Forbush Flat -

Things to Know


Difficulty: Moderate • Mileage: 1
Elevation Gain: -1075 ft. • Location: Santa Ynez Mountains
Features: Canyons, Creeks, Out & Back, Loop Trip, Backcountry Camp
User Type: Backpacking, Hiking, Equestrian Trail, Mountain Biking, Dog Walking, Trail Running


Forbush Flats is a delightful camp situated right in the middle of of the Santa Ynez Fault. Because of this, shell fossils are exposed in the rock in this area, making it a geologist’s paradise. You’ll find an apple orchard here, the only remnants of Fred Forbush’s pioneer homestead. Gidney Creek leads off to the left, which is interesting to explore. Or you can follow the main trail to the river.

The Basics

  • Length : Forbush Flats 2 miles; Gibraltar Trail 3 miles; Santa Ynez River 3.5 miles; Cottam Camp 3.8 miles.
  • Gain : 1075’ descent to Forbush Flats; 2000’ to the Santa Ynez River.
  • Difficulty : Moderate to strenuous depending on route chosen.
  • Path : Well maintained native soil trail to Forbush Flat.
  • Season : All year.
  • Restrictions : Multi-use. You may encounter mountain bikes.
  • Canine : Ok for dogs off leash.
  • Points of Interest : Canyons,Creeks,Out & Back,Loop Trip,Backcountry Camp

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Trail Facts

Difficulty: Moderate
Points of Interests: Canyons, Creeks, Out & Back, Loop Trip, Backcountry Camp
User Types: Backpackers, Hikers, Equestrians, Mountain Bikers, Dog Walker, Trail Runners
Locations: Santa Ynez Mountains

Get Directions To The Trailhead

Driving Directions
Get Directions to Forbush Flat which is located at 34.497405,-119.637895.

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Access / Getting There

  1. To reach Forbush Trail follow Gibraltar Road 6.5 miles to East Camino Cielo.
  2. Turn right on East Camino Cielo and drive another 3.75 miles to the trailhead, which is opposite the top of the Cold Springs Trail.
  3. A trail sign on the left and a cement water tank on the right side of the road should make it easy to spot the parking area. 


Download Directions: Download PDF Map Directions

Get Directions To The Trailhead

Driving Directions
Get Directions to Forbush Flat which is located at 34.497405,-119.637895.

Use "Current Location" to start from your location or enter your city or zip to start from a new location.

Print Directions

Things to Know

If You Are Car Camping Along the River
One way to combine car camping and day hiking is to allow those who would like it to hike down the Forbush Trail while the designated driver or drivers continue on to your campsite. If your destination is Mono Debris Dam, the hikers can take the main trail down to the river. Just across it, Mono Trail follows the right side of the river for a half-mile then turns right and continues up Mono Creek for slightly more than a mile to the debris dam. If you will be camping at P-Bar Flats or Mid-Santa Ynez Camp, have the hikers follow the trail to Forbush Flats then continue to the right to Cottam Camp and then down to the river. From there a dirt road wanders across the river to P-Bar Flats.


Trip Log

On The Trail

The Forbush Trail (AKA Cold Springs North) offers access to a number of parts of the upper Santa Ynez Valley and day loops, shuttle trips, or overnighters depending on the type of arrangements you make. Originally it was one of the main thoroughfares into the backcountry, leading from Montecito through the upper part of the Santa Ynez drainage, along Mono Creek, and over a window in the San Rafael range known as the Puerto Suelo to Santa Barbara Canyon and the Cuyama Valley. When the Chumash revolted briefly in the 1820s, fleeing to the tule marshes in the lower San Joaquin Valley, this was the route taken by soldiers whose task was to round them up and bring them back.

The first 1.5 miles of the trail leads through chaparral to Forbush Flat, dropping a thousand feet in elevation. The camp is pleasant, well shaded and at the foot of Gidney Creek which often flows year round, though not always. Nearby is a small meadow, complete with an aging apple orchard, courtesy of Fred Forbush, who built a cabin there about 1910.

The camp is situated on top of the Santa Ynez Fault, which cuts directly through it, forming the crease along which Gidney Creek flows. Due to the uplifting which has occurred here, numerous layers of bedrock rich in fossil life are exposed here, making this an amateur geologist’s paradise. A wonderful afternoon can be spent here, either meandering down the creek checking out the exposed layers of bedrock or continuing down the trail toward the Santa Ynez River.

A trail intersection lies just north of the meadow.  The main trail continues north, up over a 50’ high ridge and then down another 1000’ in elevation loss over 1.5 miles to the Santa Ynez River. Along the way are more fossils and a pool or two for refreshment.

The right trail leads 2 miles east down through the Santa Ynez Fault and rugged chaparral to Cottam Camp which is located at the bottom end of Blue Canyon. Following this trail downstream from Cottam Camp also leads to the Santa Ynez River. A long but extremely rewarding day hike can be made by staying on the left side of the river and continuing downstream for a mile to the Cold Springs Trail and then back up it to Forbush Flats and eventually your car on East Camino Cielo.

On The Bike

On The Run

On The Walk

Last Updated: Monday, July 27, 2015