Figueroa Mountain Lookout -

The Best Santa Barbara Mountain Biking

Ride Log
On the Ride


Difficulty: Easy to Moderate • Paved or Dirt: Dirt Path • Mileage: 5
Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft. •


Ride Details

  • Use Fees : An Adventure Pass is required if you park within the Figueroa Mountain Recreation area.
  • Accessibility : Nearby Pino Alto Day Use Area has a short accessible loop trail that those in wheelchairs can navigate.
  • Length : 5 miles total out and back.
  • Gain : 1,000 to the view point near the Lookout Tower.
  • Difficulty : Moderately easy; a nice ride from the campground.
  • Path : Good dirt road all the way.

Find Other Similar Trails

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Points of Interests: SunsetOut & BackPicnicking

Links & Resources

Get Directions To The Trailhead

Driving Directions
Get Directions to Figueroa Mountain Lookout which is located at 34.73865,-119.987869.

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Access / Parking

From Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos follow Figueroa Mountain Road 11.5 miles to the turnoff leading up to the lookout, a half-mile beyond the Catway turnoff. The turnoff is well marked, and there is ample parking nearby.

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

If you want to choose one ride to do in the spring, say sometime between late March and the end of April, this is the one. When the California poppies turn fluorescent orange, the bush lupine open their lilac-colored blossoms, filling the air with a pungent aroma, and scores of other wildflowers carpet the upper slopes of Figueroa Mountain, this place becomes a multi-colored paradise.

My personal recommendation would be to start at Sawmill Basin. The countryside there is almost flat, and this is where the floral display begins in earnest. From this point it is just a half-mile to the Catway and about a mile farther to the spur road leading to the lookout.

The road is moderately steep, rising 1,000 feet, but the grade is relatively even, so the uphill is spread throughout the entire 2.5 miles. The first half of the road winds around the east side of Figueroa Mountain through almost solid Coulter pine forests. It then turns sharply back to the west as it goes around to the backside of the mountain. The forests are equally thick here, and views of the Santa Ynez Valley are replaced by those of the back country.

Two miles from the start of the spur road a turnout to the left leads to Pino Alto, a Sierra-like picnic area that has interpretive information as well as a short self-guided nature trail. Figueroa Mountain Lookout is an additional half-mile on the main spur. Not far up the spur you will notice a road that leads diagonally to the left. This goes to Goddard, another very nice picnic site. 

Above this turnoff the pine trees seem to fade away and the top of the mountain is almost all open grassland and wildflowers. The lookout can be seen from here. Once it was manned twenty-four hours a day during fire season, though today it is a relic of the past.

What can I say about the view from the top? Nothing really. It is too much for words. You will just have to experience it for yourself.

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Last Updated: Friday, August 22, 2014