Santa Barbara is a great place to visit in general but it also has some great mountain biking and hiking trails. If you aren't a local then you may need to do a little research to find the good ones but there are plenty of them out there. One popular trail is the Little Pine Loop which has other trails that branch off of it. Many people like to do the Little Pine to Santa Cruz loop because you get some serious climbing and then a really fun downhill singletrack trail for all your troubles.
Santa Cruz Trail Video
Little Pine to Santa Cruz Trail Review
If you like long climbs and fun downhill runs then this is a ride you should check out. The 12 mile climb will take its toll on you but it's not as bad as you would think it would be. The Little Pine fire road is pretty smooth and the gradient is not that steep except in a few spaces. There are even some sections where you get to go down for a bit within the 12 miles. While riding up you can check out the scenic views to help you forget that you are climbing. Any intermediate rider shouldn't have any trouble making it up to the top with a few breaks in between.
Once you get to the top you will then be able to hit the Santa Cruz downhill. Keep in mind that this is not the end of Little Pine and you can keep going past Santa Cruz if you like so you just need to look for the Upper Oso trail sign and take a little singletrack down to where Santa Cruz starts. Then the fun will begin going down Santa Cruz where you will encounter smooth singletrack, rocky sections, sharp corners and a few areas where there is a nice ledge to fall off of if you are not careful. The closer you get to the bottom the less steep it becomes and the more hikers you may encounter. The first 2/3 of the trail is by far the best and if there is nobody in your way you can really fly through it. There are a couple of sections where the hillside is sliding down onto the trail so you are better off walking over it than trying to ride and end up falling off the ledge. There is nothing too difficult on Santa Cruz that an intermediate rider would not enjoy. Beginners may want to take it a little slow on some sections though. Expect the ride to take you about 3 hours or so depending on how fast you ride and how many breaks you take.
Little Pine\Santa Cruz Trail Pictures
Directions to Little Pine\Santa Cruz Trail
View Little Pine to Santa Cruz Trail in a larger map
To get to the Little Pine Loop start make your way towards Santa Barbara if coming from the 101 going north or just past Santa Barbara if going south on the 101. Then you will take the 154 exit and keep on the 154 until you get to Paradise Rd where you will make a right. From there it's about 5.7 miles to the Lower Oso picnic area and you can park there or drive up the road a little to the Upper Oso Campground. Either way you will need an Adventure Pass to park at either location. Just past the campground you will start you climb on the fire road which is called Camuesa Canyon Rd. When on the fire road look for the Upper Oso metal sign and follow that until you get to the start of Santa Cruz and enjoy the ride down.