December 2014 as one of the five best scenic rides in America. It is also a featured part of the tough Santa Barbara Century. The pain of climbing steadily for 8 miles is more than matched by the panoramic view of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean.
The basic statistics: 6.5 miles, 7.7% average grade, rough pavement (patches on patches)
I normally start at Manning Park off of San Ysidro Road in Montecito. It is normally a quiet park with plenty of parking and public restroom at the far end. The gentle climbs through Montecito is a good warm up for the effort to come. The climb starts at the intersection of West Mountain Drive and Las Canoas Road near Skofield Park. After Cielto Road, the next intersection is Camino Cielo, 6.5 miles away. There is no water available and no facilities. There is little traffic, but enough cars do up and down where you need to keep to the side of the road. And because of the switchbacks, cars can appear suddenly.
The climb starts out at 6 to 10%, mostly around 8%. The pavement is fairly smooth at this point.
You can see faint traces of the Jesusita Fire that rolled through this area in 2009, here and there. Up to about 3 miles, there are a few houses along the way. I can't imagine living up here. One the views would distract me all day and night, but more importantly, it's a long way to the store, or anywhere, and if it rains, or worse,
if there is another fire, it has to be scary up here. At about 3 miles in, you will reach a sharp switchback, that looks like a large U. From here the pavement gets rougher. The asphalt has been patched numerous times, to where it is patches on patches in some spots. On the way up it is annoying, on the way down, it is more of a problem. And it gets warmer, the breeze doesn't quite get to the road and insects seem to swarm around more, especially in the summer. In the next 2 miles, you'll see the hand glider folks and the rock climbers. It's so quiet up here, you can hear the hang glider slipping through the air above you and
sometimes you can hear the hang gliders themselves chatting with each other.
Right at Mile 5, you hit Flores Flat, a small collection of houses and the only descent of the climb. It's very short and there are a few trees to rest under. The next section is the steepest of the ride and it is known locally as the 'Wall'. It cranks up to 10 to 15% and stays above 10% for almost a mile. This is where my power meter and bike computer help me out the most. I keep an eye on my power output and balance that against my heart rate. Despite the effort, I know that I may have more to put in, based on the computer numbers. Knowing this, I can ignore my legs telling me to walk it for a while and continue on. The
|La Cumbre Peak|
|Switchback on Painted Cave Road|
|Switchbacks on Old San Marcos Road|