Route: Camino Cielo Loop (CA)

Submitted by John Parsons on Mon, 01/24/2022 - 08:27pm
California, US
45.9 mi
Vertical Gain
12,802 ft

This route, which encircles the ridgeline above Santa Barbara, takes the runner on a traverse of the frontside of the Santa Ynez mountains on the course of the Nine Trails endurance run before crossing over the ridge to the Los Padres backcountry. Then, the route returns west along the Santa Ynez River, before heading back up and over the ridge and returning to the starting point. The Camino Cielo Loop not only covers one of the most iconic routes in Southern California, but also travels off the beaten path to the more secluded, gentle, and beautiful terrain of Los Padres National Forest. This is a big loop (45.9 miles) with lots of vert (12,800 feet) and technical, rocky terrain - and it starts just outside of downtown Santa Barbara, making it an easily accessible adventure.

There are numerous water sources along the route, including Hot Springs, Cold Springs, San Ysidro, Romero, Blue Canyon, Devil's Canyon, and Arroyo Burro creeks, as well as other seasonal sources. More information on the first 17.5 miles of the route, which follows the same path as the Nine Trails endurance run, can be found here. As the overall route has not (to my knowledge) been attempted, a brief description of the general route follows.

The route starts (and ends) at the trailhead for the Jesusita trail, specifically at the large rock with a plaque. After heading up the Jesusita trail to Inspiration Point, head down to the Tunnel trailhead, up Tunnel trail to the Rattlesnake connector, down to Rattlesnake Canyon, and back up the east side of the canyon to Gibraltar Road. Then, run down Gibraltar for about a mile to the top of West Fork Cold Springs, and down the trail to Cold Springs creek. Cross the creek and head up the East Fork, then down Hot Springs trail, across the springs, and then over the Edison catway to San Ysidro canyon. The route then heads out of San Ysidro canyon to Buena Vista canyon, and continues to Romero creek. Next, head up Romero Canyon and over the ridge, before continuing down the north side on Romero Trail to the Blue Canyon trail. Then, follow Blue Canyon to Cottam Camp, before continuing west on Forbush Canyon trail. Just before Forbush Flat camp, head north on Cold Springs trail and take a left at the fork to continue onto Gibraltar trail. The trail turns into Forest Route 5N18, which follows the edge of Gibraltar Reservoir. Just past the dam, take Devil's Canyon trail south to Matias Potrero trail, which continues east past Matias Potrero camp to Arroyo Burro road. The road then heads south, back up to the top of the ridge. Finally, take Arroyo Burro trail down to its junction with Jesusita trail, taking you back to the starting point at the Jesusita trailhead.

GPS Track


Peter Deneen and I are going to tackle this tomorrow, 3/9/24, at hopefully before 7 am. Fingers crossed on the first FKT on this route!