01 December 2014

Snyder Trail

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.


Snyder Trail holds a mystique for me, somehow, but my attempts at it seem to always be insufficient. The first was early in college on some scorcher of a day with the waterfall as a destination and our water draining quickly. With the drunk water approaching half of what we brought, we decided we did not have enough to get back up comfortably and should turn around immediately. We were out of water before the top. Since then, I have just gone to Knapp's Castle and once dropped down a bit further, but never any try with real commitment. It is probably that waterfall that brings the mystique. Knapp had a building of some sort down there and is supposed to have piped music down to it and had colored lights and it must have been some sort of trippy party hideaway. His guests were able to drive down to it via a spur road from the main one that can still easily be followed down to the power lines below. Now, I am not even sure if the spur can be seen, so add in a waypoint before leaving. While I am ticking off local trails, I may as well add in Fremont Ridge Trail for a nice loop. The day is cool and overcast with a slight threat of rain, making it perfect for crawling all over the back side of the mountains.

Lake Cachuma
The usual view of Lake Cachuma from near Knapp's Castle. There is still some sun as the area gets prepared for the mighty water party scheduled for tomorrow.

Knapp's Castle
Knapp's Castle is to be rebuilt and stand again in glory, but does not ever seem to get any closer to that state.


The clouds obscure some of the mountains in the area, but are leaving the view from the road the trail initially follows quite clear. The lake is still low, but hopefully filling soon. Passing around one curve, there is an old and shot up red triangle to mark a fuel break down the ridge. A small trail follows it and the line on the map marks it going down quite a ways before stopping abruptly when things get a little steep. Around the corner are some trees that provide welcome relief when the sun is beating down. Today, they have a couple of guys high in their branches cutting off their tops. The truck below them says Utility Tree Trimmers. Further down, things open up again as I pass below the much more substantial transmission lines that crackle in the moist air. I just have to wander up a hill to get the full view without too many power lines in the way.

Santa Ynez River
The view down to the river. The Zaca Fire and probably the White Fire burned the far side.

Santa Ynez River
Panorama of the 180+° view from power tower to power tower.

The road almost vanishes after the power lines. It is clear this part is currently only used to service these. Below, a sign points those hiking up to head to the right as a small trail heads left. I look and I am 45 feet from my waypoint for the old road junction. The waterfall is to the right and the track down it looks promising.

trail sign pointing away from the waterfall
It seems to be very popular to put a sign in to direct people away from anything interesting.

more of the river
View up the Santa Ynez River.

The Trail is well established and the brush is cut well back, but the tread along the old road is turning into a creek. Briefly, the cut trail abandons the road bed altogether, but then rejoins it in a tall tunnel. Thing get particularly bad as the road drops steeply. I watch for a way out the other side, but there never seems to be one. It is easily manageable at first, but I have to stop at the top of a waterfall I was not looking for. Comparing the map to my track implies this is a spot where the road turned directly down the mountain. There may be a way out to the side of the cliff, but I am not ready to downclimb it on my own. Maybe some time when there is more chance the waterfall is running and less chance the trail is about to be running.

tunnel of brush
A tunnel is cut through the brush with the cuttings dumped in the side of the road that is quickly eroding.

the bottom drops out
Things are getting sketchy as the bottom drops out of the road.

Hiking back up is warming in the cool day, but not bad. Below the spur, the trail used to be fuel break and a few of the bicycles seem to continue to insist on this route. Now there is a much nicer route that even finds a little bit of shade as it twists around.

Santa Ynez River
Another look into the very dry Santa Ynez River.

copper in the hills
Different things make the hills green in different spots. Sometimes it is a bit of copper.

The trail joins road again as it passes the water tanks for Los Prietos. Another sign points the way for those traveling the other direction and then a hole in a fence dumps all travelers on the paved Paradise Road. A big information board and sign mark this lower end of the trail.

Snyder Trail
Pointing the way for Snyder Trail and including a somewhat large estimate of the distance.

From here, it is nearly a two mile road walk along Paradise to Fremont Campground where the other trail starts up. There is enough traffic here that a thumb may yield good results. Rows of mailboxes and houses can sometimes be seen. The campgrounds have flush toilets, which is quite the luxury in the middle of a hike.

Paradise Road
One batch of mailboxes along Paradise Road.

The road walk passes quickly enough. Fremont Campground is currently closed, but there is still a campground host living there. A trail cuts in just before it and I follow this up. It hits a trail coming from the campground. There are no signs to say what it is, so I have to just travel it on faith. This is somewhat hard because it is wandering back to the the south side of the Fremont Tract that I just passed and not climbing. A couple little trails climb from it, but not for far, then the largest trail starts up. Steps pass a pair of water towers and it keeps on climbing in a determined way through the brush, which could use a trim.

water towers over Fremont Tract
Looking past the water towers to a grazing field I passed not long ago.

thick brush the whole way
Upwards, it is just a whole lot of brush, so a trail is needed.

dirt track
And here is a bit of trail.

While I am thinking the trail will climb to the top of the ridge, it drops into a small canyon. It climbs up and down rocky spots in a haphazard way to stay out of the very bottom even though it is dry, then climbs up to a meadow with a spattering of old oak trees and a huge yurt on the side. There are dual tracks all over the area, but nothing is distinct as the route that people walk. I follow some tracks up, but find only the small and disconnected water tank for the yurt. Somewhere, I have gone wrong. It may be in the preconceived notion that I should be west of where I am, higher on the ridge. Roads do seem to go southeast of here, past the edge of the yurt. I cannot find a route, so have to return the way I came.

sandstone overhand
A low bridge just after dropping into the little canyon.

meadow with oaks
A very distinct route as I enter the meadow with old oaks.

quarter section corner
A quarter section corner is at the edge of the meadow marked by a cairn and a witness post. The map does not show this one, which is 2 years older than it.

Back the way I came seems like a very long way, but if I cannot go forward, I must go back.

northwest view
More of the view from the ridge, this time looking down river instead of up.

grazing field
Halfway back along the road and next to that large field seen before. The water tanks from before are on the far right.

single track
Part of the built trail through and around the fuel break between the roads at the end.

lone oak on a hill
The last shade for a while.

colored sky over Lake Cachuma
Back to the top in time for the show of colors in the sky and reflected in the lake.




©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 2 December 2014

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