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|For:||Exposed to the sun, with many creek-crossings, but short.|
The Rey Fire may have closed access to this trail. Check with the USFS.
Red Rock, at the end of Paradise Road on the Santa Ynez River is one of the most popular weekend destinations for summertime fun. It's a local party spot. Families, teenagers, hikers and all kinds of people come to this area to enjoy the deep swimming holes, picnic spots and campgrounds along the Santa Ynez River. This area is a car camping/picnic spot.
You will need an Adventure PassPass to park your car in the area.
The hike to Red Rock is only about 2 mile or less, round trip, but you will get your feet wet sloshing through the creek.
Red Rock is a deep swimming hole popular to weekenders. Sometimes drunk teenagers dive from the 40 foot cliffs into the narrow pool below, sometimes fatally, sometimes successfully. For this reason, and because there is a lot of drinking in the area, there is a strong police presence on summer weekends.
Past the Red Rock swimming hole you can continue sloshing your way along the creek, following an old jeep road to another deep swimming hole or two, and then at about the 3.5 mile mark, reach Gibraltar Dam, the reservoir for the City of Santa Barbara.
There is also an option to hike a high road to Gibraltar Dam and return to your car along the river.
The round-trip to the dam is about a 6 mile round trip hike.
From the Mission, corner of Laguna and Los Olivos Street in Santa Barbara...
Get on US 101 going northbound by taking Laguna St. to Mission St. (toward the ocean).
Turn right on Mission St.
Follow Mission St. to the freeway and take US 101 north.
Take the Lake Cachuma/Highway 154 exit. Follow signs to Highway 154 and turn right on to 154.
Head up the mountains and down the other side.
Turn right on Paradise Rd. There is a brown recreation sign before the turn.
Follow Paradise Rd. crossing the river several times and passing several campgrounds and picnic areas. There is a ranger station along the way where you may be able to purchase an Adventure Pass Pass, and one or two kiosks that can sell you the pass, too. You will need an Adventure Pass Pass to park your car.
After approximately 10 miles, park your car after crossing the river. This is as far as you can go on Paradise Rd.
The trail begins at the metal gate across the dirt road adjacent to the river and the parking area.
The trailhead for Red Rock begins at the very end of Paradise Rd. There is a large parking area there, recently upgraded with porous, brick parking spaces.
Look for a large metal gate at the north-ish end of the parking lot, near the bathrooms. Pass through the gate and head toward to river. Walk along the cobbles of the dry river bed. Cross the river (it can get deep) and head up the hill. The swimming hole and the red rock that gives Red Rock its name are to the right.
One thing about Red Rock is it is hard to find a place to lay your towel. Make sure you brought enough water and sun tan lotion. You can get very dehydrated here in the summer and you definitely do not want to drink this water!
To get back to the car, go back the way you came. Total mileage: about 2 miles round trip.
A loop option to Gibraltar Dam, returning via the creek
This is a loop hike, about 6 miles round trip.
In the parking lot, look for another metal gate at the west end of the lot. You would find this gate if you drove across the creek and just went straight ahead. Pass through this gate and begin an uphill climb along a dirt road.
At the second bend in the road, about the 3/4 mile mark, you may see a small trail off to the right. It is a shortcut. If you don't see it, just continue along the road.
At the top of the climb, you'll have a nice view toward Gibraltar Lake. As you continue on the road in a westerly direction, you'll have ample opportunity to look at the lake and dam.
Eventually the road drops down toward the dam. Near the bottom, at about 2.75 miles, there is a junction with Devil's Canyon Trail. You may not see it. It's a nice trail along a creek. You WILL see the creek, or at least a sluice gate in the creek near the bottom of the hill.
Near the sluice gate, which is a metal gate with cables that appears as if it controls the flow of the small creek, there is a three-way junction. If you head up the hill you can go see Gibraltar Dam. There's a picnic table and porta-potties and an interpretive sign near a Quonset hut at the top of the hill. That's one option for your hike.
At the sluice gate, if you instead head down toward the creek and make a left turn, you can hopefully find the trail crossing the creek within the reeds choking the creek. At some times of year the trail is under water. Get used to it because if you continue this way, you will be crossing the creek many times and most of the times it will be difficult if not impossible to keep your feet dry most of the year.
The trail is more apparent at the other side of the creek. Follow the trail all the way back to the parking lot where you left your car as it criss-crosses the creek. At times along the trail you will find great swimming holes. Many of them are great for swimming.
Near the end of the trail, before you arrive back at your car, you will come upon a section of the trail where the rocks are rust red and grayish green. To the left will be a rocky swimming hole that some weekends will be full of young people. There's a large red rock that gives Red Rock its name. It's possible some weekends to see brave/foolish young people on top of the rock trying to work up the courage to jump.
Another mile, probably less, and you will be back at your car.