Sulphur Mountain Loop Through Santa Paula

I was able to take the whole morning for myself yesteray and ride a long mixed terrain loop.  I headed out along the Ventura River trail to Sulphur Mountain Road.  The whole loop is about 50 miles long, about 1/4 of that is dirt.  Lots of climbing and lots of incredible descents.  Here is a quick map of the ride:

Almost 50 miles and 4000 feet of climbing. 

The weather was incredible, temperature in the 60’s the whole time, clear and sunny with just a little coastal haze.  The first 8 miles along the paved river trail is a nice way to get the legs warmed up for the climbing to come.  Crossing the Hwy 33 onto Sulphur Mtn Rd, it is another 10 miles or so of perfect dirt ranch road.

The grass is already starting to turn brown for the summer, but there is plenty of color left in the trees and wild flowers.

There is no traffic on the road save for the occasional rancher and some cows. THis day was no exception.  I saw plenty of birds, cows, squirels, rabbits and a couple of snakes, but only 3 other people.  With a couple of level sections and a short drop here and there it is primarily straight up for the whole 8 miles.  The road twists and turns affording views of the coast.

On days without our coastal haze, and seasonal fog you can get clear views of the ocean and Chanel Islands.  Looking out the other direction is the Ojai valley and the coastal ranges beyond.

After mile 10 things get a little steeper and hotter, usually by this point I am wishing I had left the house a bit earlier to beat the heat.  This time I was caught by Jim on his bike and we were able to chat as we spun our way up.  It really helped pass the time and the last bit of dirt a gravel passed in no time.  Jim turned back to ride down the dirt, I pressed on to the east for a different ride.  The road turns to single lane paved fo ra couple of more miles with some welcome tree cover in the afternoon heat.

Then, after 12 miles of climbing I reached my real goal for the day.  Five minutes of perfect twisty back road descending.  This is my favorite gravity ride in the entire region.

The tires were covered in dust by the time I had reached the top.  After the ride down they were cleaned back to black more than half way out to the edges.  With the best fun past, I continued east on the Hwy 150 towards Santa Paula.  There was a bit of climbing to the summit.  Then Downhill all the way in to Santa Paula.  This was a refreshing leg of the ride after all of the climbing.  Also, I had only ridden this leg westbound in the past.  Going down these 6 or so miles was a little more pleasant than the usual slog up. 

As I neared Santa Paula I could feel the Spring winds starting to come up and realised the folly of my route planning.  All year-long our predominant winds are out of the west off of the ocean.  In the spring and fall though it can come up into the 20 mph or greater rang and really change the ride.  The next 18 miles were straight into the wind.  My legs were fried 5 miles in.  The wind was a steady 15 mph with gusts well above 30 mph as I worked my way along the foothills back towards home.  The only consolation was the miles of fresh, silky smooth, black top.  This stretch of road is primarily agricultural and has been beat to a pulp over the years.  The new pavement was a pleasant surprise, but could not make up for the wind.  My legs were starting to cramp and I new I should have packed a backup electrolyte powder.  I pushed on knowing I was almost home.  The ride back into town was perfect.  The wind was still there, but coming straight off the ocean it was 10 degrees cooler.

A little sun burned and a lot tired it was a great way to take a break, get outside and get ready for the next big push.  I need to make the time to do this more often.

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4 Responses to Sulphur Mountain Loop Through Santa Paula

  1. Mike says:

    Looks like a great morning ride, You’ll have to take me on that one some time in the future.

    • Rob says:

      Any weekend you are out and we have 4 or 5 hours. Also the early start is key, it gets really hot back there. It would probably be a good idea to do something about that rim first though.

  2. Jerry Somdahl says:

    Rode from SP up Sulphur Mt. last week but balked after a mile of that gravelly road. It was rideable with 23mm tires but just barely and gave plenty of opportunity to worry about falling so I bailed. It was nice to see your photos to see what I missed.

    • Rob says:

      At my size the smallest tire I have run up there is a 32, maybe 28 if I knew the roads were in perfect shape, but that is rare. The pea gravel between the paved and dirt areas is a bit of a downer. I remember when it was fresh last year and it was like riding on ice. It is a little better now, but still dicey even with fat tires.

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