Alder Creek/Franklin Trail
[out of 5]
|For:||Long, exposed to the sun at first, then steep.|
This trail has been closed but not burned by the Rey Fire. I don't know when it will be open again.
Sometimes people ask if there is anywhere you can hike in Carpinteria. This hike almost counts. You will be hiking behind Carpinteria.
The hike begins at the old Juncal Campground on Juncal Road, which is what East Camino Cielo Road becomes some long distance past the end of the pavement. You hike through Juncal Camp toward Jameson Reservoir, then at the far end, turn up a steep canyon and follow the creek along what is officially the Franklin Trail.
You can follow the Franklin Trail all the way to the top of the mountains for a look over the other side at Carpinteria and the ocean. Theoretically, you can follow it back down to Foothill road in Carp, but in reality, you can't because of private property issues.
It's a lovely creek and well worth the long walk along the dirt road to get there. The total mileage for the described hike is 10 miles. It's mostly level with some steeper uphill when you finally reach the real trail in the creek.
You will need an Adventure PassPass to park.
Alder Creek Trail
From the Mission, corner of Laguna and Los Olivos Street in Santa Barbara...
Take Los Olivos toward the mountains. The road makes a jag to the left and right again and becomes Mission Canyon Rd.
Turn right on Foothill Rd.
At the fire station at the 3-way intersection, continue straight ahead.
Follow this windy road to Mountain Drive. Turn left.
Follow windy Mountain Drive to Sheffield Reservoir and turn left.
Continue a short way (2 tenths of a mile or so) and turn right on Gibraltar Rd. There's a fork in the road right away. Make sure to stay to the left as you make this turn.
Gibraltar meets a 4-way intersection with El Cielito Rd. Continue straight through the intersection.
Gibraltar Rd. winds into the mountains and meets Camino Cielo Rd. at its summit.
At the junction with Camino Cielo Rd., look carefully. There is a large brown sign to the right. Turn right at the sign.
Follow E. Camino Cielo Rd. for about 6 miles. The road become dirt at the Romero Saddle. There is a water tank here, the second one you will have seen.
Continue down the now dirt road. The road is dusty and tiring.
Along the way, there is a wide spot with a gate. You don't want to go right. You want to take the left fork. There are a bunch of signs prohibiting OHVs. They don't seem to pay attention, much to my annoyance. You'll see people drinking beer while they drive this road, too, which really irritates me.
Drive along, down down dow, until the first creek crossing (a crossing with water in it, not a bridge). You will see a locked gate. This is Juncal Campground. There are endangered red legged frogs here so they closed access. You can't camp and you can't park your car near the campground. You have to pass the campground about a quarter mile and park in a spur. You'll see it.
You will need an Adventure Pass to park your car.
Alder Creek, or the Franklin Trail
The hike starts about .25 miles from where you parked the car, if you parked it where I described. The starting place used to be a campground called Juncal Camp, but now it is closed and guarded by large boulders. You start by walking through the camp. Look for a clump of sycamores on the campground side of the road, a telephone pole on the opposite side of the road, and a trail leading to a dirt road inside the campground with another, newer pole ahead.
If you can't find all that, just head inward and follow whatever you find.
At about .38 miles, there is a metal gate and creek crossing.
At about 1.5 miles, there is a shortcut if you are tiring of the dirt road. All along, you may have seen a rather dry looking hill looming ahead. You can climb the side of that hill and shave off a quarter or half a mile of dirt road switchbacks. The shortcut is very steep, however, so you decide.
To find the shortcut, look for a small meadow on right (it certainly won't be the only one, but it's at the 1.5 mile mark, so that's the small meadow you are looking for!), and an opening between the trees. You may see a faint trail visible aiming toward the creek. The main road will curve slightly left and a telephone wire will be directly overhead if you keep going. I put a small duck at the opening, but it might not be there now.
If you can't find the place I describe, what you are really trying to do is get to the creek and aim to that hill.
Still on the shortcut, after crossing the river bed, aim toward a very low concrete wall. The rest of the shortcut trail is through the bushes to the left of that wall.
Ok, for those who didn't take the shortcut, at about 1.75 miles there will be a creek crossing. Looks like a small swimming hole to the left there. Very inviting.
At 2.25 miles there is a view of the Juncal dam.
2.37 miles, junction with Juncal Dam road. There is a big keep out sign.
At 2.55 miles the previously mentioned short cut emerges back at the road. The road veers left to a straighter, leveled out section. The short cut trail is to the right at the apex of the curve. Look for small opening next to oak tree, to the left of it. You may wish to take it on the way back.
Along the road, at the 3.1 mile mark, there is another junction with the road to the dam.
At 3.5 miles, there are 2 signs. One says Upper Santa Ynez camp 2.5 miles, and Murietta Divide 4 miles. The other says Franklin Canyon Trail, Alder Creek Camp 1.5, Ocean View trail 2, Foothill Road (Carpinteria) 9. Take the Franklin trail, which is the right fork. Look for an old rusty car down the side for fun.
At 3.65 miles you will be under the sluice. At the fork take the right one.
At 3.75 miles, there is a turn around spot for autos. You can see alders in the creek. You're finally getting to the real trail. Go straight.
At 4 miles, the trail crosses the creek under the sluice. Around bend you can get level with the sluice. You may miss this creek crossing if you go all the way to the debris dam, but if you do, just cross at the debris dam.
At this point, there is a cold sulphur spring in the trail. Also, giant ferns. From the debris dam onward, the trail begins more of a climb. Switchbacks, a little treacherous and overgrown but followable.
At 5 miles you'll reach Alder Creek Camp. It's a pretty spot, a bit shady, so maybe not the best place to stay in winter. You could backpack to here. There's a fire ring, and a perfect spot for a one-man tent.
The trail continues but overgrowth increases. My description ends here because with the return trip, the round trip will be 10 miles. But you are welcome to continue. I have done the hike all the way to the top, but that was a few years ago.