A delightful ride, with excellent views both of the city and Channel Islands, a tour of some of the Riviera’s most beautiful homes and scenery, as well as a taste of Montecito’s finest mansions. The ride finishes with an almost level ride across Mountain Drive and a stop at Francheschi Park, where a variety of botanical species is on display.
Trip mileage begins at the Old Mission
0.0 Santa Barbara Mission. Turn right on APS and follow it gradually uphill for a half mile. Beyond the Moreno Avenue intersection the road levels, then drops downhill for a mile to the Five Points intersection.
2.4 Five Points intersection. Continue through it and veer up to the left (a “Scenic Drive” sign points the way). After a half mile of somewhat steep uphill APS curves left and levels out.
3.1 Barker Pass Road. Veer to the right. APS now becomes Eucalyptus Hill Road.
3.2 Eucalyptus Hill Road. Several hundred yards after Barker Pass, Eucalyptus Hill turns to the left. 3.8 Continue uphill for a half mile to views out over the Montecito and Carpinteria coastline.
4.1 Highway 192. Turn left and in 50 yards, turn right onto Cold Springs Road. The faded pink wall on the right side of Cold Springs marks the beginning of Madame Ganawalski’s estate.
4.7 Westmont College. Cold Springs Road curves to the right. You can add a nice touch to your ride by looping through the college. This adds a mile to your ride.
5.2 Mountain Drive. The Cold Springs Trailhead is a half mile to the right and makes a wonderful spot for a few minutes of rest or a picnic.
5.7 Cold Springs Trail. You can enjoy the beauty of this alder-filled creek right from the roadside, or if you have a lock, take a short hike up the canyon.
6.2 Cold Springs Road. You can either return via the same route or continue along Mountain Drive to the Mission. The next 3.9 miles across the lower slopes of the Santa Ynez Mountains are some of the prettiest to be found anywhere in the Santa Barbara area.
10.3 Las Canoas and Gibraltar Road intersection. Turn left and continue down Mountain Drive to Sheffield Reservoir.
10.7 At the intersection continue straight ahead on Hillcrest and follow this to Francheschi Road.
12.0 Francheschi Road. Turn right. Follow this delightful, twisting road to Francheschi Park for final view out over the city before returning back to your car.
12.5 Franceschi Park 12.6 Mission Ridge. Turn right and coast down this winding, scenic road past Marymount School to Mission Canyon.
14.0 Santa Barbara Mission
You can get a flavor of this part of the Riviera, a bit of western Montecito, and the rugged Santa Ynez Mountains on this ride. Along the way you’ll coast down APS curves once negotiated by electric streetcars, pass by Arcady, the estate built by George Owen Knapp, and if you chose to, take a bike tour through the Westmont campus. Above this is Cold Springs Canyon, another of Santa Barbara’s beautiful mountain retreats, where you can take a dip in the water right at the road’s edge and for a last treat, you’ll have nearly four miles of almost level riding across Mountain Drive.
The ride begins with a climb up APS past what was the Normal School and the El Encanto Hotel to one of Santa Barbara’s smallest and little known parks—Orpet Park. A level stretch leads past Brooks Institute, where you can enjoy fine displays of local photography should you choose to do so. From here it is a long coast down the old streecar right of way to the Five Points intersection.
Here the tough part of the ride begins, a half mile of steady pedalling up the eastern part of APS. Though a bit of a chore, this brings you up onto Eucalyptus Hill, where you’ll enter another of Santa Barbara’s beauteous places—a mixture of tall, graceful eucalyptus trees and oak forests, as well as stately homes and turn of the century mansions. At the top of APS the route curves left past Barker Pass Road, then makes a sharp left near at the Alston Road intersection.
Another uphill awaits you, but near the top of Eucalyptus Hill a long stone wall provides one of the best views of the Carpinteria coastline and a wonderful place to rest. From here you’ll enter the world of Montecito’s most glamorous estates. To the south, across the canyon, you can spot a large circurlar structure that looks somewhat like a lighthouse. This marks the site of Graholm, a 29 acre estate owned by David Gray, one of Santa Barbara’s greatest benefactors. Just above this is the entrance to Arcady, a bit of heaven on earth owned by George Owen Knapp. From there a downhill coast to Sycamore Canyon Road, where you will find yourself just opposite the estate of Madame Ganna Walska, an eccentric millionairess who not only outlived numerous wealthy husbands, but oversaw the creation of one of the finest botanical preserves to be found anywhere in the world.
A short jog to the left brings you to Cold Springs Road, pathway to many more of Montecito’s largest mansions, as well as Westmont College. Glimpses of these mansions provide a pleasant diversion on the uphill ride to Mountain Drive, where you’ll find Cold Springs Canyon, a bit less than a half mile to the east. If you have locks for your bikes, I heartily recommend a short hike up the canyon. The emerald green pools are cool and inviting and oak forests and canyon vegetation provide a well deserved way to get off your bike for a few minutes.
To the west is one of the finest stretches of riding found here—a little more than 3 miles of cruising across Mountain Drive. At 800 feet in elevation the views are inspiring. A short, quick downhill ride brings you to Sheffield Reservoir, where you can turn right and continue coasting down Mountain Drive back to the Mission.
My preference, however, is to cross through the intersection and follow Hillcrest Drive to Francheschi Road, and from there meander over the top of this quaint and picturesque roadway down to Francheschi Park to savor both the view and feelings inspired by the ride. From here it is all downhill back to the Mission.