Arroyo Burro Road/Trail -

The Best Santa Barbara Mountain Biking

Ride Log
On the Ride


Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult • Paved or Dirt: Dirt Path • Mileage: 5 miles one way.
Elevation Gain: 2020 ft. •

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.

Ride Details

  • Cautions : Little Pine Mountain Road is open to ORV use to a point about five miles before you reach Bluff. You should be alert for their presence. The Santa Cruz Trail is used extensively by equestrian groups. Assume a rider is just around each corner. If necessary, dismount from your bike and ask the horse rider what he or she would like you to do.
  • Use Fees : An Adventure Pass is required if you park within the Santa Ynez Recreation area.
  • Length : 5 miles one way to the crest and loop back down the backside trail.
  • Gain : 400’ from river to lower Arroyo Burro trailhead; 950’ to Matias Potrero trailhead; 2020’ to upper Arroyo Burro trailhead.
  • Difficulty : Moderate to Strenuous, depending how far you go.
  • Path : Dirt road all the way to the top is in good condition; trail is a bit overgrown but okay. When the river is flowing the crossing can be a wet one.

Find Other Similar Trails

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Points of Interests: Out & BackLoop Trip
User Types: HikersEquestriansDog WalkersTrail Runners

Links & Resources

Get Directions To The Trailhead

Driving Directions
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Access / Parking

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.

Ride Log

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:

  1. Have a bike bell so other trail users know you are approaching.
  2. Keep your speed down; practice riding techniques that minimize impacts.
  3. Good braking means never having to skid. Do not lock up your brakes.
  4. Approach switchbacks with caution and brake well before you reach them.
  5. Stay on the designated tread. The front country trails are multi-use, not a race course.
  6. Ride with other trail users in mind and enhance rather than interfere with their enjoyment.
  7. Always assume there is another trail user around each corner.
  8. Yield the right-of-way to uphill trail users. Stop and dismount if necessary to allow them to pass.
  9. When approaching equestrians, dismount and ask them what they want you to do.
  10. Be courteous. Smile and say something friendly to everyone you encounter.


On The Ride

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.

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Last Updated: Sunday, August 24, 2014