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Santa Ynez River

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Santa Ynez River

The Santa Ynez River and its tributaries drain the rugged and scenic Santa Ynez Mountains north of Santa Barbara. The 25 mile-long upper Santa Ynez River is the longest stretch of free flowing river with easy public access in Southern California and one of the most popular recreation areas on the Los Padres National Forest. The river attracts thousands of visitors annually to its numerous riverside campgrounds, picnic areas, and swimming areas.

Several popular backcountry hiking and equestrian trails lead from the river into the adjacent San Rafael Wilderness. The Aliso National Recreational Trail provides a rare glimpse and interpretation of the Chumash Indians, who formerly resided in villages on the banks of the Santa Ynez. A short hike along the river-side Red Rock trail provides access to several large swimming holes just downstream of the Gibralter dam. Upstream of Gibralter reservoir are two rustic hot springs located on small tributaries of the Santa Ynez.

The river and its tributary streams offer more than just a wonderful recreation opportunity for people. They also provide critical habitat for several rare amphibian species, including the endangered arroyo toad, threatened red-legged frog, and the sensitive pond turtle. The high quality riparian habitat along the Santa Ynez's tributary creeks support significant populations of the endangered least Bells vireo. California spotted owl utilize pockets of old growth big cone Douglas firs that dot the canyon slopes.

How To Get There

Santa Ynez River Locator Map

From Hwy 101 in Santa Barbara, drive approximately 10 miles north on Hwy 154 over San Marcos Pass. Turn right on Forest Road 5N18, leading to the Santa Ynez River recreation areas.

Recreation And Visitor Information
For maps and additional recreation information, contact the Forest Services Los Padres National Forest office at 6144 Calle Real, Santa Barbara CA 93117, phone: (805) 967-3481.

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