Arroyo Burro Road winds its way somewhat steeply up a ridge to the crest of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Arroyo Burro Trail is located in the canyon to the right of the road, making it possible to ride the road up and take the trail back down. The turnoff to Matias Potrero is mile uphill, and beyond that are wonderful views of the valley, though purchased through somewhat strenuous effort.
From Lower Oso picnic area, ride 0.8 miles east on Paradise Road to the White Oaks picnic area turnoff. Turn right and drop down across the river to the start of Arroyo Burro Road. There is a large pool at the river crossing which is often impassable, at least during the rainier months. An alternate route is through Rancho Oso and across to the road. For this route, ride west back up Paradise Road two hundred yards to the Rancho Oso entrance and follow the paved road due east until you reach the dirt road.
Expectations for Riding the Santa Barbara Area Trails
Country trails are multi-use trails and as such are used by several thousand users each week. If you are riding downhill on these trails, expect to encounter them on your way. Your cooperation will help make everyone's experience a safe and pleasant one.
Ten things every mountain biker who rides the front country trails is expected to do:
The first thing you’ll notice as you reach the turnoff to White Oaks is the locked gate. This is relatively new. One of the forest’s threatened species, the red-legged frog, lives in the small pools along this stretch of the river and it is likely the gate will not be opened.
Dropping down to the river you will cross several channels, all of which will have water in the rainier months. However, it is the last crossing which will cause you the most problems. The pool is a hundred yards long and two to three feet deep in places. You may be able to walk around it on the downstream side but if there is a lot of water you will have to get wet. Or you can by pass this by riding through Rancho Oso.
Once you are across, the road begins to wind its way up into Arroyo Burro Canyon. There are plenty of oaks for shade, making this a very pleasant ride. A mile from the river, in a turnout on the right, you’ll find the lower end of Arroyo Burro Trail. You can stash your bikes here and take a pleasant hike. It is also possible to make this a short loop ride by going west across the creek and into what was once Rancho Oso (now a park for motorhome buffs). A paved road leads through the ranch and back to Paradise Road near the boys’ camp.
Once you are beyond the lower trailhead the climbing begins in earnest as the road winds up onto a long ridge. Two miles of steady uphill bring you to the top of the ridge, where you can see up and down the main river canyon. The views are impressive. Matias Potrero Trail leads off to the left through a grassy meadow 2.8 miles from the river.
Beyond the Matias Potrero turnoff the road rises steadily for another two miles to the crest. Just before a shooting area at the top, Arroyo Burro Trail leads off to the right. One of Santa Barbara’s most historic trails, it was probably built by the Chumash, who used it as a trading route to interior villages. This makes a great loop back down.
The trail winds down through chamise chaparral at first, then begins to drop steeply down into a narrow, rocky canyon, which is shaded and filled with lush riparian vegetation and a cool creek which runs year round except in extremely dry years.
Those who are truly hard core should turn east on Camino Cielo and ride over La Cumbre Peak to Angostura Pass and return back down into the Santa Ynez Valley via either the Matias Potrero Trail or the Santa Ynez River.