Santa Barbara, California
The Buckhorn ride features the best of classic Southern California riding: long climbs on well-maintained fire roads, followed by steep, challenging singletrack descents. It adds beautiful views and a remoteness that's sometimes missing in SoCal mountain biking. Your cell phone won't work most of the time, and you may encounter overgrown stretches and other adventere-inducing conditions. Congratulations — you have officially escaped the front country!
Start with a nine-mile climb that gains nearly 3,000 feet depositing you at the top of this Epic's namesake, the Buckhorn descent, which tumbles 1,600 vertical feet in just under three miles. Before you begin the downhill be sure to take in the stunning view of the Dick Smith Wilderness Area.
Winding, rolling singletrack and fire roads eventually deposit you at Mono Dam, where you can take a refreshing dip. You'll finish along the Gibraltar Mine Trail, which passes an abandoned mercury excavation. This path's history goes back much further than the 19th century as ancient Chumash Indian rock art sites dot Indian Creek upstream from the trail.
Complete the last stiff climb near the end of the ride and you're rewarded with a long, rolling descent back to the parking lot more than five hours later.
Location: The Buckhorn Trail is located just outside Santa Barbara, 45 minutes from Santa Barbara Airport and two hours north of Los Angeles.
Length: 34 miles
Elevation: 1,000-3,600 feet, 3,900 feet of climbing
Terrain: Long fire-road climbs and steep singletrack descents in the chaparral climate of the coastal mountains.
Season: Year round. Summer temps can exceed 100 degrees, and snow is a possibility at higher elevations in winter. Don't ride if the trails are muddy.
Details: Los Padres National Forest USGS maps
Shops: Velo Pro Cyclery, (805) 963-7775; Bicycle Bob's, (805) 682-4699; Hazard's Cyclesport, (805) 966-3787; Open Air Bicycles, (805) 962-7000.