Santa Cruz Trail - Upper Oso Trailhead
Trail winds through narrow sandstone canyons past small pools. Trail opens up to a spectacular view of Little Pine Mountain. It is 5 miles to Happy Hollow Campground and another 5 miles to Santa Cruz Station.
The section of the Santa Cruz Trail between 19 Oaks and the 40-Mile Wall is not passable due to damage sustained in the 2016 Rey Fire.
The trail is non-existent in places, hazardous, covered in landslides and with extreme exposure in spots. While the Forest Service has not closed the trail, use extreme caution if attempting the hike. Do not plan on riding the trail, you won't get very far.
Continued efforts are underway to restore the trail but it's going to take a few years for the earth to settle and for trail work to be completed. For more information or to help, contact the Los Padres Forest Association at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Santa Cruz Trail starts about a mile above Upper Oso along the Buckhorn Rd and ends at Mission Pine Basin. The trail starts in Oso Canyon and winds up towards Little Pine through the oaks and along the creek. It passes 19 Oaks camp and then starts a steady climb up Little Pine Mtn. At Alexander Saddle the trail drops down into the Santa Cruz drainage amongst pines, serpentine rocks and grasslands. After passing Little Pine Spring Camp, the trail passes along a steep sidehill called the "40 Mile Wall". Even though the this section of the trail is only 2+ miles long, it feels much longer as the trail undulates in and out of side canyons. Shortly after the 40 Mile Wall the trail switches back into Santa Cruz Station and Santa Cruz Creek.
From here the trail climbes steeply through Romo Poterero, up and over into the San Rafael Wilderness. The trail crosses the West Fork Santa Cruz just below Flores Flat Camp before heading up Coche Creek. There are two camps along Coche Creek (Kellogg and Coche) before the trail climbs steeply up the San Rafael Mtns to its terminus at Mission Pine Basin.
NOTE: The non-wilderness sections of the trail are popular with mountain bikers, horses and hikers. If you are a mountain biker PLEASE WEAR BELLS ON YOUR BIKE. It helps everyone. Thanks.
At a Glance
|Reservations:||No reservations. Trail use and trail camps are on a first-come, first-served basis|
|Fees:||$10 per vehicle or you can purchase and display the Parks Management Company (PMC) Annual Day Use Pass for $50. Pass can be purchased from PMC at www.campone.com. The Santa Cruz Trailhead at Upper Oso is no longer an Adventure Pass recreation site. Adventure Passes and Interagency Senior, Access and Annual passes will not be accepted.|
|Permit Info:||A California Campfire Permit is required to operate a small camp stove. Go to: https://www.readyforwildfire.org/ Los Padres does not issue backcountry wilderness permits. Trail use and trail camps are on a first-come, first-servedd basis.|
|Closest Towns:||Santa Barbara|
|Water:||Water available at the Upper Oso Campground|
|Restroom:||Flush toilets available at the Upper Oso Campground|
|Operated By:||Trail is managed by the Forest Service. Trailhead parking area is managed by Parks Management Co|
|Information Center:||Ranger station phone number: (805) 724-007|
General InformationDirections: From Hwy 101, 10 miles NW on Hwy 154, 6.7 miles E. on Paradise Road and 1 mile north on the Upper Oso Road to the Santa Cruz trailhead at Upper Oso Campground.
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information
Easy to moderate difficulty. In Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area. Winds through narrow canyons past small pools.
The hike to 19 Oaks begins at Upper Oso Campground in the Oso Canyon. After going around a locked gate, follow a wide motor cycle road for under three quarters of a mile. The trail is fairly low angle and covered with soft dirt. Unless there are motor cycles on the road, this part of the trail is very pleasant. You are hiking parallel to Oso Creek and in the shade of oak trees. There are a number of side trails leading down to the creeks swimming holes.
At the end of the initial section, the trail to 19 Oaks Camp separates from the motor cycle road and becomes Santa Cruz Trail proper. There are signs pointing you to 19 Oaks and Little Pine Mountain. There is also a box for leaving a note. At this point, the trail drops downhill for a short distance before rising again following Oso Creek. At about one and a half mile point the trail crosses the creek and shortly after crosses it again bypassing a rocky section. Another quarter of a mile, you will reach the turn off point to 19 Oaks marked by a sign. Leave the main trail and hike up a steep section of a trail to a low angle hillside and 19 Oaks in about one quarter of a mile. There are many oak trees, a few benches, fire pits, campsites and a very rustic open-air toilet pit.