.

The beautiful Santa Cruz Trail, Pre-Rey Fire. Help us return it to its glory…..