I don’t ride beyond the turnoff to Happy Hollow too often, not because it isn’t worth it, but because I just love the day loop over Little Pine Mountain and down the Santa Cruz Trail. Often, though, I do make the entire trip across the corridor from Cuyama to Upper Oso, and I rarely fail to spot a group or two on their way up toward Bluff Camp.
Recently, I decided to head up that way myself. I got up a bit earlier than usual and was at the trailhead by 8 a.m. and up at the water tank by 11:30—plenty early to explore further. While it appears the road is heading to a much higher elevation, in actuality for the next ten miles, until you reach Bluff Camp, you are making your way up a long ridge, which leads almost due west from Big Pine Mountain. Surprisingly, Bluff Camp is only 300 feet higher elevation than the Happy Hollow turnoff.
Before you head off, thinking the ride will be a breeze, a quick reality check is in order—this ridge has lots of ups and downs. In fact, from the turnoff you’ll actually drop 250 feet before a series of 300-foot to 500-foot gains—four of them in all—before you finally make it to Bluff. The good news, however, is that the riding is much easier on the way back.
Here’s my suggestion: Ride as far as your legs feel like they will carry you comfortably, leaving yourself about three hours of daylight for the trip back. It’s beautiful country with spectacular views, and more than likely you won’t see too many other people. With the BOB trailing behind you with gear for an overnight or two, you’ll love it up at the camp. If you can carry enough food to stay for two nights, use the layover day for a trip up to Big Pine. It’s a beautiful place to explore.