The trail leads through the Oso Narrows, a beautiful sandstone canyon formed of Matilija Sandstone, then connects with the Santa Cruz Trail. Nineteen Oaks is a little more than a mile along this trail, which is a bit more open, leading through serpentine formations to the base of Little Pine Mountain. The camp is situated on a grassy knoll filled with large oaks and provides a nice picnic area as well as overnight camp.
Plan on meeting mountain bikers coming down the trail from the trop of Little Pine Mountain. The Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area ends shortly after you leave the dirt road and start up the single track trail. Hunting is allowed outside the recreation area and last year an off-leash dog was killed by a hunter on this trail.
Ah, Nineteen Oaks. Such a pretty place. Oso Canyon narrows as it passes through a thick-bedded layer of Matilija Sandstone, then in the upper canyon opens to a blue-green valley caused by the serpentine, cinnabar, and other minerals which have been exposed along the Little Pine Fault. The meadows are plentiful and in the springtime, intense green grasses dominate the landscape, along with owl’s clover, poppies, cream cups, lupine, and other wildflowers.
A dirt road, known as the Buckhorn Road, leads from Upper Oso to the high country and is the easiest way to get to the start of the Santa Cruz Trail. But this is a well traveled ORV route. A nicer way to get there is by a little known trail leading directly up the canyon from the horse corrals on the west side of the creek. Though you will still hear the sound of an occasional motorcycle, at least you won’t have to worry about running into one of them.
From the upper end of the campground look for the road that crosses Oso Creek. The trail—which is three-fourths mile long—is just beyond the corrals. Immediately you are in the Oso Narrows. Sandstone walls rise up on either side and the creek zigzags back and forth through lush vegetation, with the trail crossing and re-crossing the creek numerous times before intersecting with the Santa Cruz Trail.
From this point the trail is almost level, following the right side of the creek for a mile to Nineteen Oaks. The camp is up and to the right on a bench overlooking the canyon and has several tables for picnics.
If you’d like to continue on into the upper end of Oso Canyon, look for a trail that leads through the camp to the northeast. It leads to an abandoned road known as the “Old Mine Road.” Above the camp the trail gains several hundred feet. Serpentine has colored this country; the soil is blue, as are the rocks.
A quarter mile from the camp (just after a steep hill) you come to the road. Turning left will take you to a spot which was once mined for quicksilver. You won’t find any mining equipment, but you can spot the location from the tailings. From here the creek is open enough you can continue walking up it, if you enjoy this type of exploration.
Turning right will lead you up to the Buckhorn Road. A half mile down this road will bring you to the upper end of the Camuesa Connector Trail. With a shuttle already set up, continue down the Camuesa trail to Paradise Road. You will end up between Santa Ynez camp and Live Oak picnic area.