Santa Barbara County High Point Trip Report
Big Pine Mtn (6,828 ft)
Date: November 24, 2000
Author: Ken Akerman
From I-5 I followed the directions in Gary Suttle's book to the locked gate in Santa Barbara Canyon,
arriving there shortly after nightfall.
I went to sleep shortly after parking and endured a cold night, cold enough to frost up the windows of my
vehicle. I awoke some time after 6 am and turned on the vehicle's engine and heater to warm myself up. I
ate breakfast, got dressed, prepared my bicycle and pack, and then began riding up the trail. As I was
about to begin my ascent, two large pickup trucks arrived, each pulling full-size horse trailers, and the
drivers appeared to be looking at the spot where I had parked my SUV for a place to back in their trailers.
I decided to help these guys out by moving my vehicle to an adjacent parking spot, so they could back both
of their trailers into my old parking area. I then resumed the beginning of my ascent at about 7:45 am.
I rode my bicycle up the dirt road to Santa Barbara Portrero. According to Suttle's book, this distance is
only about 4.5 miles, but the elevation gain is nearly 2,000 feet so it took me about two hours to get to the
first trail junction. The dirt road is well graded, and climbs steadily. From Santa Barbara Portrero, I
traveled south on Big Pine Road for 5.5 miles to Chokeberry Spring, where there is a large steel tank on
the right side of the road. Big Pine Road rises and dips gently to a drainage divide and then climbs
steadily to the spring. I continued past the tank for another two miles to the Madulce Trailhead, then
continued past this point for another couple of miles to Alamar Station. Since riding my bicycle uphill
was getting to be exhausting, I decided to lock up my bicycle at the bushes in Alamar Station. Alamar
Station has a picnic table and is a good place to camp, but you need to bring your own water.
I hiked for another 2.3 miles on the road while looking for the spur to the summit of Big Pine Mountain,
as described by Suttle. This spur junction is now marked with a noticeable rock cairn and is at an
elevation of about 6,350 feet. The triangular sign described by Suttle apparently no longer exists. I hiked
up the old jeep road to the summit, and arrived at the summit shortly before 2:00 pm.
At the summit, the triangular sign inscribed D74 is still there. Suttle mentioned a register on the summit,
but I didn't find it at first. I hiked around the summit to step on some potential high points and to view
the surrounding mountains. As I was about to descend, I found the register, in a pair of interlocking red-
painted cans situated in a small cairn between two larger cairns on a large rock. You can find this register
if you look to the right of the trail as it opens up near the summit. I signed the register, and noted that
Kurt and Trevor Mitchler had also signed the register book earlier this year.
I began hiking down at about 2:30 pm and returned to my bicycle at Alamar Station about an hour later. I
began riding the bicycle down the trail, but walked the bicycle up the steep uphill sections, as I could walk
faster than I could ride the bicycle uphill. I arrived at Santa Barbara Portrero at about 5:35 pm, now
almost totally dark. I put on my headlamp and rode back to the locked gate in the dark. Fortunately I was
done with all of the uphill sections of the route, so it was all downhill the rest of the way, and I returned to
my SUV at about 6:30 pm.
I would like to thank people like Edward Earl who recommended an ascent of this peak on a mountain
bike. Using a mountain bike does help one get to the summit of Santa Barbara Mountain in less time than
hiking alone. However, mountain biking uphill is more exhausting than hiking uphill, so less
experienced mountain bikers may choose to walk their bicycle up most of the steep uphill sections. While
you may not save a lot of time going uphill on a mountain bike, you will surely save a lot of time going
downhill. Gary Suttle's directions also appear to be quite accurate, so I recommend using his directions to
help you get to this summit.