Archive for May, 2010

19

Santa Barbara – Old San Marcos & Painted Cave Climb – Brutally Steep!


Santa Barbara (Goleta, specifically) is where I grew up and where my parents still live, so I have spent a fair amount of time in the area. While San Marcos Pass Road (State Route 154) is now the preferred automobile route (due to a gentler grade and lack of tight curves), there still exists the old stagecoach route from the 1800s. This stagecoach route is steep, twisty and incredibly scenic (and, paved..quite nicely too!). There is quite a bit of history with the pass – you can read more about its history here and here. This route is known officially as North San Marcos Road and unofficially as Old San Marcos Pass Road. Old San Marcos, on its own, is a sweet, steep, tough and scenic climb absolutely worthy of climbing by any serious cyclist. But, at 3 miles long it is a bit short. You are in luck though. Old San Marcos leads right into Painted Cave Road, adding 2.4 miles of even steeper climbing to an already steep climbing route. 8.3% average grade for almost 5.5 miles. This is definitely one of the steepest sustained climbs around.

The climb up Old San Marcos starts about a half mile after turning inland from Cathedral Oaks Road as you cross the bridge – from here on up you get very few breaks. The starting bridge:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

As can be seen above, initially you are sheltered by a fair amount of vegetation. This quickly gives way to the standard, less sheltered vegetation of Santa Barbara:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

Gorgeous still, but don’t expect tons of shade.

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

A few incredible houses perched along the road:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

Beautiful, green hillsides:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

Of course, for this sort of green (instead of golden/brown colors) make sure to do this climb in Spring..Summer gives way to the golden hillsides. A bit further along:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

What a parking spot:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

Not long after you will come to one of the steepest, toughest switchbacks you have ever ridden up:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

This will test you – not only is it incredibly steep but the lead-up section is also steep enough that your heart rate will already be high when you start this. This section is fun for masochists. For a high quality panorama of this switchback, click below for the panorama I assembled:

From HQ Panoramas

The above will give you a nice 1600 pixel wide view.

Shortly after this switchback you will encounter one more trying switchback. This one might be slightly easier than the previous one (we are talking relativity here – it is still really hard), but it still commands your attention. Once you complete it the views, as usual for this road, are spectacular:

From HQ Panoramas

Again, the above will give you a beautiful 1600 pixel wide view. This upper section gives you some great views of Goleta, Isla Vista and the Channel Islands:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

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Random Posts Recent Comments

  • FedererExpress Says:

    I don't know if this counts as an official road, but Socrates Mine Road (HWY 175, north of Middletow...

  • tech Says:

    Heya! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was h...

  • Joebar Says:

    My wife and I just rode up Hicks Rd yesterday. But that was only half the climbing... We continued u...

  • rallison Says:

    Edward, oddly enough, I finally got back out to 39 and cycled it for the first time in months on Sat...

  • Edwardk Says:

    As of March 2014 there is a new rockslide in the uppermost stretch of CA-39 (past the gate blocking ...

  • Melissa Luna Says:

    Hello, I plan on participating in the 6k in October at the Palm Springs Tram. First time for me and...

  • Greg Says:

    This is a GREAT climb, took it on this weekend for the first time. We opted for the extra 5 miles u...

  • Jeff Parker Says:

    Greetings from Shanghai! It's been well nigh 30 years since my cycling days in Santa Barbara, but th...

  • dtube Says:

    Thanks for the nice documentation of this epic climb. My buddy and I did this ride on 11/24/2013. We...

  • PB Says:

    Thank for such a great post. After reading your post, I went to Hicks Rd today. But unfortunately I ...

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