Lizard’s mouth is a bouldering area in the mountains north of Santa Barbara, California.
A climber sees every mountain or rock as another object to climb. Lizard’s Mouth certainly did not escape that mentality. One visit to Lizard’s Mouth and you quickly find yourself in one of the most extensive bouldering areas you have ever come across.
Lizard’s Mouth, however, is much more than just another bouldering area. This is where families bring their children to run around on rock slabs, weave around countless boulders and scramble to the top of every high point. A word of caution: Don’t let your kids play “Hide And Seek” here; you risk a long search to find them. There are countless hallways and caverns for young explorers to hide in.
Most people with a love of the outdoors come to Lizard’s Mouth to take in the breathtaking panorama of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Barbara Channel Islands-San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Anacapa. Viewing the sunset from here is something to behold. You have an uninterrupted view of the sunrise and sunset from Lizard’s Mouth.
When you walk around Lizard’s Mouth, you can’t help but wonder how and when this gem of an area was discovered and, better yet, how it was named. I am honored to name an old friend and climbing partner of several decades, Steve Tucker, as the earliest pioneer at Lizard’s Mouth.
It was in the mid 1960s that Steve Tucker’s sense of adventure and exploration got the better of him to find a way to enter this yet unknown and untouched territory. As teenagers, Steve and friends hacked their way through the heavy brush west of San Marcos Pass to explore the boulders and caverns that abound there. He describes an area so pristine that not even the fine dust covering the huecos had been disturbed. Needless to mention there were no footprints or signs of any human activity anywhere to be seen.
The Name Lizard's Mouth
The most prominent formation in the area was originally noticed by Steve from a location further north with a heavily brush covered approach. Steve and company hacked their way through the overgrown hillside to the formation ignoring poison oak and rattle snakes. When they reach this odd looking rock, they saw a formation resembling a turtle’s head. But, they decided that the formation looked more like a lizard with its mouth open, thus “Lizard’s Mouth” was christened.
Steve’s older brother, John, a college student at the time, comes to visit and by now he is a rock climber. Steve and John buy a rope from a hardware store and hang it from the top of Lizard’s Mouth for batmanning up and down the forty foot rock. The idea of actually climbing Lizard’s Mouth using a belay was only the next natural step. As time went on, the entire area was named after Lizard’s Mouth formation. Nowadays, most younger climbers refer to the area as “The Mouth.”
Lizard's Mouth Bouldering samples
This being a “Mountain And Rock” page, we should talk about the climbing aspect of Lizard’s Mouth. Lizard’s Mouth is by far the most extensive and accessible bouldering area in the mountains of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. I have written in some detail about other bouldering areasThe Brickyard and Painted Cave, but Lizard’s Mouth soars to a different level. There are more boulders hidden behind bushes than takes a lifetime to discover.
The main Lizard’s Mouth formation offers dozens of problems, but due to its height most people prefer to top rope the routes. The entire overhanging face is covered with huecos and ribs. The low traverse will give your forearms a workout you won’t forget for a week. But, if you decide to climb straight up the overhanging forty foot face, you can easily set up a top rope.
There are several bolts on top, and except for one, all have missing hangers. Bring your own hangers and nuts to use. The best and most accepted technique for setting up a top rope at Lizard’s Mouth is to use a second rope tied to large boulders and bushes on the back side of the formation.
A word of caution: Although the huecos near the base see a lot of traffic and have become pretty clean, the upper part of the overhang still remains sandy. Bring a sturdy brush to do a little house cleaning while you’re at it. The low traverse at The Mouth recieves a great deal of attention, however, there are many more great boulders strewn all over the area. To find these boulders you need to walk on countless side trails and look behind trees and bushes. You may end up with a gem of a boulder all to yourself. The number of routes and variations run into hundreds. Following the chalk marks is a good way to start, but coming up with your own creations feels even better.
Lord of The Flies Boulder
Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds close and convenient to The Brickyard.
There is, however, one very large and well developed campground at Cachuma Lake, and a few less developed ones along Paradise Road off Highway 154. There are also a few campgrounds along Highway 101 at El Capitan State Park and Refugio State Park.
El Capitan Beach Camping
Refugio State Beach Camping
How to get there
From 101 Freeway take Highway 154, Cachuma Lake & San Marcos Pass exit. Drive north for 6.8 miles toward San Marcos Pass to its intersection with West Camino Cielo Road. Turn left at this intersection. Drive 3.8 miles up West Camino Cielo Road. Just before reaching the sign for "The Gun Club" you will see large dirt pullout spaces on the right hand side of the road. Park here and look for the "Lizard's Mouth" sign posted by "The Forest Service." Hike up any one of a number of trails heading north west. You will walk by many boulders. Lizard's Mouth formation cannot be seen from the lower trails. Hike up to the highest point on rock slabs to see the bolts on top. These are the toprope bolts. You can scramble down from either the right or left to the base.