Forbush Flats is a delightful camp situated right in the middle of of the Santa Ynez Fault. Because of this, shell fossils are exposed in the rock in this area, making it a geologist’s paradise. You’ll find an apple orchard here, the only remnants of Fred Forbush’s pioneer homestead. Gidney Creek leads off to the left, which is interesting to explore. Or you can follow the main trail to the river.
If You Are Car Camping Along the River
One way to combine car camping and day hiking is to allow those who would like it to hike down the Forbush Trail while the designated driver or drivers continue on to your campsite. If your destination is Mono Debris Dam, the hikers can take the main trail down to the river. Just across it, Mono Trail follows the right side of the river for a half-mile then turns right and continues up Mono Creek for slightly more than a mile to the debris dam. If you will be camping at P-Bar Flats or Mid-Santa Ynez Camp, have the hikers follow the trail to Forbush Flats then continue to the right to Cottam Camp and then down to the river. From there a dirt road wanders across the river to P-Bar Flats.
The Forbush Trail (AKA Cold Springs North) offers access to a number of parts of the upper Santa Ynez Valley and day loops, shuttle trips, or overnighters depending on the type of arrangements you make. Originally it was one of the main thoroughfares into the backcountry, leading from Montecito through the upper part of the Santa Ynez drainage, along Mono Creek, and over a window in the San Rafael range known as the Puerto Suelo to Santa Barbara Canyon and the Cuyama Valley. When the Chumash revolted briefly in the 1820s, fleeing to the tule marshes in the lower San Joaquin Valley, this was the route taken by soldiers whose task was to round them up and bring them back.
The first 1.5 miles of the trail leads through chaparral to Forbush Flat, dropping a thousand feet in elevation. The camp is pleasant, well shaded and at the foot of Gidney Creek which often flows year round, though not always. Nearby is a small meadow, complete with an aging apple orchard, courtesy of Fred Forbush, who built a cabin there about 1910.
The camp is situated on top of the Santa Ynez Fault, which cuts directly through it, forming the crease along which Gidney Creek flows. Due to the uplifting which has occurred here, numerous layers of bedrock rich in fossil life are exposed here, making this an amateur geologist’s paradise. A wonderful afternoon can be spent here, either meandering down the creek checking out the exposed layers of bedrock or continuing down the trail toward the Santa Ynez River.
A trail intersection lies just north of the meadow. The main trail continues north, up over a 50’ high ridge and then down another 1000’ in elevation loss over 1.5 miles to the Santa Ynez River. Along the way are more fossils and a pool or two for refreshment.
The right trail leads 2 miles east down through the Santa Ynez Fault and rugged chaparral to Cottam Camp which is located at the bottom end of Blue Canyon. Following this trail downstream from Cottam Camp also leads to the Santa Ynez River. A long but extremely rewarding day hike can be made by staying on the left side of the river and continuing downstream for a mile to the Cold Springs Trail and then back up it to Forbush Flats and eventually your car on East Camino Cielo.