Santa Barbara County - Top Bike Climbs

#1
Gibraltar Road
USA, CA
#2
Refugio Road
USA, CA
#3
San Marcos - Painted Cave
USA, CA
#4
Figueroa Mountain Road South
USA, CA
#5
Figueroa Mountain Road West
USA, CA

Climb List: Santa Barbara County
(sort by distance, difficulty, elevation and more)

Cycling Santa Barbara County

Cycling Santa Barbara County - Road, mountain, Pacific Ocean

Gibraltar Road, Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara County is an excellent area for road bike climbs.  There are many challenging and scenic bike climbs in and around the major cities of Santa Barbara County, including Gibraltar Road (Santa Barbara), San Marcos/Painted Cave Road (Golema), San Refugio Road (Capitola), and Figueroa Mountain Road (Solvang).

THE MOST CHALLENGING BIKE CLIMB IN SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

GIBRALTAR ROAD

Cycling Gibraltar Road

Ride 9.8 miles gaining 3,863’ at 7.3% average grade.

Gibraltar Road to La Cumbre Peak is a very challenging climb that begins within the city limits of Santa Barbara, California.  Although the ride starts in the beautiful though populous city of Santa Barbara, we quickly climb into rural surroundings which offer exceptional views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara to the west (for most of the ride) and the Santa Ynez Mountain Range to the east (in the last couple of miles).   

Gibraltar is not just spectacular during daytime hours. . . .

View of Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara after climbing by bike to  La Cumbre Peak

Views south to Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean.

(One would think west but the view is actually south.)

Bicycle climb Gibraltar Road - Aerial drone photo of Santa Ynez mountains and E. Camino Cielo Road

E. Camino Cielo with Santa Ynez Mountain Range in the background.

Cycling Gibraltar Road - aerial drone photo of Gibraltar Road and E. Camino Cielo Road - Santa Ynez Mountains in the background.

RONALD REAGAN'S FAVORITE ROAD IN SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

REFUGIO ROAD

Cycling Refugio Road - aerial drone photo of clouds and hillside

Cycling Refugio Pass in Santa Barbara:

 Excellent Pacific Ocean views 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 Gibraltar 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 just willing to travel for a climb -- then be sure to visit the Refugio Road and Gibraltar Road climbs. This climb begins just off Highway 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 one lane for the most part, and very rough for the first five miles, although it does improve at the five mile mark when we turn onto Camino Cielo (Spanish for "Road to the Sky").

Climbing Refugio Road by bike - road and bicycle sign 

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 five mile mark of the climb).  President Reagan was quoted saying, "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."  

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

1992 photo of Ronald and Nancy Reagan (Associated Press).

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 can be seen to the northeast.

THE MOST INTERESTING QUARTER MILE OF ROAD IN SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

SAN MARCOS-PAINTED CAVE ROADS

Climbing San Marcos-Painted Cave Roads by Bike

Ride nine miles gaining 3,420’ at 7.2% average grade.

This climb into the mountains bordering the northern edge of the city of Santa Barbara is challenging and epic.  This is one of our favorite bike climbs in Southern California and one you should seriously consider if you are ever in the Santa Barbara area.

Painted Cave at mile 5.1

Historical cave

The Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park is home to a small sandstone cave adorned with rock art attributed to the Native American Chumash people.

Amazing views as we climb along the E. Camino Cielo ridgeline.

   Climbing  Santa Barbara County by bike - San Marcos-Painted Cave Roads - view east of Santa Ynez Mountains.

View north of Santa Ynez Mountains.