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Refugio Road out of Solvang towards the summit, passable again?

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Refugio Road out of Solvang towards the summit, passable again?

Old 11-09-15, 11:00 AM
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Refugio Road out of Solvang towards the summit, passable again?

For some time now I've wanted to cycle Refugio Road from Solvang over the summit and down to Refugio Beach. I drove it in my SUV some months ago to scope it out. Though there were closure signs between the summit and the end of the paved section near Solvang, the road was not gated and I drove it in my SUV. It's very rough on the Solvang side. I'd be doing it on my road bike, and it was obvious that I'd be walking my bike most of the way up the hill on the eastern side. That's ok with me.

Last month I attempted it as part of a SF-LA ride, but the road was closed due to a bridge closure with a construction crew present. I tried my best to convince them to just let me walk across that section during a work break, but no dice.

I'd still like to do that ride. Seeing that it is no longer on the Santa Barbara closure list, I phoned the county to inquire and was basically told that the road is closed, and has been for a long time. I suspect that the bridge construction is complete but the county is discouraging passage, much as they did before. If so, I wonder if the road is still un-gated as before, and thus passable.

I might take a drive out there to see for myself, but wondering if anyone here knows either way for sure. Thanks in advance.
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Old 11-09-15, 01:03 PM
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i inquired about the possibility of riding refugio from solvang side on a road bike a few weeks back on another thread.
the response was that it was very rough and not really rideable on a road bike but i didn't hear about bridge construction/impassibility.
still interested in doing it but on 28's and probably descending the north side vs ascending it.
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Old 11-09-15, 01:29 PM
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According to the County of Santa Barbara Public Works Department's Road Closure page, it is anticipated that lower Refugio Rd (on the Santa Ynez side) will continue to be closed to all thru traffic 24 hours a day until December 1st. "Current" road info can be had here: SB County Public Works Transportation Road Closures

As you've stated, beyond the bridge, the unpaved section continues to be closed indefinitely due to poor road conditions although folks do hike, bike, ride it.
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Old 11-09-15, 05:10 PM
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I rode this pass in mid-September northbound (up the paved side from the beach, down the dirt side). There was no gate/blockage at the top but signs stated that the road is 'not maintained by the SB County, not responsible for loss/injury/etc.' and that it was closed to through traffic. At the bottom on the Santa Ynez side, there was a jersey barrier and similar sign, but they looked as though they had been there for ages and could be easily driven around. I rode it on a road bike with Conti 4Season 28s. The main thing that sucked was not being able to take advantage of going downhill because it was so rocky that you had to stay pretty slow and in control. My forearms were screaming by the bottom.
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Old 11-10-15, 10:18 PM
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Thanks for the replies. To clarify and expand on my original post...

I had attempted to ride Refugio from north to south last month, going from SF to LA, with my brother in law.

(I have to mention -- on the ride to Solvang from Santa Maria the previous day we took Santa Rosa Road out of Lompoc, and it was a MAJOR highlight of the entire 550 mile ride. It's a beautiful stretch with nice views and few hills that winds past vineyards, farms, and walnut groves. Can't wait to do that one again!)

Anyway, we rode up Refugio from the Solvang side and passed a couple of signs alerting us to the bridge closure. We rode on anyway thinking we might get lucky but were turned back about 1/2 mile north of Alisal Creek, near the construction site.

Hoping to salvage the ride I attempted a couple of possible detours that I knew were long shots. First was Mesa Verde Road, which passes several ranches and *might" connect with a trail that leads to Refugio. The way was open but after mile or two I could see that I'd have to pass through a lot of private lands, and turned back. Here's my Strava from that morning. https://www.strava.com/activities/417649796.

By car (my wife, doing "support vehicle", bailed us out that day) we drove up Alisal Rd. which according to a couple of maps, might have led to a smaller road that *'might* connect to that trail to Refugio. But that involved private property too. A local land owner told me that the "trail to Refugio" was long overgrown and even if we did make our way up there, we'd be adjacent to the old Reagan Ranch, and would probably be stopped by security around there. It was about that time I thought "Hmm, maybe better to try this again another day."

We hauled the bikes the long way around the hills via 101 and the west side of Refugio Road, then unloaded at the summit. My wife drove down the hill, my BIL and I coasted down and rode to Santa Barbara. Here's a photo of the summit. The signs on the right are old ones. The ones on the left were recent.

Road construction and weather permitting, I plan to try it again next month. Will post again.
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Old 11-17-15, 02:20 PM
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Refugio is a great road. I drove it, after riding around the Solvang area, last March. We had to throw rocks into some of the wide, deep ruts near the top of the dirt portion, for our much put-upon rental car. As far as we could tell, there were just a couple of roads, near the end of the dirt road, that led off onto private property, which could be accessed, of course, from the 101 side. We saw tire tracks, so someone else traveled or travels that road.

I rode up and over it with my brother and a couple of friends about 35 years ago, again from the Solvang side. We pedaled all the way, because the dirt portion was better graded back then. Now, after experiencing the poor condition of the road last March, I could make the ride with a road bike, very carefully, but I'd probably opt for my mt. bike.


I'd like to know if the road is truly blocked, too. Follow up, would you, with what you find.
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Old 12-10-15, 11:52 PM
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I drove out there last weekend to have a look and the road is still *very* closed out of Solvang. Will keep an eye on this and follow up again. I hope to ride it before too long.
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Old 12-11-15, 03:59 AM
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bummer. thanks for the update.
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Old 04-28-16, 09:33 AM
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Refugio finally reopened about 2 months ago and I did the ride yesterday. Really a beautiful, exciting ride over the Santa Ynez mountains to the coast. I was on a road bike but rode about 85% without too much trouble though I admit I took a lot of rest stops. Here's the Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/558683848
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Old 04-28-16, 10:33 AM
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Neat! Here's the route Gmaps if you want to see the street view. If Google fit one of their carbots through it, it must be passable now.
I used to enjoy riding up on Camino Cielo when I was going to UCSB back in the early 90's.

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Old 04-28-16, 12:53 PM
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that's good news-thanks for the update! thinking of doing
refugio at some point this year.
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Old 04-28-16, 10:59 PM
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Chris, did you ever ride the whole length of Camino Cielo? I've studied it on the map and noticed it at the summit. That looks like one LONG ride! It's paved near that intersection at the summit, but I assume it turns to dirt not far out. How much climbing is involved? Looks like it follows the ridgeline, so the views must be amazing.
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Old 04-29-16, 12:25 AM
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Originally Posted by 3949dxer
Chris, did you ever ride the whole length of Camino Cielo? I've studied it on the map and noticed it at the summit. That looks like one LONG ride! It's paved near that intersection at the summit, but I assume it turns to dirt not far out. How much climbing is involved? Looks like it follows the ridgeline, so the views must be amazing.
Not sure if I've ever ridden the whole thing. It was a little spotty back in tbe 90's, and there are so many little pull offs, sideroads, changing road names, and a dearth of clear signage.
But yeah, the views aren't entirely loathesome.


Last edited by calamarichris; 04-29-16 at 12:31 AM.
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