Blue Canyon provides excellent single-track riding as well as a beautiful small canyon. There are several campgrounds if you would like to make an overnight ride, as well as a number of loop possibilities, either via Mono Debris Dam or just along the Pendola Road.
1. Follow Gibraltar Road 6.5 miles to East Camino Cielo, then turn right.
2. After 5.8 miles of pavement, the road turns to dirt just beyond Romero Saddle.
3. Continue 3.8 miles on this rather rough dirt road to the trailhead (marked by a sign) at a prominent saddle which marks the beginning of Blue Canyon.
Mileage Log From the Top of Gibraltar Road
0.0 Intersection of Camino Cielo and Gibraltar roads
3.0 Cold Springs/Forbush Flats trailheads
3.2 San Ysidro trailhead
5.8 Romero Saddle
7.0 Start of the Divide Peak ORV trailhead
7.6 Escondido Creek
9.0 Blue Canyon trailhead
10.4 Juncal Camp
13.4 Agua Caliente Canyon/Pendola Ranger Station
13.5 Mid-Santa Ynez Camp
14.1 P-Bar Flats Camp
14.7 Access road to Santa Ynez River
17.0 Mono Camp/Debris Dam
18.0 Mono Creek Road/Little Caliente Hot Springs
19.2 Indian Creek trailhead
19.3 Locked Gate/Beginning of the Camuesa Road
Expectations for Riding the Santa Barbara Area Trails
Country trails are multi-use trails and as such are used by several thousand users each week. If you are riding downhill on these trails, expect to encounter them on your way. Your cooperation will help make everyone's experience a safe and pleasant one.
Ten things every mountain biker who rides the front country trails is expected to do:
Have a bike bell so other trail users know you are approaching.
Keep your speed down; practice riding techniques that minimize impacts.
Good braking means never having to skid. Do not lock up your brakes.
Approach switchbacks with caution and brake well before you reach them.
Stay on the designated tread. The front country trails are multi-use, not a race course.
Ride with other trail users in mind and enhance rather than interfere with their enjoyment.
Always assume there is another trail user around each corner.
Yield the right-of-way to uphill trail users. Stop and dismount if necessary to allow them to pass.
When approaching equestrians, dismount and ask them what they want you to do.
Be courteous. Smile and say something friendly to everyone you encounter.
Blue Canyon, named for the bluish-green serpentine formations exposed along its entire length, can be used either for day-loop rides or as part of an overnight trip beginning from Santa Barbara via Romero Road.
The route parallels a small stream for 5.5 miles, combining canyon vegetation and oak woodland before finally opening into the large meadow in which Cottam Campground is situated. The trail crosses the creek several times and in some places the scrub oak is overgrown, but the single-tracking is enjoyable for the most part, especially the upper half, which is a trials riding paradise.
Both Upper Blue Canyon Campground (at 1.5 miles) and Blue Canyon Campground (at 4.2 miles) are small but serviceable, while Cottam Campground is under the shelter of several large oaks at the edge of several acres of meadow. Below Cottam, the trail is a bit hard to find. Look for it across the creek forty yards upstream from camp. It is 0.7 miles to the Santa Ynez River, mostly in the riverbed, which means that when the creek floods it may be washed out or hard to ride. But it isn’t too far down to the river, and the going gets easier from there.
As the canyon begins to open, look for a dirt road crossing the creek. At one time you could follow this road downstream and make it to the Forbush Trail, but no longer. Floods in 1995 washed out the road, and willows have recaptured much of the canyon, making it very difficult to make it to the Forbush Trail.
To reach P-Bar Flats, turn to the right. This will take you across the Santa Ynez River to Pendola Road. From there it is just a few hundred yards to P-Bar Flats. Not too far beyond this campground you will come to another camp—Mid-Santa Ynez—and shortly afterward you’ll reach Pendola Ranger Station, which is rarely staffed anymore.
If you have time, take a detour up to Caliente Hot Springs. It is three miles, but the ride is almost level from Pendola Station up Agua Caliente Canyon to the hot springs, and the soak in the hot tub will be worth the effort.
On your return trip, once you reach the Caliente intersection a long flat straightaway leads to a short hill climb and a nice downhill run to Juncal Campground. This campground is closed now because of the presence of a threatened species—the arroyo toad. All that remains from here is the mile-long climb to Blue Canyon Pass and your car.