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Santa Cruz Trail - Los Padres National Forest
Trail Distance 18.47 Miles

THE SECTION OF THE SANTA CRUZ TRAIL THAT BURNED IN THE 2016 REY FIRE IS NOT PASSABLE AND FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES SHOULD BE CONSIDERED CLOSED.  THIS IS THE SECTION FROM UPPER OSO TO LITTLE PINE SPRINGS.

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.

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 LPFA AT: INFO@LPFOREST.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 mtn bikers, horses and hikers.  If you are a mtn biker PLEASE WEAR BELLS ON YOUR BIKE.  It helps everyone.  Thanks.

Trail Details

  • Trail #: 27W09
  • Wilderness Area: San Rafael
  • County: Santa Barbara County
  • Ranger District: Santa Barbara Ranger District
  • Trail-head Latitude: 34.56482
  • Trail-head Longitude: -119.76593
  • Water Sources: Little Pine Spring and Santa Cruz Creek
  • Trail Condition: Bad
  • Topo Maps:
  • Activities & Features:
    • Backpacking
    • Camping
    • Creek
    • Day Hiking
    • Horseback Riding
    • Mountain Biking
    • Panoramic Views
    • Peak
    • Wildlife Viewing
    • Wilderness Camping



Trail Stats

  • Total Elevation Gain: + 7152 feet.
  • Total Elevation Loss: - 3167 feet.
  • Overall Average Slope Gain: + 11 %.
  • Overall Average Slope Loss: - 8 %.
  • Kilometers: (km)
  • Meters: (m)
  • Miles: (mi)
  • Feet: (ft)
  • Average Slope: (%)

Trail Camps

  1. Nineteen Oaks Camp (1,709 feet)
  2. Little Pine Spring Camp (3,300 feet)
  3. Santa Cruz Camp (2,000 feet)
  4. Flores Flat Camp (2,300 feet)
  5. Kellogg Camp (3,217 feet)
  6. Coche Camp (3,350 feet)
Upload Images Aerial Overview Image Login to Download GPS File
Survey This Trail

Survey Photos:


  • toejam - 01-12-2014

  • toejam - 01-12-2014

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 06-14-2014

  • FP - 01-18-2015

  • FP - 01-18-2015

  • FP - 01-18-2015

  • FP - 01-18-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 12-28-2014

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 12-28-2014

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 12-28-2014

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 12-28-2014

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 12-28-2014

  • Curt Cragg - 02-06-2015

  • Curt Cragg - 02-06-2015

  • Curt Cragg - 02-06-2015

  • Curt Cragg - 02-06-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 02-28-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 02-28-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 02-28-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 02-28-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 02-28-2015

  • Jeff B. - 05-09-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 08-04-2016

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-19-2016

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-19-2016

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-19-2016

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-19-2016

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-19-2016

Submitted Trail Reports

Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 11-20-2017 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 11-20-2017
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:VWR patrol from Upper Oso to Santa Cruz Station.  The trail remains difficult and dangerous but passable through the Rey Fire burn areas, in particular the 'Legolas Section' just north of Alexander Saddle.  There are 5-6 downed trees on the final switchbacks down to the Station.  The 40 Mile Wall has a few slides that are not stock passable.  Signs of lots of bear along the trail.  The meadow at Little Pine Spring is not clearly marked, as usual.  Not much human use at the moment.  Good water at SC Station, cabin is intact.  We cleaned up the area, removed a fallen oak near camp, painted some bear damaged areas and performed the usual annual pre-winter maintenance on the cabin.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Hard to follow
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 11-19-2016 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 11-19-2016
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:LPFA scouted the Santa Cruz Trail to assess and document damage from Upper Oso to Little Pine post Rey Fire.  There are extensive slides covering the trail almost never-ending.  The BAER teams have removed most of the dead fallen trees but we'd expect more to come at any time, that is where there are still trees.  There was water flowing in Oso Creek below 19 Oaks.  19 Oaks was annihilated but amazingly one of the tables survive, the new crapper wasn't so lucky.  The slides progressively get sketchier above Dead Dog Meadow with exposure and very uneven ground.  Don't even think about riding your bike.  The cribwall section is not looking good.  It felt like 3/4 of the wood support burned but is still somehow holding together.  That being said it felt like it could fail altogether at any moment.  We basically had to run through that section and hope it wasn't our time.  Above the cribwalls the trail remains bad with sections that look like someone took a giant eraser and wiped the trail off the side of the mountain.  The cattle trough is gone, burned and melted, although there is still a seep water at the spring box.  Portions of the upper mile of trail did not burn.  Heading down towards Little Pine Spring felt the sketchiest and we opted not to go that way, instead climbing to Little Pine and Happy Hollow.  Happy Hollow fared quite well and may have been part of a backburn operation.  It is a mess of dozer tread around the bowl but most of the surviving trees from Zaca remain alive.  It needs time to come back.  All in all quite depressing and a lot of work needed to bring this trail back.  But more than anything it will need time.  What we learned from Zaca is that it takes a few years (3-5 depending) for the earth to settle and plants to regrow to the point where they can support a trail again.  But we'll chip away and do what we can to bring it back when the time is right.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Non existent
Images:

View looking down at 19 Oaks from below Dead Dog Meadow.

Slides above Dead Dog Meadow. This section was one of the worst with football size rocks.


The view of the suspended cribwalls.

The cribwalls. Half burned and failing.


Bet you don't recognize this? It's the horse trough section of the Santa Cruz Trail. Trough melted.
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 10-31-2016 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 10-31-2016
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:LPFA Working Vacation based out of Mission Pine Basin worked the top mile of the Santa Cruz Trail from Mission Pine Basin down to where the ACE crew wrapped up work in 2015.  The trail is in really fine shape at the moment.  No water at Mission Pine Basin.

Photos of the whole Working Vacation here:
https://www.facebook.com/LosPadresForestAssociation/posts/619910411467220?notif_t=like¬if_id=1481555349387696
Mode of transport:Array
Trail condition:Needs some work
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 08-04-2016 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 08-04-2016
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:REPORT FROM RECENT MTN BIKER:

- Santa Cruz Trail from Little Pine to Upper Oso is in fine shape other than the usual shale slides along the south face and the white rock slides a little further down before Dead Dog Meadow.

- There is still a trickle of water in the 1mile stock trough.

Mode of transport:Bicycle
Trail condition:Needs some work
Images:

Photo Noe
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 05-15-2015 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 05-15-2015
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:The LPFA in partnership with the Forest Service hired an American Conservation Experience (ACE) crew to work the Santa Cruz Trail from Kellogg Camp up towards Mission Pine Basin.  They accomplished 3.11 miles of trail work, clearing what was once a brush slog into a great wilderness trail once again.

More information here:
https://www.facebook.com/LosPadresForestAssociation/posts/464739166984346
Mode of transport:Array
Trail condition:Needs some work
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 01-01-2016 - by BeccaVT
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 01-01-2016
Surveyor Name:BeccaVT
Trail description:We camped in the Little Pine Spring camp, which happily still had running water, so we could stay in the area for an extra night (otherwise we would have used up everything we packed in). However, it's pretty clear this is the only water around for miles; the creeks are totally dry. Because of that, the spring is probably the main water source for animals in the area. We saw relatively fresh tracks, and are pretty sure we heard a large-ish animal walking around the camp at night, crunching on all the dry leaves. My guess based on the tracks is either a coyote or a bobcat. We moved camp up closer to the saddle the second night, to avoid 1) potentially meeting/surprising said animal, or 2) scaring it away from its water source.

The trail down to Little Pine Spring is very eroded and sandy, and also very steep. We basically had to slide down the trail, using our trekking poles like ski poles. With the rain coming this week, it will almost certainly completely wash out. It's also pretty hard to follow in places - there are several false turns. In some places there are blue ribbons tied to the brush to guide the way, but they could be much better. 
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:There are several places on the trail that are very sandy/eroded and are likely to wash completely out with the rain this week.
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 01-02-2016 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 01-02-2016
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:

Report from Susie T:

- Hiked from Upper Oso to Santa Cruz Station

- The trail tread was in generally in good shape thanks to the LPFA work done this year. Rideable and hikeable.

- There are 6 areas on the 40 Mile Wall that are probably going to completely wash out with the next rain. At the present time they are just narrow areas, almost washed out but are hikeable. They are all in the center of the “40 Mile wall’.

- All the cribbed areas are holding well.

- There are about 6 gaps and holes in the tread along the front side of Little Pine at the scree slides. 

- The slides on the Big Crib Wall are the same as always…no better…no worse. The uphill cribbing is still collapsing inwards onto the trail.

- No brushing needed. Just two overhanging branches that I couldn’t reach.

Mode of transport:Array
Trail condition:Needs some work
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 05-09-2015 - by Jeff B.
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 05-09-2015
Surveyor Name:Jeff B.
Trail description:Rode the Santa Cruz singletrack from the junction with Camuesa Road up to Alexander Saddle, then continued on down to Santa Cruz Camp and returned the same way. The trail is in great shape for it's entire length, with the 40 Mile Wall section being a particular highlight. Also, it's well worth the short trek down to Little Pine Spring. 
Mode of transport:Bicycle
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:

Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 02-28-2015 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 02-28-2015
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:Complete report of the Santa Cruz Trail from Upper Oso to Mission Pine Basin:

I. UPPER OSO TO ALEXANDER SADDLE
Trail is in typical good shape.  There is water along the lower creek sections and most of the larger tributaries.  There is water within the stock trough (1 mile below the saddle) but that could use a good spring flushing.  The slides continue to do their thing and the rope that was installed last year remains in good shape.  IMO the slides were in better shape than normal, perhaps the rope is getting people to take the same course and as a result the steps are holding a bit better.

II. ALEXANDER SADDLE TO SANTA CRUZ STATION
Very passable and followable.  Should not cause any problems for hikers.  Most of the larger deadfalls were logged out last month by LPFA volunteers.  There is one tree remaining just before you start the 40 Mile Wall.  There are about 5 slides that will prevent stock passage.  The first is on the backside of Little Pine and the rest occur sporadically along the 40 Mile Wall.  The LPFA has a project scheduled this weekend (3/14) to clean out these slides.  

III. SC STATION to GRAPEVINE TRAIL JUNCTION
The trail leaving the Station and up to the wilderness boundary is in fine shape.  There is a newish cattle guard as you enter Romo Potrero.  Some of the grasses are going to be quite high by the end of spring but the route is not difficult to follow.  Heading down towards Flores the grass along the tread continues to grow better than elsewhere.  I would love to know how to stop grass from growing on the nice flat tread - perhaps if it was walked on more often.  No obstacles to Flores.  From Flores to Grapevine there are 9 downed trees.  The trees range from 6-24inches in diameter.  The LPFA has a project planned the last week of April to clear these trees.  No other obstacles.  The trail does get quite a bit thinner the farther you get away from Upper Oso.

IV. GRAPEVINE TO MISSION PINE BASIN
Here is where the trail gets overgrown.  First off, don't bother camping at Coche, it is overgrown and should be removed.  The relatively new Kellogg Camp (1/4mile down from the Grapvine Junction) is far superior.  As the trail climbs up the San Rafael Mtns it gets worse and worse.  The tread is followable but there are sections where you'll be swimming through chest high brush.  There is one turn that is hard to see but flagging should help.  We placed a few new flags to help along the way.  Once you climb out of the chaparral and into the conifer zone there are a few downed pines that need sawyer work.  These are in the 30" range.  The final drop to Mission Pine Basin is marked with cairns.  The trail is followable but expect to push through some brush.  The LPFA is planning a week long trip to clear the brush along the climb in April.  
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Images:

Scree slide along the front of Little Pine

The largest washout along the back (north) of Little Pine


Entering the San Rafael atop Romo Potrero

The largest tree along the trail between Flores and Kellogg


Typical section of trail climbing up to Mission Pine Basin
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 02-06-2015 - by Curt Cragg
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 02-06-2015
Surveyor Name:Curt Cragg
Trail description:Cleared two pine trees as reported in earlier trail surveys and shown in photos.  Check out trail to Little Pine Spring Camp for possible future trail project to clear brush and reroute current work around trail back to original route
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:Santa Cruz Trail just before Little Pine Spring Junction
Images:

Large pine fall on trail as previously reported

Trees and tree debris cleared from trail.


Second pine fall and debris

Clear sailing for hikers, bikers and pack stock in this area
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 12-28-2014 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 12-28-2014
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:VWR Survey of the Santa Cruz Trail from Upper Oso to Santa Cruz Guard Station.  Led by VWR Susie

- Large downed trees just above the turnoff for Little Pine Spring
- Lots of slides along the backside of Little Pine heading into and through the 40 Mile Wall

TRAIL IS CURRENTLY NOT PASSABLE FOR STOCK
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Images:







Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 01-18-2015 - by FP
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 01-18-2015
Surveyor Name:FP
Trail description:Beautiful views from this trail, and fantastic ones from the summit of Little Pine Mtn.  I hiked it from Upper Oso to Little Pine Mtn.  A word of caution:  this trail can be extremely hot during the summer.  It's best done in the winter.  The views are much clearer in the winter, too.  It's about a 12-14 mile round trip hike (depending on how much you explore while at the top (Happy Hollow Camp, front views, back views, etc.) so start early and give yourself enough daylight.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:

approaching Alexander Saddle

Descending from Little Pine Mtn. summit


Alexander Saddle trail marker


Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 06-08-2014 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 06-08-2014
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:The Santa Cruz Trail is in good shape but we could not find our way down to Little Pine Spring Camp.  It was very overgrown and the trail didn’t exist anymore behind the sign that said “Little Pine Springs ¼ mi”.  We got there about mid-day, so it was very hot.  There were some footprints in the loose dirt, but we hiked down what seemed like a quarter mile and didn’t find a single break between the dense brush.  We even went back up the trail and went down the bare ridge on the other (west) side of the ravine where the spring was supposed to be and couldn’t find it.  So we gave up.

 

Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 06-14-2014 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 06-14-2014
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:The trail is in great shape from Upper Oso up to Little Pine.  The slide section continues to do its thing but is very passable.  Water will be the larger concern for summer/fall 2014.  The creek is just a trickle for most of the way from Upper Oso up to 19 Oaks and will no doubt go dry later this year.  No water at 19Oaks Camp.  There was water in the spring about a mile below Alexander Saddle.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
People Seen:8
Images:

Santa Cruz Trail Survey - 01-12-2014 - by toejam
Link: Santa Cruz Trail
Date: 01-12-2014
Surveyor Name:toejam
Trail description:Hiked the trail from Mission Pine Basin to Upper Oso over two days.Upper Santa Cruz Trail is very brushy but not hard to follow. Trail disappears crossing a meadow in Mission Pine Basin. Small rock cairns mark the trail on the other side of the meadow. Thorny ceonothus tears at the legs of hikers once the trail leaves the basin and heads downhill. The brush is mostly not too tall and the old roadbed is mostly obvious. Tread is narrow and rough. One of our party got a blister in this section that I attribute to the rough trail. Left some flagging when I thought it would help. The view is really good. Good, flowing water in Coche Creek. Coche Camp consists of a metal sign and a couple of ice cans under some trees. It doesnt look like its been used in quite a while, and it would take considerable clean up to make usable. Kellogg Camp was recently used by a party with stock. There is a homemade table and large fire ring. No shovel. Good access to flowing water. Stock had been tied in a shady area a little way down the trail. Santa Cruz Trail is in very good condition past intersection with Grapevine Trail. But brush & roses are poised to grow back quickly when it rains. Bear tracks & scat at a couple of places between Kellogg & Flores Flat. Flowing water at Flores Flat Camp. Camp has a large fire ring with no shovel. Trail from Flores Flat to Santa Cruz Station is in very good condition. Water flowing well behind cabin. Some small trees have fallen in the creek and should be removed. Santa Cruz Guard Station in good shape. There are 4 picnic tables by the cabin, a shovel in the fire ring, and lots of firewood stacked neatly. Nearby campsites include 3 fire rings & 2 picnic tables. No shovels. A small amount of trash. Black Canyon campsite has a fire ring & grill appears to have been used recently. Trail to Alexander Saddle in very good condition. The tread is mostly in very good shape with a couple of slides. The trail is wide and very obvious in the brushy area above the 40-Mile Wall. There is a discernable path to Little Pine Spring, which will disappear when new grass grows. Alexander Saddle to Upper Oso has been worked and gets a lot of foot and bike traffic. A couple of scary slides persist.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:Trail is in great shape from Upper Oso to Coche Camp. Trail is rough and brushy from Coche to Mission Pine Basin, but not too hard to follow.
People Seen:4
Images:




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Last Updated: Sunday, January 1, 2017



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