This trail has been burned up by the Rey Fire. I don't know when it will be open again.
Little Pine, at 4506 ft. is a challenging hike to a prominent, pine tree-covered ridge along the Santa Cruz Trail. 19 Oaks is an easy hike along the creek bed.
The hike begins in the Upper Oso campground off Paradise Rd., first following an OHV road, then joining the Santa Cruz Trail. The hike to Little Pine is 10.5 miles round trip, and very strenuous and steep. Especially towards the top. The views of the Santa Ynez Valley are spectacular at the top.
For a shorter hike, you can stop at 19 Oaks at the 2 mile mark, a short overnight destination for backpacking.
For a much longer backpack, continue along the trail that heads toward the summit, then go down into the canyon behind Little Pine Mountain to Santa Cruz Camp. Santa Cruz Camp features a Forest Service cabin, which is locked. You can camp out behind it where there are picnic tables and a fire ring The valley is shaded and beautiful, with a flowing creek and wildflowers in the spring.
Please add a brief update about trail conditions. All comments are moderated and will not display until approved, which can take days if I'm away on the trail.
I did an overnight round trip from Upper Osos Campground to the Santa Cruz Guard Station and back this weekend -- 10/18-10/19/14. On the outbound portion (heading north), I took the Santa Cruz Trail the entire way. On the return portion (heading south), I took the fire road from the Guard Station to Buckhorn Road, Buckhorn Road to Little Pine Road, Little Pine Road to its terminus at Happy Hollow, connector trail from Happy Hollow to SC Trail at Alexander Saddle, then SC Trail back to Upper Osos.
Other than stagnant pools near Upper Osos Campground and at the Guard Station, there was no running water. I never saw Little Pine campsite, trough, or spring, but I wasn't looking for them. I had carried plenty of water. I did discover the cistern at Buckhorn Road & Little Pine Road was completely full and the lid on top wasn't locked shut! That's where I camped, on top of the cistern. I used the water for a nice bath. Delightful.
Not too hot. A nice breeze the entire day. Other than 20 Boy Scouts headed to 19 Oaks and 5 mountain bikers, I saw no one. I even managed to miss all the motorcyclists on the fire roads due to time of day. The SC Trail was in excellent shape. Thanks to all involved there.
Only words of wisdom: Do not underestimate the hike from the Guard Station to Buckhorn Road. Quite a climb.
Posted by: Andrew Carter
Sorry to hear that. The trail to Little Pine Springs is very faint. There is a horse trough on the Santa Cruz Trail on your way up. It's well before you get to the grassy part. It's marked, but not obviously, by a sign. You will see a little trail before you see the sign. That horse trough saves a lot of people dying in the heat.
Posted by: Diane
I went backpacking up to Little Pine Springs on June 7th. Upper parts of the trail towards Alexander saddle are overgrown and big dirt avalanches cover the trail, but it's passable.
The campground at Little Pine Springs is so overgrown that we couldn't find the trail, camp or the spring. We did follow some boot tracks down below the sign for a 1/4 mile, but never saw a break in the brush to find the campsite or the spring. It could have been farther down the valley, but we thought everything was overgrown after the fire.
We hiked up with 5 quarts of water, but it was so hot and dry that we were running out of water by 3pm and had to hike out. We hoped that there would be water in the spring at Nineteen Oaks, but it was dry too. There was some water in the creek below Nineteen Oaks, but we threw in the towel and went home.
It's hot and dry up there.
Posted by: skipp
Hiked Upper Oso to Santa Cruz Camp this weekend. We didn't see another soul until Sunday, coming down from Little Pine.
It was clear there was a lot of recent trail work for 75% of the trail. A few overgrown spots, but nothing bad. Some spots were WIDE open - brush was cut back at least 3 feet on both sides. There were, however, some parts of the trail between Alexander Saddle and Santa Cruz camp that had sketchy landslides.
19 oaks dry
The trough was trickling
Little Pine spring had a healthy drip.
Santa Cruz Creek had some standing water at the trail crossing, but no water north of camp.
Posted by: jamesm113
You hiked from Upper Oso to Mission Pine Spring in a day? Dang! I'm impressed.
Posted by: toejam
Hiked the entire Santa Cruz Trail from Upper Oso to Mission Pine Basin, then made a left turn onto the Mission Pine Trail for the 3.9 mile segment to camp at Mission Pine Spring for the night on 6/25. For the most part, the trail is in very good condition with the trail crews actively working on the 40 Mile Wall segment as I hiked thru.
I found good water flowing at Santa Cruz Camp, Flores Flat is bone dry, Coche Camp has good water and took a sit my butt down, no soap rinse in the good flowing stream as it was 90+ that day. Filled 4 liters to carry as I expected Mission Pine Basin, 3.5 miles up the trail to be dry, it was. Mission Pine Spring had a trickle of water and that was about it.
I followed my footsteps back out the next morning, stepping on a rattle snakes neck while hiking through the knee high dry grass at Flores Flat, and of course scaring the hell out of me! Other than the mid day heat, it was a great hike on some pretty good trail.
Posted by: Boats