The view from the top of Monte Arido is one of the best. Not only do you have the entire Santa Barbara back country at your feet, but all of Ventura County as well. The six miles from Murrieta Divide to the top of Monte Arido (6,003 feet) is tough, perhaps even could be described as beyond tough, but the reward is well worth it—ten miles of pure excitement. This is an incredible ride that takes an incredible amount of energy to complete.
Follow Gibraltar Road for seven miles to East Camino Cielo. Turn right.
2. Follow the crest road for 5.8 miles to Romero Saddle.
3. Then drop down an additional 4.6 miles on the rough dirt road until you reach the Juncal Campground area (closed).
4. The start of the ride is located just across the Santa Ynez River. Due to the closure, you will need to park at least a quarter-mile away on either side of the camp. The road leading to Jameson Reservoir is directly behind (east of) the camp.
Mileage Log From the Top of Gibraltar Road
0.0 Intersection of Camino Cielo and Gibraltar roads
3.0 Cold Springs/Forbush Flats trailheads
3.2 San Ysidro trailhead
5.8 Romero Saddle
7.0 Start of the Divide Peak ORV trailhead
7.6 Escondido Creek
9.0 Blue Canyon trailhead
10.4 Juncal Camp
13.4 Agua Caliente Canyon/Pendola Ranger Station
13.5 Mid-Santa Ynez Camp
14.1 P-Bar Flats Camp
14.7 Access road to Santa Ynez River
17.0 Mono Camp/Debris Dam
18.0 Mono Creek Road/Little Caliente Hot Springs
19.2 Indian Creek trailhead
19.3 Locked Gate/Beginning of the Camuesa 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:
Have a bike bell so other trail users know you are approaching.
Keep your speed down; practice riding techniques that minimize impacts.
Good braking means never having to skid. Do not lock up your brakes.
Approach switchbacks with caution and brake well before you reach them.
Stay on the designated tread. The front country trails are multi-use, not a race course.
Ride with other trail users in mind and enhance rather than interfere with their enjoyment.
Always assume there is another trail user around each corner.
Yield the right-of-way to uphill trail users. Stop and dismount if necessary to allow them to pass.
When approaching equestrians, dismount and ask them what they want you to do.
Be courteous. Smile and say something friendly to everyone you encounter.
This is the ultimate day loop trip. The route follows the upper Santa Ynez River for six miles, taking you from Juncal Campground past Jameson Reservoir to Murrieta Divide. This is the easy part of the trip. If you’ve ridden to the divide before and you found it pushed you to your limits, the rest of the ride isn’t for you. The good news, however, is that it an easy ride back down to the divide if you get this far and find the riding too difficult.
At the divide, turn left (north). From here the road leads sharply uphill across the flanks of Old Man Mountain to Monte Arido. You’ll push a lot of this if you aren’t in top shape because it is very steep and loose in places. Beyond Old Man Mountain the gradient does ease off, though by that time you will have extremely tired legs and any kind of climbing will be hard.
Though difficult, the 7.5-mile “hell ride” from Murrieta Divide to the top of Monte Arido provides spectacular scenery, including views of the Channel Islands, the southern Sierra Nevadas, and most of the Santa Barbara and Ventura County back country. The last time I rode this there was snow on top of the high peaks and bear tracks (both mother and cub) that had to have been made that day, because the snow had fallen just the night before.
The Pendola Jeep Trail is a half-mile north of the top of Monte Arido and is easy to spot. It leads left down into a canyon, then eventually along a long ridge that winds up and down for ten miles to Pendola Ranger Station. From there, turn left on Pendola Road. It is three miles back to Juncal Campground and your car.
A last note: Use good sense on the way up. If you don’t think you can make it all the way, turn back. It’s all downhill on the return trip. Even from the top of Monte Arido it shouldn’t take you more than an hour and a half to get back to your car the way you came. Once you’re on the Pendola Jeepway, however, you are committed to completing the loop.