Difficulty- Easy to end of canyon; strenuous to Figueroa Mountain; very strenuous for the entire loop.
Elevation Gain-470’ to end of canyon; 2,260’ from end of canyon to Figueroa Lookout turnoff; 900’ from turnoff to Ranger Peak; 3,600’ total to top of Ranger Peak.
In the spring there is no more beautiful place in the county than the crest of Figueroa Mountain, literally covered with square miles of poppy and lupine and forests of Coulter pine. Though a strenuous climb up over it, Figueroa and Ranger peaks provide not only views of the rugged San Rafael Wilderness and the Santa Ynez Valley but the Channel Islands as well.
From Mattei’s Tavern take Figueroa Mountain Road north. The first 5 miles along upper Alamo Pintado Creek and past Midland School aren’t quite level but it almost seems like it is. This gives a chance to stretch out before the climb, which is steady most of the way and steep in parts. The road switches back and forth onto the western shoulder of Figueroa Mountain, following a long ridge for 6 miles to Figueroa Ranger Station. You can replenish your water supply there or a bit later at the Figueroa Mountain Campground.
Sawmill Basin is a half-mile beyond the ranger station. This is spectacular high country with massive displays of wildflower in late March and April. Not too far beyond the basin the pine forests begin. The next several miles are more gradual as the road winds past the Catway and the turnoff to the Lookout Station. For many riders, the trek up to the top of Figueroa Mountain will be the ultimate goal. The 2.5 mile ride to the Lookout Station leads through Santa Barbara’s premier pine forests. From the top there are unparalleled views of the entire back country.
From the turnoff the road drops down to Figueroa Campground (water is available there) and then begins to climb again past a series of serpentine outcroppings before one final 600’ elevation gain over the shoulder of Ranger Peak.
From there it is 3 miles of exhilarating downhill to Cachuma Saddle (turn right there) and 5 more miles of downhill to Happy Canyon. Follow the canyon road for 5 miles to Baseline, turn right and continue on Baseline for 6 miles to the town of Ballard. Turn right and continue north on Alamo Pintado and Grand Avenue 2.2 miles back to your vehicle.