The ride goes through the most scenic parts of the Riviera, with spectacular views from Mission Ridge out over the city. Along the way you will pass Francheschi Park, one of Santa Barbara’s most enjoyable and well hidden treasures. The last half of the route winds through the lower part of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Stops along the way at Rattlesnake Canyon and the Botanic Gardens will round out the ride. To add distance, use the map as a guide to help you explore a few of the other roads that wind through the Riviera.
Trip mileage begins at the Old Mission
0.0 Santa Barbara Mission
0.1 Mountain Drive—Turn right and follow it steeply uphill for a hundred yards to a stop sign.
0.2 Mission Ridge Road—Veer sharply to the right. Mission Ridge curves back to the left, providing a nice view of the Mission, then curves back to the left in several hundred more yards.
0.5 Marymount School—Mission Ridge curves to the right and continues past Brooks Institute and the El Encanto Hotel.
1.0 The road begins to climb steadily, providing some of the best views out over Santa Barbara and the Harbor.
1.4 Francsechi Road—A hundred yards up this road is a delightful park, exotic gardens, and a great place for a picnic, a few moments of rest, or an afternoon of relaxation.
1.8 Las Alturas Road—Turn left and follow this for a half mile to Sheffield Reservoir.
2.1 Highway 192—This leads to Sycamore Canyon. For a longer ride (see ride #2) you can follow Hy. 192 to Cold Springs Road and return via Mountain Drive.
2.4 Mountain Drive—Turn right at Sheffield Reservoir and follow Mountain Drive for .2 miles of steep uphill.
2.6 Las Canoas Road—A prominent sign marks the beginning of Las Canoas. Go left onto Las Canoas. This road curves gradually around to the right.
3.3 Las Canoas turns to the left. A “Skofield Park” sign marks the point at which you should bear to the left.
3.6 Skofield Park.
3.7 Rattlesnake Canyon Trailhead—no bikes are allowed in this wilderness park. Lock your bikes in Skofield Park and enjoy the scenery along this trail.
5.0 Mission Canyon—Turn right and follow Mission Canyon a quarter mile of steady uphill to the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens.
5.3 Botanic Gardens.
5.8 Tunnel Road. What for cars entering or leaving Tunnel Road. This is a dangerous intersection.
6.1 Highway 192—Bear to the right and follow this several hundred yards to Mission Canyon Road.
6.3 Mission Canyon Road—Turn left.
6.6 Turnoff to the Museum of Natural History on the right and Rocky Nook Park on the left.
6.8 Santa Barbara Mission
When I want to combine Santa Barbara’s most exotic vegetation and beautiful homes, island views, and a bit of the back country feel of the Santa Ynez Mountains on a ride, this is the one I choose.
Undulating up Mission Ridge, the route passes through much of the Riviera’s early history—huge Spanish style structures, the complex of buildings that was once the Santa Barbara Normal School, the elegantly landscaped El Encanto Hotel, as well as the bony ridge that the Franciscan fathers once thought worthless, but now is dotted with more modern homes.
A mile into the ride Mission Ridge becomes a narrow, curving path, with a stone wall on the right that is all that seperates you from the Riviera’s finest views—the city is almost 700’ directly below you, and out over the Mesa, Santa Cruz Island looms on the horizon. Just above this is Francheschi Road and a bit up it the entrance to the park, where you will not only find some of the most interesting plant species to be found in Santa Barbara, but enough time to absorb the views below you.
Above Francheschi Park, at the top of Mission Ridge is Hillcrest Road, which marks the top of the climb. From island views and exotic vegetation you quickly enter a different and more natural environment on the northern slopes of the ridge, with forests of gnarled oaks dominanting. At Las Alturas you get your first glimpse of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the steep-walled sandstone spires known as the Mission Crags hearlding yet another type of vegetation, the chaparral.
A quick coast brings you down to Sheffield Reservoir, where the city’s water is treated, and a short climb up Mountain Drive takes you up onto the edge of the mountain wall and to Las Canoas Drive. From there it is almost all downhill back to the Mission. Along the way you’ll find one of the most enchanting of hideaways—Rattlesnake Canyon—and below this, in Mission Canyon, the Botanic Gardens, where you’ll find each of California’s natural environments represented.
For those of you who would like to know more about Santa Barbara’s natural history, a stop at the Museum of Natural History, which you’ll find just before reaching the Mission, will round out the ride.