Distance-20 miles from Upper Oso to Bluff
Elevation Gain-2,950 to Little Pine turnoff; ups and downs along ridgeline from turnoff to Bluff are from 200′ to 500′ in height; approximately 1,500′ in elevation gain from turnoff to Bluff
Trail Conditions– Dirt road all of the way
Difficulty-Strenuous to gonzo; best news is that it is much easier on the way out
Topo-San Marcos Pass and Little Pine Mountain
Camping Options-Bluff has an excellent campground, running water nearby and lots of options for day trips
While most riders take the Little Pine turnoff and head over to Happy Hollow for the downhill ride on the Santa Cruz Trail, you will find beautiful country as well as almost complete solitude if you continue on Buckhorn Road in the direction of Bluff, which makes an excellent spot for an overnight camping trip.
From Lower Oso picnic area, turn left and follow the spur road leading a mile to Upper Oso.
The Little Pine road is open to ORV use to a point about 5 miles before you reach Bluff. You should be alert for their presence. If you head back on the Santa Cruz Trail is used extensively by equestrian groups. Assume a rider is just around each corner. If necessary, dismount from your bike and ask the horse rider what he/she would like you to do.
I don’t ride beyond the turnoff to Happy Hollow too often, not because it isn’t worth it, but I just love the day loop over Little Pine and down the Santa Cruz Trail so much. Often, though, I do make the entire trip across the Corridor from Cuyama to Upper Oso and I rarely fail to spot a group or two on their way up towards Bluff.
Recently, I decided to head up that way myself. I got up a bit earlier than usual and was over at the trailhead by 8AM and up at the water tank by 11:30-plenty early to explore further. While it appears the road is heading to a much higher elevation, in actuality for the next 10 miles, until you reach Bluff Camp, you are making your way up a long ridgeline which leads almost due west from Big Pine. Surprisingly, Bluff is only 300′ higher elevation than the Happy Hollow turnoff.
Before you head off, thinking the ride will be a breeze, a quick reality check is in order-this ridge has lots of ups and downs. In fact, from the turnoff you’ll actually drop 250′ before a series of 300′ to 500′ gains-four of them in all-before you finally make it to Bluff. The good news, however, is that the riding is much easier on the way back.
Here’s my suggestion: ride as far as your legs feel like they will carry you comfortably, leaving yourself about 3 hours of daylight for the trip back. It’s beautiful country with spectacular views and more than likely you won’t see too many others. With the BOB trailing behind you with gear for an overnight or two you’ll love it up at the camp. If you can carry enough food to stay for two nights, use the layover day for a trip up to Big Pine. It’s a beautiful place to explore.