04 December 2014

Arroyo Burro Trail (front side)

Santa Barbara front country

Locate the trailhead.


Arroyo Burro is unique among the front country trails climbing to Camino Cielo. All the other routes find their way to the top in 4-4.5 miles, but this one takes nearly 6 miles to reach the top. It does not get that long by simply climbing on an easy grade like the various roads. It explores everything, climbing and dropping and climbing again, first on ridge line and then into a canyon and up the edge. A 3% chance of rain this morning has materialized into brief, hard bouts of falling water, but I am set on climbing the hill. The start is familiar at the west end of Jesusita Trail. The mud from the recent rain is an odd thing, sticking together enough so it is not slippery, but not piling up much on my shoes. It is an effort to extract each foot for the next step. Fortunately, this does not last very long.

clouds over the tops of the mountains
Heading up into the rocks and chaparral and clouds.

Early on, a trail comes up from Stevens Park that is not signed, but almost everything following is signed. The split with Jesusita is soon after a picnic table that always seems a little out of place to me. From here, the trail crosses the creek a few times and climbs up to a paved road. This also seems out of place, since I always hear that this trail is an old Indian route. Signs tell me to take the one that is climbing and so I climb past a stone bench with carved lions to the houses above.

puddles at a stream crossing
A trickle of water at a stream crossing for a stream that seems more like a string of mud puddles.


fork in the road
The trail splits with small signs to point the way.

bench with lions
Have a seat to take in the view that is mostly of a large oak.

At the top, there is a small trail heading around a house on the hill and I try not to be jealous that the people driving up to it can skip over the paved section. They seem like a cheery couple and I smile and wave. Once around their hill, the trail dumps me out on a utility road that follows the ridge line. County Parks signs point out the way to go while Land Trust for Santa Barbara County signs point out which way not to go on an easement through an avocado orchard. The way always seems to be the steepest road, up or down. Finally, after ducking under one last power tower along it, I am actually on trail.

passing through an avocado orchard
A Land Trust for Santa Barbara County sign informs users of the trail about the easement they are passing through.

utlity road climbing the ridge line
It is ever up or down following the utility road along the edge of the ridge line.

trail into the rocks
Finally on trail!

It is only a few feet up to Autograph Rock, a common turn around spot. This seems a sad thing to me since the trail is really just getting started. The rock does have a number of carved signatures. From here, the trail clambers up through the sandstone for a brief, intense climb, then levels off to enjoy the view. There is quite a lot of view. Through here, the trail is only a narrow corridor in the chaparral although I am certain it was worked on just a year ago.

layers of sandstone offer a trail of sorts
Clambering up the sandstone.

west along the mountains
Looking west along the mountains, a utility road comes in to near the end of the one I was following. There is actually quite a lot more to this view.

After traversing around to the next canyon, the trail turns downward. It is wooded here and there are sometimes branches or small trees across the trail. It drops a long way down into the canyon to an abandoned road. Just before the road, the tread has washed away and people clamber along some roots to the last section before the road. There is no sign to mark it for the return, but private property signs are below it. There is distinct trail going in both directions.

looking up the canyon
Things are getting woody as I start to drop into a canyon.

down in the canyon
The trail meets an old road coming up the canyon.

The road crosses back and forth over the creek which appears to also not be running until I stop and listen. Somewhere under the rocks, water is flowing. This serves as a nice, easy climb while it lasts.

rocky creek bed
Looking up the rocky creek bed. There seems to always be a pipe along a creek.

The southeastern facing slope quickly loses the trees as I start to climb. It is gently misting as I come out from under those trees in the very bottom of the canyon. The trail seems finally serious about getting to the top of the range. The shale underfoot provides a very nice surface for hiking even in the wet. Gradually, the trail flattens out to one of the hilly flats that seem common to the top of the range.

rocks poking out of the shrubery and into the clouds
Getting up close to the clouds poked by rocks. The clouds seem to slowly be retreating as I climb.

more green slopes
The far side of the canyon as I am getting near the top.

last bit of rolling hills
One last little bit of climb along the gently rolling hills near the top.

There is a car at the top, perhaps from someone going down the other side. The rain was supposed to focus more on the south side of the mountains, so there is some sense to doing that side instead today. There are signs against target shooting on this side of the road since this is a trail. The other side is also a trail, but has a designated target shooting area anyway, or would if the fire danger was not deemed to be too high. There has not yet been enough rain to lift the bans due to fire danger.

warnings about the trail
The top of the southern section of Arroyo Burro warn against shooting along the trail.

target shooting range
The far side is a designated target shooting range when fire restrictions are not in place although more trail goes past it.

yucca at the top
Yucca grows happily up here in the open grasslands.

After a brief poke around, I start down. The clouds had been retreating as I was coming up, but are already back to my level as I head down. Down in the canyon, I find that there were a lot more "private property" signs along the way, just just below where the trail enters. They are all nailed high up on trees facing all who come down the abandoned road. I am sticking to the public trail as I go anyway, but I suppose they are there to make sure I do. By the time I have climbed back out of the canyon it is getting dark but has cleared up quite a bit. Coming out onto the rocks, I am greeted with mists rising up out of the hills lit by the nearly full moon. The mud, when I get to it at the bottom, is a little nicer after drying a little, too.

mist rising from the hills
The rising moon lights the sky as mists rise with it from the hills.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 10 December 2014

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