The ride along the crest of West Camino Cielo provides incredible views in either direction. Much of the route is over rough dirt road, which lends a remote quality to the ride. Tequepis Trail is one of the most enjoyable single-track sections in these mountains and provides a perfect way to end your trip. If you continue on across to Refugio Pass you can enjoy some of the finest downhill in the county.
Follow Highway 154 for 7 miles to San Marcos Pass. Turn right on East Camino Cielo and park near Cielo Store for an out-and-back ride. Or, for one of the longer rides, turn left on West Camino Cielo and drive partway out to start (it is 4.5 miles to the end of the pavement).
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:
I’ve always enjoyed long day rides along mountain crests. The feeling of being on top of the world is wonderful, and I love the openness. Any ride across the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains will provide this feeling, but this is especially true of the western end of the mountains.
Views of the Channel Islands and the Santa Ynez Valley are with you constantly, and the rough dirt road leading across the top is seldom traveled, providing a sense of solitude that is worth the effort of getting there.
From Cielo Store, cross Highway 154, turn left on Stagecoach Road, then almost immediately right on Kinevan Road, which leads a mile down a small, beautiful canyon to West Camino Cielo. From there the road rises sharply for a half-mile, then turns to a more gradual uphill for 4.5 miles to the end of the pavement.
From this point, the distance to Santa Ynez Peak is approximately seven miles, providing you with the best of this part of the front country. Just after the pavement ends, West Camino drops sharply to Winchester Saddle. From there it gradually makes its way for six miles to the high point, 4,200-foot-high Broadcast Peak. The uphill is steady, meaning that you won’t find it as tough as you might think, and the views will help soften the effort.
If you are doing an out-and-back ride, there is one major drawback—at the end of the ride, when you’ll probably be a bit tuckered, a 500-foot elevation gain awaits you, a series of switchbacks that lead back up to the paved section.
Three other options are also available if you don’t mind the effort involved in putting a shuttle together. Perhaps you can sweettalk a friend into helping out.
One option is to follow the ridge to Tequepis Trail, which drops off the north side of the mountain just before the top of Broadcast Peak to Lake Cachuma, providing almost seven miles of excellent downhill single-tracking. Or you might continue for several more miles (most of them downhill) to Refugio Pass and from there either follow the pavement seven miles south to Refugio Beach State Park or a similar distance down the north side to Santa Ynez High School. Either will provide you with an excellent day’s trip.
The Tequepis Trail option is my favorite. The shuttle for it takes about a half-hour. From San Marcos Pass, continue on Highway 154 about 12 more miles to a side road just before the entrance to Lake Cachuma (look for a left turn lane and a sign which says “Camp Cielo”). You can park anywhere on this road where there is sufficient shoulder to do so safely. Return to West Camino Cielo and drive to whatever point you’d like to start riding from.
Though much of this ride is on paved and dirt road, the feeling one gets is very special because of the sense of remoteness. To the south are views of the coast and the islands; to the north Lake Cachuma and the mountainous interior—much of it wilderness.
As you approach Broadcast Peak, look for the trail carefully. It leads to the right across a flat meadow, but it is hard to spot. The seven-mile ride down the trail is exhilarating and an excellent way to end the ride. As you approach the bottom of the trail (after a very steep 100-yard drop) the trail intersects a dirt road. Take the left fork, which leads down into the canyon and past several camps owned by private organizations. This route will take you to your car.
To continue on to Refugio Pass, ride across the left shoulder of Broadcast Peak (from which your favorite radio and TV signals emanate) and past a second high mountain, Santa Ynez Peak, then drop down for another three miles to the pass. While I enjoy the ride down to the coast, the trip down the backside of Refugio Pass is wonderful, passing through lush canyon vegetation for 3.5 miles until it opens onto rolling hills and rustic-looking ranches. I’ve spotted wild turkeys in this area. Another mile’s ride brings you to the Santa Ynez River. Continue on Refugio Road to its intersection with Highway 154, where the high school is located.