It was the end of Spring Break and Jackie needed to get back to UCSB. My wife had arrangements to be reffing volleyball in San Diego the following weekend, so we made plans to meet up there. In between, I had a free week to do some peakbagging in Southern California, so I made plans to do some stuff in the Santa Monica Mtns. Jackie and I did an easy hike above Santa Barbara to Brush Peak on our way there, giving us a chance for one last hike until summer rolls around. There was some heavy coastal fog which made for a lot of poor pics, but it helped keep the air cool, at least.

Brush Peak / Lizards Mouth Rock

Jackie was sleeping for the last half hour of our drive as we turned off US101 to take SR154 going over Cachuma Pass towards Santa Barbara. At the pass we turned right onto West Camino Cielo Rd, closed due to last year's fire until just a few weeks ago. Three miles of driving on the narrow, winding road got us to the Lizards Mouth TH. The area around here is a popular bouldering site, oddly juxtaposed with a shooting range just up the road where the pavement ends. The sounds of gunfire would mix with the scenery on this hike. The hike is short, just over a quarter mile to Brush Peak and Lizards Mouth Rock, both found to the west across some sandstone scrambling. A huge network of informal trails criss-cross the area and it appears to be fairly popular - about half a dozen other parties were in the area while we were there. We first found our way to the highpoint of Brush Peak, the one from LoJ. There is a Brush Peak on PB that is half a mile NE of the LoJ one, but we didn't visit that one (we tried, but that portion of the gun club we'd have to travel through was closed and marked for No Trespassing). The more interesting feature in the area is Lizards Mouth Rock just south of our Brush Peak which we visited in turn. There is a cave on the north side of the rock that is very much in the shape of a lizards mouth, though getting into it is a hard class 5 effort we were unprepared for. There are some old manky bolts at the summit that have been used to rap into the mouth. Jackie was somewhat excited, exclaiming, "I could jump down to it!" I looked over the edge and declared, "Are you kidding?!! You'll die!" She then modified it to, "Well, maybe lowering down..." Dad: "Not without a rope. You would die! Really." Maybe we'll come back with a rope and some gear in the future just for the fun of it...

Peak 1,390ft

After dropping Jackie off at school, I headed south on US101 and Hwy 1 to the Santa Monica Mtns National Recreation Area, managed by the NPS. I've been here on previous occasions and have always enjoyed the rugged hills and scenic vistas. Some poison oak and ticks are found here, not too much of the former, but plenty of the latter. My first stop was on the west end of the range, a few miles east of Pt. Magu. It was the only significant hike of the day with about 1,500ft of gain over about 4mi, roundtrip. One can start (for free) from the La Jolla TH where the Backbone Trail starts, or use a closer approach from the Sycamore Campground ($12 for day use or $3 per hour). I chose to use neither, instead starting from the sand dunes on the north side of Hwy 1. This necessitated a steep climb with heavy sand in the beginning and poor footing at the top of the headwall, but is probably shorter than the other two routes. Once above the headwall, one picks up either the Scenic Trail (coming up from Sycamore Canyon) or takes a more direct (but steeper) route up the ridgeline, connecting with the Backbone Trail for about half a mile. The route diverges from the Backbone Trail (which is a pretty cool trail, btw, that runs along the spine of the Santa Monica Mtns for almost its entire length) as it forks to an old ranch road and eventually a use trail for the last climb from a saddle to the east. The summit was socked in the clouds, so no views at all from there. Lower down I got some views of the surrounding mountains and the scenic Sycamore Canyon.

Clarks Peak

This one appears to be private property, but there is a way up without actually encountering any No Trespassing signs. I drove a rough gravel road (some rutting that was tricky with low-clearance) to where it is signed, "END". From there I walked a common driveway to a junction. The right fork goes to some homes down the road to the east, signed for No Trespassing. The left fork is gated, but unsigned, easy to breach and leading to an undeveloped lot. The road continues up to another property with a home (it has another entrance, so this is just an unused back way), but before reaching it one can find a use trail cut through the brush conveniently going up to the summit without being exposed to view from the nearby home. There is a benchmark "LITTLE" there as well as some good views.

Triunfo Lookout

An easy peak to finish up the day, this one is little more than half a mile each way. A sometimes overgrown trail leads from the pavement up to the summit with some poison oak to watch out for. No ticks on this one, but maybe I just got lucky. There was a very pretty sunset over Boney Mtn to the west on my way up. The summit is crowned not by a lookout (only a few concrete footings remain of that) but by some sort of odd monument with graffiti on it. Nice views, even in the fading light. I drove east on Yerba Buena Rd with intentions to maybe climb one more, but there was little light and the sun would be another hour before rising - I decided to find a place to shower and sleep along Yerba Buena and would do the next one first thing in the morning.


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