Paradise Road is as its name implies, a place of ultimate beauty, this despite the number of people who use it, especially on the weekends. The road winds along the Santa Ynez River canyon for 5 miles to the first river crossing at Lower Oso, with gradual ups and downs along the way. At this point the character of the road changes, leading you back into a narrow canyon filled with deep swimming holes and picnic areas. The pavement ends in another 5 miles, a half mile from Red Rock, the most famous of the back country’s many bathing pools. From there the mountain biking begins.
Trip mileage begins at the top of San Marcos Pass
0.0 White Rock Picnic Area
1.0 Santa Barbara Ranger District—Obtain forest info here
2.0 Lower Oso—Immediately after 1st river crossing
3.0 The Falls Picnic Area—Just before 2nd river crossing
3.2 Santa Ynez Camp—Just beyond 2nd river crossing
3.5 Camuesa Connector Trailhead—On the left
4.0 Matias Potrero Trailhead—On the right
4.5 Live Oak Picnic Area—Just after 3rd river crossing
7.0 Red Rock—End of paved road
14.0 White Rock Picnic Area
What is Paradise? For me it is to be found in the simple pleasure of a ride in the out back. I am constantly amazed at how quickly I can get there; it is less than a half hour from downtown to my first revolution of the pedals on Paradise Road. I like it best in the winter months, when the water is high and the road is closed to cars beyond the first river crossing. If I’ve got an inner tube I’m out on the river enjoying the few weeks when it’s possible to float down the Santa Ynez; otherwise I’m walking my bike across the river and savoring the knowledge that there will be no cars over there.
From Paradise Store to the Red Rock parking area, it is 10 miles. Along the way there are a lot of turnouts that you can park in before you start riding, so it’s easy to choose a reasonable length for your ride. If you haven’t ridden much lately you might try the Lower Oso parking area, just beyond the first river crossing. From there, it is 10 miles out to Red Rock and back. If swimming is on your mind, there are some of the most fantastic places to splash in the water that you can imagine.
If you have a mountain bike it’s certainly easy to go further. A loop ride to Gibraltar Dam will add 6 miles to your trip. For more information about mountain bike rides in this area see either my Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Map. Or if you'd like more details, Santa Barbara Mountain Bikes, my complete guide to mountain biking in the Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez valleys.
A convenient place to start your ride is at the White Rock Picnic Area, which is 3 miles down Paradise Road from Highway 154. You'll have a few ups and downs before you reach Lower Oso, but there are plenty of parking spaces and the river pools aren't too far away. You'll appreciate them afterwards.