Jump to main content

Santa Barbara Hikes

Red Rock to Girbraltar Dam and the Mercury Mine

Gibraltar Dam and the Mercury Mine.

Rating:
[out of 5]
 *  *  *  *
For:Very long, exposed to the sun, some hills if you go to the mine. Rates a 3 if you just go to the dam.
Sunbird Quicksilver Mine
The Sunbird Quicksilver Mine

Hiking to the Dam is mostly hiking along a fire road, but the views are worth it. The mine is an interesting historical curiosity. Before it was cleaned up, I imagined Twilight Zone episodes being filmed there. The mine sits perched above Gibraltar Reservoir, making it a pleasant, lakeside destination for lunch.

You will need an Adventure PassPass to park your car in the area.

The hike to Red Rock is only about 1 mile or less, but you will get your feet wet sloshing through the creek.

The dam is a 6 mile round trip hike, and the mercury mine is a 10 mile round trip hike. You can bicycle these hikes, too.

Boulder, CO Leave No Trace Frountcountry program

Add update

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.


(not displayed)


Updates


We hiked the trail to the dam this afternoon. This is a regilar hike for us as we live very near, up by Rancho Oso. Earlier posts had mentioned the road being out due to flooding, however, it has been open for quite a few months now. In fact, it has been repaved from the beginning of Paradise Rd at HWY 154 all the way to the Red Rock parking lot and is in very nice condition!😀 As for the Adventure Pass, it has been our experience throughout this past summer, including today, that, while it is posted that the Pass is required, it has not been enforced. The kiosk itself has been un-attended for well over a year. This may be related to the succesful lawsuit chalenging the authority of California to reqire the pass, but I'm not sure about that. We have only ever taken the trail that follows the river, and I strongly suggest taking that rather than the fire service road. I 53 years old amd did it in flip-flops today, so that should give an idea of the dificulty. Some stony parts, but dificult only for the very frail. Always beautiful!
Posted by: Elauder  on  2015-10-18
Thanks for the tips, Diane and Jeff! This is a great site and we never would've known about the hike without it. We look forward to our next hike!
Posted by: jppearson  on  2015-01-12
For future reference, Cold Spring/Mono trail out to the mine (either from Cold Spring trailhead or Camino Cielo) is a much more enjoyable way to get there. Actual trail as opposed to service road.
Posted by: Jeff  on  2015-01-12
Sorry you had such a difficult time. Aa Adventure Pass is required for Red Rock. There is a kiosk at First Crossing that usually won't let you go further without one. The people who sell them are concessionaire employees. I have a sticky in the general forum with a link to forest road closure and campground information. They tend to close the road to Red Rock after storms because people can't drive low-clearance cars over the river when it's full.
Posted by: Diane  on  2015-01-12
Two quick tips for hikers based on my experience on Jan 10, 2015: 1. [b:69b9f5b389]Adventure Passes[/b:69b9f5b389]. Currently it's not clear whether you need an Adventure Pass to park at the Red Rock Trailhead to hike to Gibraltar Dam. On one hand, various signs at the park said that a Pass was required (although it wasn't clear to me whether they were referring to day use or camping use). On the other hand, these articles (1) (2) indicate that Forest Service has discontinued the Adventure Pass program. Even this Forest Service (3) site currently indicates that the program is under construction: [quote:69b9f5b389]In June 2011 the Forest Service conducted a review of the 33 standard amenity recreation fee areas on National Forest System lands in California. As a result, the Forest Service is proposing to eliminate fee area designations for 23 locations and reduce the boundaries for the rest. These proposed actions will result in the elimination of recreation fees from many recreation sites and areas. Refer to the maps and tables below for more information on these changes. New Maps of Recreation Fee Areas in Southern California Under Construction...[/quote:69b9f5b389] We decided to play it safe and pay $5 for it. This (4) page says you buy it at the Forest Service Station on Paradise Road, but we followed a roadside sign "Buy Adventure Passes here" beside Paradise Campground (5) (lat/lon 34.541622, -119.811471 ) and bought it from a random un-uniformed guy who walked out of a semi-permanent trailer to meet our car. 2. [b:69b9f5b389]Trailhead Closures.[/b:69b9f5b389] The Red Rock trailhead is currently inaccessible due to weather closures. It's cryptically listed on the Forest Service website (6). The vital quote was: [quote:69b9f5b389]Red Rock Trailhead and parking area (River Rd is closed due to mud/rockslides - no vehicle access to Red Rock) [/quote:69b9f5b389] This was confusing because River Rd is not on Google Maps (7) or the map from santabarbarahikes.com (8). I'm not sure where River Rd is but I think it's a colloquial name for Forest Service Rte 5N18 -- the only road to the Red Rock Trailhead. This road is particularly vulnerable to flooding because as you can see (9) it crosses the Santa Ynez river 6 times on its way to the Red Rock Trailhead. If you look at the map (10) of the area you can see another road to the trailhead. This won't work: the other road goes through Rancho Oso and the woman guarding the gate informed us bluntly that it was private property and we weren't allowed through. So don't bother taking this right fork (11) (lat/lon 34.540446, -119.782214). We tried calling the Santa Barbara Ranger District (805-967-3481) as listed on (12) this Forest Service page, but no one picked up despite the site saying they were open. All in all, not the smoothest hike. We enjoyed the area and plan on returning again once our odds improve. (1) -http://www.modernhiker.com/2014/05/13/is-the-adventure-pass-dead/ (2) -http://www.sgvtribune.com/general-news/20140507/adventure-pass-nixed-for-visitors-who-hike-bike-into-southern-california-forests-judge-rules (3) -http://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r5/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5208699&width=full (4) -http://www.santabarbarahikes.com/gorp/adpassinfo]santabarbarahikes (5) -https://www.google.com/maps/@34.5416786,-119.8114369,212m/data=!3m1!1e3 (6) -http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/lpnf/alerts-notices/?cid=stelprdb5307964 (7) -https://www.google.com/maps/@34.5364038,-119.7783244,15z (8) -http://www.santabarbarahikes.com/hikes/backcountry/redrockmercurymine/map#RedRock_r1_c1 (9) -https://www.google.com/maps/@34.5340828,-119.7486117,15z (10) -https://www.google.com/maps/@34.5340828,-119.7486117,15z (11) -https://www.google.com/maps/@34.5401812,-119.7821886,165m/data=!3m1!1e3 (12) -http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/lpnf/home/?cid=stelprdb5288686
Posted by: jppearson  on  2015-01-12
Just hiked to the mine today, but starting at the Cold Spring Trailhead on Camino Cielo. It's a beautiful hike, and approaching the Gibraltar reservoir from above was cool, but we definitely regretted choosing a "downhill first" route - we ran out of water on the way back up, and if there hadn't been some awesome backpackers at Forbush to give us some water, it's quite likely we wouldn't have made it all the way back to the car... Also, regarding the mine: it's all fenced off, but there's an area of the fence where someone's built a makeshift ladder to easily get over the fence and explore inside.
Posted by: Sebastian  on  2014-07-13