The trail to 19 Oaks is arguably the most popular hike in the Santa Ynez Valley of Los Padres National Forest in the Santa Barbara back country. It is also the jumping off point for more ambitious hikers climbing to the summit of Little Pine Mountain. The hike follows Oso Canyon, one of the subsidiaries of the Santa Ynez Canyon. At the end of your hike you are treated to the shade of many mature oak trees, picnic tables, fire pits and a breathtaking views of Little Pine Mountain. You can get water from Oso Creek a short distance away and take a dip in one of the many pools along the creek. The hike is just under four miles round trip with about 550 feet of elevation gain. The trail stays in the shade during the morning hours.
The hike begins at Upper Oso Campground in the Oso Canyon, 34.55729, -119.77116. After going around a locked gate, follow a wide motor cycle road for under three quarters of a mile. The trail is fairly low angle and covered with soft dirt. Unless there are motor cycles on the road, this part of the trail is very pleasant. You are hiking parallel to Oso Creek and in the shade of oak trees. There are a number of side trails leading down to the creeks swimming holes.
At the end of the initial section, the trail to 19 Oaks separates from the motor cycle road and becomes Santa Cruz Trail proper. There are signs pointing you to 19 Oaks and Little Pine Mountain. There is also a box for leaving a note. At this point, the trail drops downhill for a short distance before rising again following Oso Creek. At about one and a half mile point the trail crosses the creek and shortly after crosses it again bypassing a rocky section. Another quarter of a mile, you will reach the turn off point to 19 Oaks marked by a sign. Leave the main trail and hike up a steep section of a trail to a low angle hillside and 19 Oaks in about one quarter of a mile. There are many oak trees, a few benches, fire pits, campsites and a very rustic open-air toilet pit.
Red Tape and Driving Directions
Red Tape: There are a few areas in the Los Padres National Forest considered as "High Impact" by the forest service. The Upper Oso Campground and the parking lot for 19 Oaks is included in the High Impact area.
To park at the trailhead you need to show an "Adventure Pass" on the dashboard or hang from your mirror. Adventure Passes, 5$ daily, 30$ annually may be purchased from a number of places along Paradise Road. Paradise Campground and Whiterock area are two of the locations you may purchase the pass.
Driving Directions: From the city of Santa Barbara along Highway 101 in California, take the exit for Highway 154, San Marcus Pass/Cachuma Lake, and drive some ten miles to the top of the pass. Drive down the backside of the pass for a few miles to Paradise Road. Drive down this road and cross the creek. Shortly after crossing the creek turn left following the sign for "Upper Oso Campground." Park in the upper most parking area. There is more parking spaces before the main area. The distance from highway 154 to the parking lot is about seven miles.