By: Gabriele Rau
I had climbed Cachuma Mountain before on my way to Santa Cruz Peak, a Sierra Club backpack trip. Then some of us left the packs at the saddle and just climbed it.
This time we followed all driving instructions, but to our surprise Happy Canyon Road was closed by a locked gate just before Cachuma campground. Late we learned that one can drive to the saddle only via Olivios on the Figueroa Mountain Road. Do not turn on Armor Ranch Road, continue on 154 past Santa Ynez to Los Olivios. From there take the Figueroa Mountain Road for about 19 (?) miles, past the Figueora Ranger Station and past Figueroa Campground to Cachuma Saddle. We did NOT drive the road. It might be advisable to call the Ranger! It is 175 miles one way from Irvine to here, 3 h on a Saturday morning.
We parked the car and hiked the 2.2 miles on the paved road. On the saddle there is no indication the road we hiked on is closed by a locked gate, cars driving down returned. The Cachuma Campground (no services) is at 2,122’ (topo), Cachuma Saddle is 3,104’ (topo) , the milage is 2.2 miles (car) or 2.5 (topo). It took us slightly more then 1 hour to hike there, after all, this was a 1000’ gain, but it did not seem that much. This would be a hardship with a backpack. Then we took the road, obviously not graded with some rock and water damage, but not bad, after all, more rains are coming and grading will be hopefully done later to keep the road in good condition. It ends at McKinley Saddle, the starting point for Santa Cruz Peak. The road climbs steadily and winds around Cachuma Mountain. There is a faint firebreak going up south to the peak, but very steep and then very brushy. We stayed on the road all around it (rather long) to the saddle, here the road drops for a while. From here a fairly good firebreak is open, first gentle, then rocky, but easily found and climbed. There exist use-trails up here. The view from the top (rocks) is excellent: a lot of wilderness, the ocean, the islands. It was a day between storms, so it was exceptionally clear. I left a can, then we left downhill. No problem again. For the total hike it took us 6 ½ hours, 10 miles.
We left shortly to 4 PM.. We took the 405 and immediately it was clogged, until the airport, then with the help of the carpool lane we made good progress. then home shortly before 8 PM.
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