CLOSED: Sunset Valley Road from Cachuma Saddle to NIRA, both NIRA and Davy Brown Campgrounds and the Old Catway OHV road / trail will be closed from July 30, 2021 through March 30, 2022
The Forest Service has been working with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and other partner groups to schedule the construction of two bridges which would replace the existing ‘Arizona crossings’ along Sunset Valley Road. When completed, the bridges will help assist aquatic organism passage within the Santa Maria, Sisquoc, Manzana and Davy Brown drainages. Sunset Valley Road is located in Santa Barbara County behind Figueroa Mountain and is most commonly used to access NIRA and the Manzana Trailheads. This bridge project has been in the works since at least 2017, with construction being delayed a few times due to COVID, etc…
In order to construct the bridges, the Forest Service will need to close both Sunset Valley Road and the Catway OHV (Old Catway) to all traffic including vehicles, bikes and hikers and as a result of the closure, both Davy Brown and NIRA Campgrounds will be closed.
While the initial reaction after hearing about this closure has been overwhelmingly negative, the long-term effects from the closure will be very positive. Obviously the bridges will greatly benefit fish passage along the Davy Brown, in addition the bridges will improve year-round access to NIRA and as an added bonus the Forest Service will be repaving Sunset Valley Road during the construction as well. This repaving might be worth it all by itself as that road has won the distinguished honor as the “worst road in the Los Padres” over the past couple years due to car-eating potholes.
NIRA is closed? Now what…..???
NIRA and the Lower Manzana is the main gateway to the San Rafael Wilderness and by far the busiest backcountry trailhead in Santa Barbara County, if not the entire Los Padres National Forest. There is no doubt that this 8 month closure is going to impact a lot of backpackers, hikers, equestrians and hunters who rely on NIRA and the Manzana for their backcountry access as well as Davy Brown and NIRA Campgrounds for somewhat easy and remote car-camping.
Forest-users tend to have favorite trails and camps that they revisit frequently and while that is terrific, this might be a good excuse to find a new favorite spot or search out that peak, camp or trail you’ve always wanted to visit. There are certainly plenty of other backcountry trailheads, trails and campgrounds worth exploring. We’re very fortunate in the Los Padres to have miles and miles of backcountry trails for all fitness and experience levels and quite a few other remote campgrounds worthy of loading up the larger tents and coolers.
If you have any questions about what other spots to check out, WE’D BE HAPPY TO HELP: check out HikeLosPadres or email us at INFO@LPForest.org and we can suggest a variety of trails and camps based on the time of year, what you are hoping to find and of course any of the current forest restrictions or closures.
And for those willing to hike the extra mile and push through some extra brush, just think how uncrowded the Narrows and Horseshoe Bend will be this year……