I have written in some detail about the history of bouldering in the mountains of Santa Barbara’s front range. The purpose of this page is to bring all of these bouldering areas into one integrated page. Although Santa Barbara itself is not mountainous, it’s located in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains which themselves rise to an altitude of nearly four thousand feet. The result of this proximity to the mountains is that you find boulders of all sizes and shapes that have swept down into the upper reaches of the residential areas.
One of my submissions on Skofield Park states how close some of these boulders really are to the city roads and homes. In the case of Skofield Park, as climbers we wish there were more than only a dozen boulders high enough to make an impact. The same thought also applies to Painted Cave Boulders. Painted Cave consists of only three boulders, but climbers have been sharpenning their skills on them for several decades.
As we drive a bit further into the hills of Santa Barbara, still within the city limits and residential areas, we begin to see a huge improvement in the numbers and bouldering potential for future development. Lizard’s Mouth is definitely one such case. On my page on Lizard's Mouth I spoke in detail about the discovery and history of the area. Lizard’s Mouth has become more than a bouldering area. It has become a place families can hang out and enjoy the awesome views of the Pacific Ocean and the unobstructed views of the sunsets.
One of the newer bouldering areas discovered some twenty years ago, was The Brickyard. It was hard to imagine that the full bouldering potential at the Brickyard would ever be realized until there was a huge forest fire in May of 2009. I visited the Brickyard two months after the fires and found a treasure trove of boulders that were hidden under heavy brush for many decades. Not very far from the Brickyard The Playground was discovered. This incredible area has more climbing potential than will ever be fully realized. There are boulders and rock formations of all sizes some reaching to a height of fifty feet. The Playground already has several sport climbing areas, but there is potential for dozens more.
In this “Area” page I am hoping to tie all these bouldering areas and any possible future developments under one comprehensive page. If you have some experience bouldering in the Santa Barbara County, please feel free to submit pages or write supplemental submissions and attach them to this page.
Watching the sunset
Nour on Meilee Boulder
Lars on Tunnel Boulder
Lizard's MouthLizard'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 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.”
Painted Cave, Hallway BoulderPainted Cave Boulders
If you are looking for a greater challenge on the Hallway Boulder, walk around to the south face and give “Baby’s Head, V3” a shot. And if that goes too easily for you, you can try the tiny pockets and edges to the left of Baby’s Head. Now you are ready for “Wedgie Roof, V6,” another overhanging crack inside of the hallway.
|A||No knees, V0 to V0+, Several variations|
|C||Wedgie Roof, V6, You don't want to fall at the crux; you can hit you head against a rock below you|
|D||Street Corner, V0 to V0+ depending on the variation you choose. This line will stop the traffic on Painted Cave Road.|
|E||Static Eliminator, V4|
|F||Baby's Head, V1|
|G||The north east face, V0-, many variations, all pretty easy|
|T||Hallway Traverse, V1|
Skofield ParkSkofield Park
I have written at some lenght about the rich history of bouldering in the mountains of Santa Barbara. My previous submissions have covered Painted Cave, The Brickyard, and the incomparable Lizard's Mouth. The subject of this page “Skofield Park” will be in a new realm and you will soon see why.
When you think of a city park, you think of a designated area to go walk around between trees, bushes and enjoy a running creek. Well, Skofield Park has all that and a bit more. Skofield Park has boulders. Some people have compared Skofield Park to Fontainblueau in France. Okay, may be so, but I would say Skofield bouldering compares to a very small corner of Fontainbleau.
There are about a dozen boulders strewn all around. They are found next to the creek, next to public bathrooms, hidden behind trees and bushes and next to picnic benches and barbeque grills. But if you are a boulderer, you know very well that you can make up a dozen different problems on every little boulder. Collectively, there are some fifty established problems on these boulders, but when you walk away at the end of your circuit, you will be satisfied. There is one thing that will undoubtedly cross your mind and that is, “Nice, but I wish there was more of it.”
As you walk down from the park’s parking lot, the first boulder you come to is “Caretaker Boulder,” which is right next to the paved road. The problems on this boulder range from (V0) to (V6 R/X). The (V6) problem has a befitting name, “Undertaker” and takes you straight out of the cave to a crux at the top. You don’t want to miss the crux move because the landing is on a sloping ground with small boulders. Don’t be discouraged. There are several much easier problems on this boulder.
This is my favorite boulder of the bunch. No highball problems on this boulder. To find the slab boulder, walk down the same paved road until you see the picnic sight # 14. Walk down the dirt path and go right, toward the creek at the benches. Slab Boulder has a number of easy problems and they are not high. You can also traverse the rock, but I found that a bit hard due to broken holds.
The BrickyardThe Brickyard
I have written at some length about the history of bouldering in Santa Barbara in my previous submission Painted Cave. The Brickyard was kept a secret bouldering area for a period of time. By the time I was alerted to this so called secret area, a very narrow and premitive path was established to it. Although the path was no more than seven minutes from the road, it was covered with heavy sage brush and poison oak, not to mention anything about rattle snakes.
Not having been allergic to poison oak yet, I took a shovel, a long pair of loppers, and a saw and went to work on improving the trail. After a couple of solo trips to The Brickyard, it was time to invite friends to go and discover the countless boulders strewn in this large area. Eventually, the only price I had to pay for my efforts to improve the area was to become highly allergic to poison oak.
The Brickyard turned out to be much more extensive than any of us had imagined. After working out the moves, mostly on top rope on the closest boulders, it was time to hack our way to the neighboring boulders. I’m not sure if all the boulders in this area were discovered, but what we found was enough to keep the local climbers busy for a few years.
The Brickyard offers some six dozen boulder problems in the V0 to V1 range. There are also some three dozen problems in the V2 and V3 level. Higher levels of difficulty problems are a bit harder to find, but they are here too. You need to use your sense of imagination and create your own problems.
Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds very close and convenient to any of the bouldering areas in Santa Barbara.
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
The PlaygroundThe Playground
Sandstone Towers of The Playground
Santa Ynez Mountains of Santa Barbara, California.
After the discovery of the ever famous and sought after Lizard's Mouth early in the history of bouldering and climbing in this area, The Brickyard was discovered. In contrast to Lizard's Mouth which is visited by the general public, The Brickyard became the destination of choice only for boulderers. These two areas are practically an extension of each other, and the discovery of one led to the discovery of the other. As it is with most climbers, their insatiable taste for discovering new areas had to be satisfied. I believe the area that came to be known as The Playground had been spotted from the city and had to be reached and explored.
The Playground turned out to be a lot more extensive than was thought possible. What seemed like boulders from a distance turned out to be only tips of much larger formations.That is not to say that there are no boulders at The Playground; there are. In fact there are more boulders than anyone can climb in a lifetime. The highlight of The Playground, however, are the countless rock walls that are mostly just below the surface. There are many caverns and tunnels lined by rock formations reaching heights of forty and fifty feet. There is a big advantage to having to drop down into a huge hole to climb back out. The hole, being in the shade, stays cool during the scorching hot summer months. Spend an hour hopping from boulder to boulder and climb down into some of the caverns and you will begin to get a feel for the magnitude and expanse of The Playground.