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Santa Barbara to Santa Ynez route advice?

Old 01-15-17, 05:57 PM
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shotwellian
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Santa Barbara to Santa Ynez route advice?

Hi all,

I'm planning a bike tour starting from SF in March, and my last day's ride will be from Santa Barbara to Solvang, where I'll catch the Amtrak bus back north.

I found an old thread discussing the best route from SB / to the Santa Ynez Valley, but since some things (road closures etc) seem to have changed recently, does anyone have any advice between these following routes:

1. Old San Marcos / Stagecoach / 154 - some online sources seem to say even strong, confident cyclists should avoid riding San Marcos Pass. Agree / disagree? This would be an early weekend morning heading west.

2. Old San Marcos / Kinevan / West Camino Cielo / Refugio - I'm fine riding dirt roads, but it looks like the dirt part of West Camino Cielo might be more of a mountain bike route. Anyone taken this route? If so, how technical / rough is West Camino Cielo?

3. 101 / Refugio - This is my current plan. Looks like riding on 101 from Goleta to Refugio isn't bad and the dirt part of Refugio around the summit is only a few miles. I saw some stuff about Refugio being closed for construction, but it seems to now be open? And is the bike path from El Capitan to Refugio beach passable?

Many thanks for any 1st hand intel!
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Old 01-16-17, 02:01 PM
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+1. Yes, please, any info on this appreciated.

I've been dreaming of a south-to-north California tour for over five years now (I swear I'll do it someday) and a Santa Barbara to Solving route is the hardest part to figure out. Here's my thoughts based on extensive research on the net and in person both by bike and car ...

#0: US-101 the whole way, up through the Gaviota Pass to Buellton:
I've done this north-to-south (actually joining in from CA-1 from Lompoc) and of course it's a great descent -- heavy 70 mph traffic but a wide shoulder and coasting at 40 mph on the downgrade.

Uphill? Not so much. Probably not too bad except for the little issue of the tunnel. I once found a youtube of a punker kid ghetto touring up the coast, full of "stick it to 'The Man'" / "I'm on a BIKE! Get out of your cars, ***holes!" bravado. He rode through the tunnel -- two narrow lanes, no shoulders, steep grade, semi-trucks blasting by at 70 -- and stopped for his selfie video on the other side, white-faced in terror going, "Omigod, omigod, thought I was going to die!"

I've talked to more mature tourers who've done it and survived, but they said it wasn't pleasant. I've scratched it off my list of possibilities

#1: CA-154 ("new" San Marcos Pass Rd)
No. Steep climb, heavy 70 mph traffic, narrow road, narrow and/or non-existent shoulders.

#2: Old San Marcos / Painted Cave / E Camino Cielo / Stagecoach / CA-154
This usually tops my list. Absolutely brutal climb all the way on Old San Marcos, and then even worse in places on Painted Cave until the peak. Fully loaded for touring, I'm looking forward to it as the climb of a lifetime -- quite possibly a lifetime ending with a sudden heart attack halfway up.

But that's not the problem. I drove it once to see what it was like, and the two crossings of the 154 were almost impossible ... IN A CAR!! Heavy 60+ mph traffic, blind corners (especially at the second one); I barely made it by waiting for what I thought was my best break in traffic and laying rubber gunning it across. Would take a lot of luck to make it on a bike.

Could always give up on the second crossing and just make a right turn and go down the 154 the rest of the way. There's only a little bit of climbing left and the shoulder is decent. But that means giving up the beautiful wooded descent on Stagecoach and a well-deserved stuff-your-face meal at the Cold Springs Tavern.

#3: 101 / Refugio
Originally Posted by shotwellian View Post
and the dirt part of Refugio around the summit is only a few miles.
I'm a newbie here and not allowed to include links, but Google "ride chronicles buellton refugio road" for a great ride description and photos. There's parts down from the peak on the Solvang side that look like mountain biking to me, but your mileage may vary. This is also on my list -- maybe I'll just walk/push those parts.

#4: Old San Marcos / Kinevan / West Camino Cielo / Refugio
Like you, I can't find much information about W. Camino Cielo. From Google Maps and Earth it looks like dirt most of the way -- the kind which could be deep mud during this rainy CA winter. And then there's the problem descending Refugio.

#5 CA-192 / E Cielito / Gibralter / E Camino Cielo / Stagecoach / CA-154
Gibralter is also famous as a world-class "hors categorie" climb. And it's a long/desolate/shadeless/waterless stretch along E Camino Cielo -- would be brutal in the summer when I'd likely be doing it. And there's still the "cross 154 to Stagecoach" decision to be made.

Please post any info you find offline, and what you finally decide. And Santa Barbara cyclists: Please share some local knowledge with your SF/LA brethren!
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Old 02-21-17, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by shotwellian View Post
Hi all,

I'm planning a bike tour starting from SF in March, and my last day's ride will be from Santa Barbara to Solvang, where I'll catch the Amtrak bus back north.

I found an old thread discussing the best route from SB / to the Santa Ynez Valley, but since some things (road closures etc) seem to have changed recently, does anyone have any advice between these following routes:
Actually I don't know any of the routes you suggest, but when I was a teen I used to ride from Santa Barbara to Solvang and back over Gibraltar road. Can't quite remember what roads I took on the other side of the hill. There's very little traffic, and it is quite scenic. It is an epic climb, but since you'd only have to do it one way, it won't be too tough. Honestly, it's been decades, so I don't know the current status of the route.

Edit. Ooops. Just realized this is #5 of the options WheelsOnRoad listed above. Yeah, that's the route I used to take. In March it's not going to be too bad heat wise. Start early and take your time.

Last edited by Salamandrine; 02-21-17 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 03-31-17, 04:29 PM
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In case anyone has a similar question, I ended up taking 101 west from SB to Gaviota Pass. The tunnel at Gaviota Pass is really not a big deal: maybe 1000' long, with still a bit of shoulder, and traffic on a weekday morning was fairly light. There's also a flashing to warn drivers when a cyclist is going through.

At Nojoqui Summit, instead of taking 101 into Buellton, I turned right onto beautiful, unsigned Old Coast Highway, which leads steeply downhill to Alisal Road. Alisal Road is stunningly beautiful. It's marked as closed, but there's only a small sinkhole that's easy to bike around. Alisal Road leads right into the center of Solvang.
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Old 04-01-17, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by shotwellian View Post
In case anyone has a similar question, I ended up taking 101 west from SB to Gaviota Pass. The tunnel at Gaviota Pass is really not a big deal: maybe 1000' long, with still a bit of shoulder, and traffic on a weekday morning was fairly light. There's also a flashing to warn drivers when a cyclist is going through.

At Nojoqui Summit, instead of taking 101 into Buellton, I turned right onto beautiful, unsigned Old Coast Highway, which leads steeply downhill to Alisal Road. Alisal Road is stunningly beautiful. It's marked as closed, but there's only a small sinkhole that's easy to bike around. Alisal Road leads right into the center of Solvang.
Thanks for the info. When driving, we pull off on Old Coast Hwy. to visit the farmstead on it (you rode right past it). We found that it becomes Alisal, too. Great route choice, thanks for confirming.
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