Snyder Trail/Knapp's Castle
Knapp's Castle only
From East Camino Cielo hike down the dirt road about a half mile or so to the ruins.
Snyder to Knapp's Castle
At the Synder trailhead start up the trail. It is an old dirt road for part of the way.
A little more than half a mile into the hike you will see a water tower on your right.
About three quarters of a mile into the hike you will be back on a trail. Near another water tank, you will see a small sign pointing to the designated route. This follows some switch-backs that have been added to the trail sometime around 1998. The trail used to be a lot harder when it went straight up the ridge. Some old timers are still tempted to cut the switch backs but it's probably best if you don't. The forest service has a reforestation project in process and has blocked the way with metal bars.
After about a mile and a third you will be back on a dirt road. This is marked by a sign that says, simply, "Trail." This road is narrow like a trail, but is gently-sloped like a road. It is pretty easy to follow from here. Watch out for mountain bikers since this is a favorite trail. You may also see some evidence of animals up here. I once followed a bobcat up this road for about a quarter mile.
Along the way you should cross a small, wet creek in the trail. Very small it is, but there's always some water in it.
About two and a half miles into your hike you will see the remains of an old garage on your left. You can take a short cut up the blocks on the left side to the ruins of Knapp's Castle. It was really an old hunting lodge built by Knapp which burned down. It is now private property so please respect the property and carry all your trash out. Enjoy the spectacular views of the Santa Ynez valley.
For an optional loop hike via Freemont trail:
From Knapp's Castle, hike up the dirt road up toward Camino Cielo road. You will walk around a locked gate. You are now at Camino Cielo. You will want to walk along the road to the west (your right). You'll walk along the road for about a mile and a quarter until you get to another locked gate on the right side of the road. That locked gate is the top of the Fremont Trail Head down the Fremont Trail.
It may be steep in spots. You will pass some interesting boulders along the way and get a great view of San Marcos Pass and the Cold Springs Bridge. You can wave to the cars on the pass. Most of them don't realize there is a great trail so close to where they are speeding.
Almost six miles into you hike you will come to a high power pole and some signs. Unfortunately, the historic Fremont trail that continues on down the ridge is on private property and you cannot go on it. Keep this in mind when you look at the San Marcos topo map which still shows the trail in its historic accuracy. The trail has been rerouted to the right and it is still a very pretty trail.
Go through a series of switch backs until you reach a meadow at about six and a half miles. The meadow is very pretty in the spring with many wildflowers. Continue across the meadow being careful that you don't stray off onto one of the many minor trails that go off to the left. What's over there? Who knows? (I hear that there may be wild pigs in there.)
Continuing down the trail you will go through a shady area and then a dry brush area. Eventually you will walk right by two water towers. One old wooden one and a newer metal one. It gets a little steep around the towers.
Continue on down the trail until you get to an intersection with a trail heading off to the left and the right. Go to the left. Continue for at least a half mile. It is always further than you remembered it from the last time. Eventually you will see a trail leading down to the Fremont camp. Walk through the camp to Paradise road. Turn right on Paradise. Enjoy the 1.6 mile walk along the road back to the Synder trailhead.