“Come to the land of booming creeks, deep swimming holes, high mountain pine forests, crystal clear” – Dennis Gagnon describing the Santa Cruz, 1981
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 20 single-track miles from just above Upper Oso Campground to the pine studded splendor of Mission Pine Basin. What an incredible trail! Santa Cruz is one of the most popular trails 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, Kellogg 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 from 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 off Paradise Rd fell across a power line. The downed power line landed in a grassy field which ignited and thus began 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 just over 7 miles of trail along the Santa Cruz Trail network were damaged when including the 19 Oaks and Happy Hollow (Little Pine) spur trails.
The LPFA has been working since the Rey Fire to restore the Santa Cruz Trail. To date we’ve reopened the trail from Upper Oso to 19 Oaks Camp and up another mile to a white rock area known affectionately as the ‘Cliffs of Insanity’. We’ve also been working from Alexander Saddle down towards Upper Oso and simultaneously back towards Little Pine Spring while also working up from Santa Cruz Station towards the infamous 40-Mile Wall. In addition we’ve partnered with some local scouts an the Forest Service to replace fire damaged signage and restore the camping area at 19 Oaks. Thanks to some very generous public donations and grant acquisitions, we’ve already reopened nearly 4 miles along the Santa Cruz with plans to restore the remaining 15 miles with the help and support of the Forest Service and some partner organizations.
Most of the trail work along the Santa Cruz is scheduled for the 2021 – 2022 trail season utilizing a variety of volunteer projects and professional trail crews. If you’d like to help support this effort, please sign up for an upcoming trail project (when COVID allows) or donate financially to the effort. We’ll keep everyone posted with upcoming project dates and trail accomplishments.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
- Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara Ranger District
- REI Santa Barbara
- Sierra Club, Los Padres Chapter
- National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
- Draughtsmen Aleworks
- Sage Trail Alliance
- Boy Scouts of America & Girl Scouts of the USA
- and all our volunteers, donors & trail users that make this all possible….
DID YOU KNOW: The Santa Cruz Trail is one of only two designated National Recreation Trails (NRT) in the Los Padres Forest.