Distance – 1-6 miles depending on which trailhead you take
Elevation Gain – 600′ from Live Oak picnic area
Difficulty – easy to moderate
Topo – Little Pine Mountain (though neither Matias Potrero Camp or the trail are on the map)
This trail leads across the north side of the Santa Ynez Mountains through open fields of grass and a series of ridges from Arroyo Burro Road to Gibraltar Dam. With the exception of the ups and downs caused by the ridgelines, surprisingly the trail is almost level, and high enough from the valley floor to provide scenic views of the canyon and the San Rafael Mountains.
Continue east on Paradise Road for three-fourths mile beyond Lower Oso picnic area. Look for the White Oaks turnoff, which cuts down and across the river, leading to the lower end of Arroyo Burro Road. Matias Potrero Trail is 2.8 miles up the road and is marked by a small sign. It is just beyond a large, open grass-covered saddle. A second, probably more popular access point, is located at a locked gate just before Live Oak picnic area.
In the spring months there is an abundance of ticks. Dress appropriately and use bug spray.
Matias Potrero Trail was once a dirt road servicing power lines that were constructed in the 1960s. Now it is overgrown enough to have become a trail. It follows the Santa Ynez Fault along the lower north slope of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Bluish-green serpentine, upthrust along the fault, has created a soil which supports a swath of grassy slopes and potreros, making this a picturesque area. It also is a favorite area for ticks so check often for them, especially in the months from March to June.
Access to the trail is from either Arroyo Burro Road or a spur trail which you will find three-fourths mile after Santa Ynez Camp and just before the river crossing leading to Live Oak picnic area. The Live Oak trailhead may be your best choice as you can hike either east or west along Matias Potrero Trail. Both directions provide beautiful hikes through grass meadows
The mile hike up from the locked gate has a hundred yards of steep climbing immediately beyond the trailhead, but above this the gain is much more gradual. A small sign marks the beginning of Matias Potrero Trail.
For a short hike, the western section of the trail offers 2.5 miles of picturesque hiking across grass-covered slopes as it meanders across a series of canyons and ridges to Arroyo Burro Road. The hike is gradually uphill but nevertheless is fairly easy.
Matias Potrero Camp, a small overnight camp, is just east of this intersection. A few yards beyond the intersection look for a trail split. The left fork drops down to the camp. The main trail leads to the right, skirting around the upper end of the camp, thus avoiding a drop and consequent climb back up. You can go through the camp but the trail is pretty steep on the other side of it.
Two miles to the east is a second trail intersection. Matias Potrero proper heads up to Angostura Pass. The left fork leads down into Devil’s Canyon and in 1.5 miles reaches the base of Gibraltar Dam. From Live Oak, a long nearly 10 mile loop can be made by continuing back along the river to Red Rock and from there along the road back to the picnic area.