Top bike climbs in Santa Barbara County. Cycling, riding and climbing the top, most difficult, hardest, challenging, extreme, best, scenic, inspiring, bucket list climbs in the Santa Barbara County. These climbs can be viewed via the map below (scroll in to view climbs in particular areas), by a detailed list of the climbs that can be arranged by difficulty, distance (longest climbs in the county), altitude gained, highest elevation (highest summit), average grade (sort the grades by varying distances), lowest start point, etc. Click on "Climb Page" to jump to the detail page for that particular bike climb.
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
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 Road -- Santa Barbara and Pacific Ocean in background.
Views south to Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean.
(One would think west but the view is actually south.)
E. Camino Cielo with Santa Ynez Mountain Range in the background.
Gibraltar Road was featured in the 2016 and 2018 Tours of California.
Legendary hill climber Phil Gaimon wins 2018 Worlds on Gibraltar.
RONALD REAGAN'S FAVORITE ROAD IN SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
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").
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."
1992 photo of Ronald and Nancy Reagan (Associated Press).
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
Climbing San Marcos-Painted Cave Roads by Bike
Ride nine miles gaining 3,420’ at 7.2% average grade.
Of interest in this portion of the ride is Laurel Springs Ranch, located just past the Painted Cave community. Now called Laurel Springs Retreat and used for group and individual rentals catering toward conscious ways of living (Laurel Springs Retreat), this property was initially developed in 1902. Laurel Springs Inn opened on the property in 1905. Some seventy years and a few different owners later, the property was purchased by Jane Fonda and her husband in 1977, and she later operated a workout studio and spa, as well as a summer camp for disadvantaged children on the site until the early 1990s, when it was purchased by the current owners (Laurel Springs Ranch).
Painted Cave at mile 5.1
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.
Right off Painted Cave onto East Camino Cielo at mile 6.3
two Miles at 5.5% remaining.
View south to Pacific Ocean.
Amazing views as we climb along the E. Camino Cielo ridgeline.
View north of Santa Ynez Mountains.