Davy Brown Trail

It felt like it took forever to get to this hike in Santa Ynez.  Beyond that, the trails were quite tough in their own unique way.  I enjoyed the shade and the solitude and the feeling that I really was out in the middle of nowhere.  However, the trail was really overgrown, especially with poison oak, and is also poorly signed.  This was a fine adventure but again, the almost three hours it took to get there was just a bit too much.


From the 101 freeway in Santa Barbara I took San Marcos Pass (Hwy 154) for 22 miles to Armour Ranch Road.  From here, changing roads twice, it was another 18 or so miles to Davy Brown campground.  I stopped to take this shot from Happy Canyon Road.  The morning colors were really beautiful.

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The first several miles on Happy Canyon Road run through flat ranch land on a narrow road.  In photo 2 I stopped to check out this huge rabbit by the side of the road – I think this is a jackrabbit.  It was a lot bigger than the rabbits I usually see.  The road then begins to climb and seems to narrow a bit more, basically becoming a one lane road without a guardrail.  After nine miles it becomes a rough dirt road, rutted and rocky, for about a mile.  My little car was not pleased.

6     7   Finally I arrived at the campground, which is not signed from the road.  In fact I don’t remember seeing the name “Davy Brown” anywhere.  I pulled into camp and parked in one of the open campsites.  I asked someone where Davy Brown Trail is, was given the incorrect info and started off on the wrong trail.  I accept responsibility for this and need to go back to reading my guide right before I begin as this is the third straight week I have done this.  This “wrong” trail first led me past some nice looking pools and waterfalls and then up into the hills, heading in the wrong direction.  I headed back down and started over.


VIDEO: Video of the little waterfall in Davy Brown Campground

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14       15   The beginning of the trail starts just past the entrance of the campground near the kiosk and restroom.  I followed the paved road down to the right.  There is no trail sign, but when the road ended I kept going past the metal barriers and green metal gate.

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I followed alongside the creek, crossing it a few times.  I saw some little fish swimming around in the pool in photo 3.

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The poison oak began to get thick.  I was wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt.  I danced and dodged and then decided to apply a product called Ivy X which is supposed to block the toxic oil from getting through to the skin.  Photo 4 – Here the trail becomes very overgrown.  While looking straight down I could always see the trail, but there was a sense of dread that I could somehow lose it and be suddenly not have a clue as to where I was.  As I hiked on I looked for the spur trails that break off of Davy Brown Trail but didn’t see them.  There were a couple of signs that simply said “Trail” and I followed those thinking they marked Davy Brown Trail.  In fact, these “Trail” signs marked the spur trails and I found myself going in the direction I originally planned, but not really knowing how I got there, that is until I was able to match up the map on my GPS with my trail map.  The first junction was especially confusing.  I am on Davy Brown Trail, the trail continues straight ahead and is marked “Trail” while another trail breaks off to the left and down to the creek.  Of course I figured the marked trail that went straight ahead was the main trail, but it is actually the first spur.  I don’t really understand the logic behind these poorly marked trails.

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I climbed the hillside and some nice views opened up.  The trail is surprisingly steep in several locations.

28   Rock formations below

29   I reached the end of the trail at a dirt road called Cataway Road, again only marked with a “Trail” sign.


I believe this is Zaca Peak.

31     32     33   I hiked up the hill right next to the road to get a better view, the wildflowers blooming.  Sometimes I could see a trail, sometimes I think I just imagined one.  I trudged on through this mess of grass and brush.  I reached the top.  I looked around for a fire lookout tower but never saw it.

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Views from the top

37     38   Photo 1 – I sat down and ate lunch and tried to pick off all the stickers and burrs that had attached themselves to my boots, socks and shorts.  There were so many that, along with all the poison oak, it made me want to just throw my gear away after the hike and buy all new stuff.  Photo 2 – I started back down and noticed a lovely gray moth on the trail.

39     40   After going downhill about a mile from the dirt road I once again came to one of these “Trail” signs.  Take note if you see these because they mark a trail junction, although that junction can be difficult to see.  After looking around I found the beginning of the spur trail that would take me back to Davy Brown Trail, Willow Spur Trail.  In photo 2, see the sign hidden in the bushes next to an area that looks nothing like a trail?  The trail is over there, trust me.

41     43     42   I began to climb again.  This spur had the worst poison oak of the day.  It was simply unavoidable.  I pushed my way through and hoped that Ivy X stuff really worked.  After climbing the hillside and then descending to the creek, I once again came to Davy Brown Trail, this part about a mile up creek from where I left the trail the first time.  In one direction the trail runs two miles back to the campground.  In the other direction it runs to a parking area and the opposite trailhead for Davy Brown, a mile away.  I headed for the campground.

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46   I hike under a fallen tree.


Thanks for the crazy day, Santa Ynez.


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