The Little Pine Loop is the premiere ride in the Santa Ynez River area. It combines a long fire road climb with a fast, thrilling downhill. This is the best long ride around.
Bring a bell to wear as you descend the trail. Hikers and the occasional horse-packer also use this trail.
Also, be sure to hit the Paradise Store on your way out for a burger, cold beer, and some live music.
From the Upper Oso Trailhead, slide past the gate and up the Big Pine/ Buckhorn Road. In about 0.7 miles you'll see the end of the Santa Cruz Trail
on your left. This is where you'll eventually pop out at the end of the ride. For now, put that out of your mind, shift to a low gear, and get ready to grind. Follow the Big Pine/Buckhorn road for ten miles. As you climb you'll pass the Camuesa Connector Trail
at 2.7 miles, the 19 Oaks Trail at 3.2 miles, the Camuesa Road at 4.3 miles and the Buckhorn Trail at 8.8 miles.
Look for the large concrete tank on your left and make the turn towards Happy Hollow Camp. The aforementioned tank makes for a great spot to take a break and rest your legs. Sometimes the tank will be full of water and you can re-fill your bottles if needed. Don't count on it, however, and make sure to be prepared for the whole ride when you leave the car.
About 1.5 miles after the turn at the water tank, you'll see the trailhead on your right. There is a metal opening designed to deter motorcycles. Climb to the top of a small hill with a brilliant view. If you still have the energy, Little Pine Mtn. is just to the south, and the walk to its summit makes for a worthwhile diversion.
Once you're ready, drop your seat and hang on. The next 5.5 miles is some of the best trail riding around. The first bit along the Little Pine Connector Trail
starts off fast before a series of tight switchbacks are encountered. After another short, steep pitch, you'll find yourself at Alexander Saddle. It is imperative that you turn LEFT here heading SOUTHEAST. A right turn will send you deeper into the backcountry and down to the old Santa Cruz Ranger Station.
The Santa Cruz Trail
heads south from Alexander Saddle. The trail begins by heading down through a series of steep meadows. There is little to obscure your view, but the exposure is quite significant. After a few miles, the trail changes character and encounters a couple rocky technical sections culminating in a series of shale slides.
Once the slides are navigated, the trail winds and twists deeper into the canyon. It is easy to miss the junction on the left with the 19 Oaks Train. As the angle eases the fun continues. A few rocky sections and some tread balanced precariously on the canyon wall, end suddenly as the Big Pine/Buckhorn road is met.
Follow the road back to your car at Upper Oso.