Santa Barbara County Highpoint Trip Report

Big Pine Mountain

Date: December 17, 2000
Author: Adam Helman

Both the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara ascents were accomplished with a combination of bicycles and hiking. Scott Surgent and I were fortunate to have clear skies the entire time and cool weather (indeed, a below freezing pre-dawn start) to make the Big Pine round trip more tolerable. In comparison with other California county highpoints, the areas around these two peaks are relatively remote from civilization.

Although 32 miles is a daunting proposition for one day (12 hours round trip including summit siesta and breaks), beyond the regular complement of hiking skills the journey requires nothing more than considerable resolve to see it through and a minimum degree of bicyling skills (i.e. to control your descent rate on the downhill). Had we more bicycling experience we could have increased the mileage cycling (11 miles) relative to hiking (21 miles). Furthermore the total time may have decreased to perhaps 8 or 9 hours.

The following comments concern the precise location of the Santa Barbara county highpoint. I found the summit of Big Pine Mtn to be relatively broad such that the true highpoint could have been either of a pair of rock outcroppings that are each readily surmounted.

Following Suttle's description, hike/bike 15 miles to the 6,360 foot level on the forest service road (refer to his book and trip reports for details). At that point, follow a hiking/jeep trail that leads southward until you just barely get views of the distant ocean to the south (an additional 1/2 mile and 500 feet of gain). You are now on the summit plateau. (***)

From here the first possible highpoint is located perhaps one hundred yards east and consists of two boulders, separated by perhaps 4 horizontal feet, and whose apices are perhaps 6-7 feet about the general surface. They are each easily climbed.

The second possible highpoint appears to be a unique boulder consisting of multiple sedimentary layers and located perhaps fifty yards to the northwest of the point described in (***) above. Surmount the boulder for full credit - it's about 7 - 8 feet tall and requires no rope. Do not attempt in a high wind!! Big pines block the view of the two highpoint areas from one another, such that hand-leveling is not possible so as to ascertain the single true highest point.

I recommend using a bicycle for this peak since it makes for a more enjoyable experience on what would otherwise be a somewhat boring hike. How much the bike is used, including where to cache it prior to the final summit approach, will depend on your biking expertise.

Statistics: 32 miles with 4,800 feet total elevation gain and 3,400 feet net gain.