A got another hall pass from Annie (thank you!) to go try the new Tour de Los Padres bikepacking route. Erin Carroll is the mastermind behind this new 280-mile route in Southern California. In short, it starts near Interstate 5 in the central valley, runs high along a couple of mountain ranges (Sierra Madres, Los Padres, etc.), and then dumps out at the Santa Barbara coast. The route offers a variety of terrain and scenery. There were a couple of sections that I wasn’t thrilled about due to some excessive hike-a-bike, but, overall, I really enjoyed the ride.
I saw a surprising amount of wildlife.
- 1 bear – I was very surprised to see a bear running away from me as I turned a corner high up in the Los Padres mountains (about 3 miles before Happy Hollow primitive campground). At first, I thought it must be a really large deer or an elk. But, sure enough, the tracks I came across confirmed that it was a large bear.
- 2 rattle snakes – I had to fish one out of the bathroom at Miranda Pines campground with a stick. When nature calls, nature needs to vacate and let me use the bathroom.
- 2 other snakes (king or something else)
- 1 bobcat
- 2 foxes
- 1 deer
- 3 horned lizards
I should mention that I didn’t follow the entire “official” route. My deviations were as follows:
- Skipped the loop up/down Mt Abel (a road climb and mtb trail descent that others said wasn’t a lot of fun and not very rideable)
- Skipped some of the dirt sections just before Pine Mountain and stayed on the highway. I was racing to get there before the general store closed at 8pm.
- Tried to scout a new section farther north along Soda Lake Rd. Ran into closed BLM land and had to turn around and rejoin normal route.
- Bailed out of the final ~25 miles just above Santa Barbara and, instead, shot straight down to the coast for a pickup. I wasn’t interested in doing more hike-a-bike and, from what I gathered, the final miles involved a lot of that.
Some Recommended Gear
- Iodine tablets – Not all of the springs had a pool of water to suck into a filter, so I had to fill my bag from the trickle and use pills to treat.
- 3L bladder and 1L bladder – Have clean water ready to drink in your 1L bag while your 3L is being treated with iodine. And be ready to carry 4L for the long, hot sections.
- Water filter – You could get away with just treating your water with pills, but the filter was great for getting water fast from springs and creeks that had pools of water.
- Sun sleeves – These were key since a lot of ride involves exposed, long climbs.
- GPX – You definitely can’t find the route without one. I’ve never had any problems with my Garmin eTrex 20.
Photos of my first 2.5 days on the Tour de Los Padres
My phone ran out of juice, so I was only able to take photos during the first 2.5 days of my ride.