Santa Barbara Bike Rides - Mountain Biking - Lower Santa Ynez River

The Best Mountain Biking along the Lower Santa Ynez River Coast & Fun Things to do in Lower Santa Ynez River
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The Basics — Lower SY River

Santa Barbara Ranger District
You’ll find the district office located at the Los Prietos Ranger Station on Paradise Road, four miles east of Highway 154. The office is open from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday and most Saturdays, throughout the summer. Best is to call ahead (805-967-3481) to check the current  hours of operation, especially in other seasons.

The district comprises approximately 232,000 acres, which include the Santa Ynez Mountains, most of the upper Santa Ynez River drainage, and a portion of the San Rafael Wilderness. Please note that mountain bikes are not allowed in the wilderness.

The Adventure Pass
Thanks to a series of court cases that have determined that an Adventure Pass is not required in the forest outside developed areas, you don't need them everywhere to enjoy Los Padres National Forest. That's the good news. The bad news is that having one displayed in your car is required if you park anywhere within the Santa Ynez Recreation area. 

Day Use Areas
There are quite a few day use areas are located along the river: White Rock, First Crossing, Lower Oso, Falls, Live Oak, the Ledges and Red Rock. White Rock is located along Paradise Road about three miles from the Highway 154 turnoff. First Crossing is located just before the very first river crossing, with Lower Oso is immediately beyond the first crossing. Falls picnic area is just before the second river crossing, and Live Oak is just after the third crossing. The last day use area along the river is Red Rock, which is often passed by without being spotted. It is about a half-mile beyond Live Oak picnic area and is easy to miss because the gate leading into it is usually closed and locked. However, there are plenty of tables and barbecue areas, lots of shade under the oaks, and nearby pools in which to play.

Swimming Holes
While all of the day use areas are along the river and within feet of the water, two of the more popular areas along the river are located near the end of the paved road. T
he first of these is known as  The Ledges which is just before the last river crossing. It features an open sandy beach, a long deep pool and a sloping sandstone ledge that you can jump from.

Just across the river is the Red Rock parking lot, which is large neough to handle plenty of cars. Locked gates bar the public from driving either up the high road which leads 3 miles to Gibraltar Dam or further up the river. The Red Rock swimming holes are a quarter of a mile upriver, with quite a few swimming holes further upstream  for those who want a more remote experience.

Getting to Paradise
Directions for each of the rides begin from the Lower Oso picnic area, which is at the beginning of the lower canyon section. It is located on Paradise Road, five miles east of Highway 154. Look for it just after the first river crossing.

Overnight Camping
Four family campgrounds are located in the canyon—Fremont, Paradise, Los Prietos, Upper Oso, and one group campground, Sage Hill, which is located just behind the ranger station.

Fremont Campground

  • A lot of oak trees, large sites, hilly area. Some sites are a short distance from the parking spur. Paved roads.
  • 14 Sites
  • Directions:
  • 2.5 miles east on Paradise Road.
  • Developed water, barbecues, fire pits, tables, flush toilets (2 handicapped-accessible), garbage bins; no R/V hookups.
  • 8 persons per site, 14-day stay limit. No reservations available.
  • $12.00 per site, $4.00 for extra vehicle.
  • Open March 20 through October 30

Paradise Campground

  1. Surrounded by huge, beautiful oak trees, large sites, paved roads.
  2. 13 Sites
  3. 3 miles east on Paradise Road
  4. Tables, fire pits, barbecues, flush toilets (2 handicapped accessible), developed water, paved roads, garbage bins, R/V-no hookups.
  5. 8 persons per site, 14-day stay limit.
  6. $12.00 per site, $4.00 for extra vehicle.
  7. Reservations may be made up to 120 days in advance and as late as 10 days prior to arrival; call (800) 416-6992. All campsites are available for reservations.
  8. Open all year. 

Los Prietos Campground

  • Nice shade, large oak trees, paved roads
  • 37 sites
  • 3.7 miles east on Paradise Road
  • Paved roads, developed water, barbecues, fire pits, tables, garbage bins, flush toilets, R/V-no hookups.
  • 8 people per site, 14-day stay limit. No reservations available.
  • $12.00 per site, $4.00 for extra vehicle.
  • Closed from April 1 through October 30.

Sage Hill (Group Campground)

  • Flat area, next to river, some sites are shady, oak trees, paved roads.
  • 5 group sites; one has 12 corrals and hitching posts for equestrian use, holds 25-50 people.
  • 5 miles east on Paradise Road, turn left at Los Prietos Ranger Station, follow the road across the river.
  • Tables, group barbecues, fire pits, water faucets, flush toilets (handicapped accessible), R/V-no hookups. Trailhead parking.
  • $50.00 per site, $60.00 for equestrian site. Permits required.
  • Reservations are required and can be made up to 360 days in advance by calling (877) 444-6777
  • Open all year.

Upper Oso Campground

  • Oak trees, seasonal creek runs through the campground, large sites, canyon setting.
  • 23 units, 13 with corrals and extra-long parking spurs.
  • 5.5 miles east on Paradise Road, 1.5 miles north on 5N15.
  • Tables, fire pits with grills, barbecues, flush toilets, paved roads, developed water, garbage bins, R/V-no hookups.
  • $12.00 per site, $4.00 for extra vehicle. $14.00 for equestrian sites.
  • 8 people per site, 14-day stay limit. Reservations required for equestrian sites. Call (800) 416-6992.
  • Open all year

Road Log
0.0 Paradise Road



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Last Updated: Sunday, August 24, 2014