Refugio Road Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling






Refugio Road

CA, USA

Ride into the Santa Ynez Mountains past the beloved Rancho del Cielo of Ronald and Nancy Regan.

Explore this Climb

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LOCAL WEATHER

Start
Finish

Currently

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54
°F
°C

Clear


wind:
5.8 mph NW with gusts up to 17.1 mph

rain:
0% chance of light rainfall

10:16 PM (local)
PJAMM Sunrise Icon7:00 AMPJAMM Sunset Icon7:15 PM

Temperature
Precipitation
Wind Speed

Sat

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65° 46°

Sun

pjamm cycling clear-day weather icon

69° 46°

Mon

pjamm cycling partly-cloudy-day weather icon

70° 48°

Tue

pjamm cycling partly-cloudy-day weather icon

65° 51°

Wed

pjamm cycling rain weather icon

63° 47°

Thu

pjamm cycling clear-day weather icon

67° 46°

Fri

pjamm cycling clear-day weather icon

71° 48°

Climb Summary


Cycling Refugio Road - aerial drone photo of clouds and hillside

Cycling Refugio Pass in Santa Barbara - excellent Pacific Ocean views along at the top.

Ride 10 miles gaining 3,820’ to elevation 4,141 at 7.1% average grade. 

Refugio Road is one of two Top 100 Climb in the Santa Barbara, CA area, #59 Gibraltor Rd is just 25 miles east in Santa Barbara. Both climbs are beautiful and challenging, making a trip to experience both well worth it. If you are local to Southern California - or willing to travel for a climb - then be sure to visit the Refugio Road and Gibraltor Road climbs. The climb begins just off Hwy 101, 25 miles north of the Santa Barbara city limits and climbs 10 miles into the Santa Ynez Mountains which run parallel to the Pacific Ocean.  The road is for the most part one lane and very rough for the first five miles, although it does improve at the 5 mile mark when we turn onto Camino Cielo (Spanish for "Road to the Sky").

Climbing Refugio Road by bike - road and bicycle sign 

   

We started our May, 2015 climb in the morning and were greeted by birds chirping and roosters crowing.  We pass by an avocado orchard and the Circle Bar B Ranch (horseback riding available) in the first mile and are then virtually alone for the next 9-10 miles, initially travelling through a lower wooded area which yields to chaparral, coastal sage scrub and grasslands as we climb higher into the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Bike climb Refugio Road - pjamm cyclist on bike riding on road under oak tree overhang

Start of an exceptional climbing experience.

   Bicycle climb Refugio Road - Circle Bar B Ranch sign

Circle Bar B Ranch ½ mile up the road from the start.

Biking Refugio Road - Livery Stable through trees

Climbing Refugio Road by bike - pjamm cyclist on bike riding on road under tree cover

Covered and surrounded by oak trees lower part of climb.

 Refugio Pass is at mile 5.1 with an 8.2% gradient to this point, ascending 2,040'.  

Bicycle ride Refugio Road - pjamm cyclist riding past road sign 

Turn right at Refugio pass, mile 5.1.

Riding bike up Refugio Road - pano of Refugio Pass and road sign

Refugio Pass

After the first few lower miles we are treated to exceptional views of the Pacific Ocean to the west.  The road ends at a radio tower and what appears to be an abandoned (or very dated at the least) observatory which was apparently formerly used to track rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base 45 miles to the northwest.  

Cycling Refugio Bike Climb - W. Camino Cielo - views from ridge on Camino Cielo - Pacific Ocean 

View towards Pacific Ocean from W. Camino Cielo

Cycling Refugio Road Climb - W. Camino Cielo - pjamm cyclist on bike with clouds and Pacific Ocean in background

Climbing to top of Refugio Bike Climb - W. Camino Cielo - finish

Last 100 yards

 

   biking Refugio Bike Climb - W. Camino Cielo - observatory at top of climb

Finish

Bicycle climb to top of Refugio Bike Climb - W. Camino Cielo - looking down at road from top of climb

Looking down from the top

Bike climb Refugio Road Climb - W. Camino Cielo - aerial drone photo of roadway, mountains, finish

Drone photo  of West Camino Cielo leading to the finish - Lake Cachuma to the northeast.

Aerial drone photo of Refugio Road Climb - W. Camino Cielo

Drone view west of W. Camino Cielo and the the terrain just climbed.

Steepest ¼ mile is the last ¼ mile (12.6%); steepest mile begins at mile 1.6 (11.1%)

Note - the alternate route is to stay right at mile 9.8 where the road forks either left  to go up the remaining .2 mile to the Observatory; the most popular Strava segment stops at the gate with a 7.71 FIETS Index or continue 1/3 mile and 133' more climbing to Santa Ynez Peak (this actually has a higher FIETS Rating at 8.80 but for some reason is much less popular than the route we charted - Map).  Thanks much to Michael Foster of Goleta, CA for his input on this climb.

Of historic note, Ronald and Nancy Reagan once owned
Rancho del Cielo, a 688 acre ranch adjacent to Refugio Pass, known as the Western White House (located at the 5 mile mark of the climb) - "From the first day we saw it, Rancho del Cielo cast a spell over us. No place before or since has ever given Nancy and me the joy and serenity it does. ~ Ronald Reagan"  The Reagan Ranch.

Aerial drone photo of Refugio Road Climb - W. Camino Cielo

1992 photo of Ronald and Nancy Regan (Associated Press)

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Where to stay?

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We stayed at the Best Western Pepper Tree Inn on our Santa Barbara trip

This was a very nice and centrally located hotel

Restaurant and Bar next door.

We recommend this hotel.[1]

Roadway / Traffic:  The roadway is one lane for the majority of the climb, but there is minimal traffic and this is a safe and private climb.  Caution on the descent is advised due to rough roadway conditions (particularly the bottom 5 miles) which includes potholes and loose gravel.


[1] We do not benefit at all from this endorsement and have no connection or affiliation with the hotel.