Solvang: Figueroa Mountain

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

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We’re heading for the mountains today! Figueroa Mountain is located in the Los Padres National Forest and is a 4534′ summit in the San Rafael Mountains. The 9.5 miles up to the top gains over 3221′ with an average grade of 9%.

We meet up with the group at the Royal Copenhagen to begin this out & back ride up west Figueroa Mountain Rd. We exit the parking lot and head east on Laurel Ave to Pine St and take the ped/bike path to Old Mission Dr. This avoids having to ride along the very busy section of CA 246 to Alamo Pintado Rd.



We head north on Alamo Pintado Rd for the next 5 miles and ride pass the apple orchards, vineyards, green meadows and the Quick Silver Ranch Miniature Horse Farm. The little horses can be seen grazing the open fields; lots of people in cars pull over to the side of the road to take pictures of them-even cyclists do it!

We continue on Grand Ave through the town of Los Olivos and cross CA 154 to Figueroa Mountain Rd.

The first 5 miles of Figueroa Mountain Rd runs north along Alamo Pintado Creek on mostly flat terrain with a few rolling climbs; it winds along the valley through expansive grasslands and ranches with grazing cattle on the gentle slopes of the green hills. It’s a great way to warm up for what lies ahead for us!

We roll pass the Chamberlin Ranch and make a brief stop at the entrance of Neverland Ranch to check out the Memorial stone carvings dedicated to Michael Jackson. We continue pass the Midland School and The Family School (doesn’t the name of this school sound like a cult?) for the short steep pitches that lead us to the base of the climb up the mountain.

We pass a wide dirt/gravel turnout area and head around to the sharp right hand switch back over a cattle guard. The narrow road ahead immediately tilts up to a very steep half mile climb with gradient ranges of 11-15%! On the way up, I see cows hanging out on the side of the road.

The road continues east through Birabent Canyon and steadily climbs up with steep grades of 10-13%. The road switches back and forth along the western shoulder of the mountain. You get spectacular NE views of the San Rafael Mountains-WOW! As we climb on up, I see outcrops of shiny pale green rocks on the side of the road, maybe it’s serpentine?


Let it be known, there are a few false summits here; some of the climbs are followed by a nice descent but don’t be fooled, there’s so much more steep climbing ahead.

Once you pass the Los Padres National Forest sign, the road follows a long ridge all the way to the Figueroa Ranger Station at 3200′. 

We take the time to stop and enjoy the magnificent unobstructed panoramic views of the Santa Ynez Valley and the mountains surrounding the National Forest. The scenic value of this mountain makes the arduous climb well worth the effort!



The road descends for a half mile beyond the Ranger Station into Sawmill Basin; this section is the highlight of Figueroa Mountain with its spectacular display of wildflowers. Springtime brings in the big “Wow” factor to this area with the upper and lower slopes of the mountainsides adorned with blooming lupines and golden poppies-it’s absolutely gorgeous here!




After taking in the beautiful natural floral displays, we descend into the pine forest under the canopy of the trees. It’s nice to get some shade in before climbing back out again.


The road continues on and on with some short sections that “levels off at around 9%-who knew that a 9% grade would feel so good!” We ride through more outcroppings of serpentine and semi desert areas.

We cross a few more cattle guards and continue along the ridge with fabulous views of the Santa Ynez Valley to the south and the chaparral covered mountains and expansive green meadows to the north. It’s really beautiful and quiet here!

We pass Figueroa Campsite at about 3500′ out to the minor saddle of the mountain. I can see a pine forest coming into view as we near the turnoff at the gate up to the summit.

The very narrow road follows a forested ridge up to the wide turnout area at the top. The road opens up to dramatic views of the entire back country surrounding the San Rafael Mountains-WOW! We take the time to eat a snack before making the long descent back to Los Olivos.


We reverse the route and descend 9.5 miles back down into the canyon and breeze through the 5 miles of rolling flat terrain along the valley.

We stop for lunch at the Country Store in Los Olivos and sit in the shade to enjoy a couple of ice-cold sodas.

We return on Alamo Pintado Rd and retrace the route back to the Kronborg Inn. It turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day for climb up Figueroa Mountain. After reviewing the route map for this post, I realize that we didn’t go up to the actual summit; that leaves unfinished business for this mountain. Next time, we’ll do the counter-clock wise loop and make the additional 600′ climb up to the top.

Later on, we meet up with some of the GPC group for a potluck social hour at the Kronborg Inn. There are plenty of snacks, drinks and laughter to go around!

We drove out to Los Olivos to have dinner at the Wine Merchant Café with 8 other people. The food and company were excellent! Michael and I shared the Baby Lettuce Salad with Pears and Red Onions and the Chicken Toscano entrée with Duck Fat Potatoes and Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli. Both dishes were delicious!

Garmin Stats:
45.56 Miles with 5007′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 4257′
Avg grade: 6%
Max grade: 18%

Weather: WONDERFUL! Sunny and warm with clear blue skies. Temps ranged from the low 60’s to the high 80’s. SW Winds

*some photos are courtesy of Zach Kaplan

The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.
 ~Robert M Pirsig


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Follow this route for today’s ride:


One Comment

  1. You mentioned going past the Chamberlin ranch. Did you know that Deb O’Brian, who 1/2 of our Wednesday ride was named after, was a Chamberlin and grew up there?

    Bob, I had no idea. Bob H had mentioned that her family owned ranches and farmland in CA. Now I know! Thanks for the bit of history. Nancy


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