Distance-17.8 miles from Highway 1 turnoff
Difficulty– Moderate
Elevation Gain– Total elevation gain out and back 2500′

Point Sal is one of my favorite places to go in the springtime when the wildflowers are in bloom. While I love the acres and acres of golden poppies and bush lupine you can find on the tip-top of Figueroa Mountain, there is something very special about the wildflowers you find on the steep windswept coastline leading to the point. Perhaps it is just that they can survive with the salt laden air coating their petals on a daily basis.

This is a fragile area, with sandy soil and a unique blend of wildlife. Sea lions, mussels and deer can be found just yards from one another. Threatened or endangered species such as the peregrine falcon, California brown pelican, California least tern, southern sea otter and California gray whale are regulars here too. The area is also a unique meeting point and transition zone for tide pool life and plant life common to the north and south coasts of California.

Point Sal State Beach was closed due to slides during the El Ni±o winter rains of 1997/98 and most likely will not be re-opened for automobile traffic. This is good, I think, because it will remain special and visited only by those who take the time and effort to hike or bike in.

To reach Guadalupe, follow Highway 101 to Santa Maria, continuing north until you reach the Main Street exit. Turn left (towards the ocean) and follow Main Street, which becomes Highway 166, 9.1 miles to Highway 1. The Guadalupe Cemetery is just across the highway and there is plenty of parking in this area.

Though you can drive closer, the Highway 1 and 166 intersection makes a good starting point. From Guadalupe the riding is absolutely level for 1.9 miles to the Brown Road turnoff. Turn right on Brown. The riding is almost level for the next several miles as you head up into Corralitos Canyon. Just before the Corralitos Ranch the road turns up into the hills and the climbing begins. You’ll have several miles of steady climbing which will take you from about 600′ elevation to the high point at 1250′ and then a screamer back down to sea level in just over 2 miles. Enjoy this while you can; you get to go back up it on the way out.

The views from the crest are absolutely spectacular and you will be tempted to stash your bike in the bushes and head off for a hike in the hills. But this is one of Santa Barbara’s best beaches and is absolutely worth the climb you will have to make back out later.

The old road leading down to the beach ends in an open area several hundred feet above the water which means you’ll have to make a decision about what to do with your bike. I bring a chain and lock the bikes together.

Once your feet touch the beach you’ll feel like you are in heaven. The sand is soft and white and there is a mile of it in the cove where it ends at the edge of the steep Point Sal headlands. Depending on the tide, it may be fairly easy to continue on or pretty difficult. At low tide it is easy to get around several rock outcroppings you must climb over when the water is higher.

Within a few hundred yards, no matter what the tide, you will need to climb up onto the top of the 25′ high cliffs. There is a good trail leading on to Point Sal, but a misstep could be fatal so you need to be extremely careful. North of the point is another of my favorite places, Mussel Point, where there is always an abundance of seals and sea lions to watch.

When you’ve gotten back to your car you might think about dinner in Guadalupe. There are several very good restaurants there, among them the Far Western Tavern, my favorite.


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