The West Coast (CA,NV,WA,OR), Trip Reports » Los Padres Bikepacking Tour with the Thacher School – Sierra Madre and San Rafael Mountains


Los Padres Bikepacking Tour with the Thacher School – Sierra Madre and San Rafael Mountains

May 18-23, 2014

Over the course of 6 days, 10 students from the Thacher School and I bikepacked the Sierra Madre Rd/Buckhorn Rd route across a section of the Los Padres National Forest.  We departed from Aliso Canyon Campground, climbed to the Sierra Madre Road via the Hog Pen Spring Trail, followed the Sierra Madre Rd to the Buckhorn and the rode some great single track near 19 Oaks Camp as well as the last mile of the Santa Cruz Trail above Upper Oso Campground.  This trip was organized as part of our bi-annual (fall and spring) 6-day expeditions into the backcountry as part of our school’s curriculum.

We had a wonderful tour and enjoyed camping in the solitude of the Los Padres.  This part of California is absolutely amazing; it never fails to delight and surprise.  Conditions were cool, water was readily available and the students were among the most adventuresome and enthusiastic about bikepacking as I have ever experienced.  Some bumps, scrapes and minor crashes were sustained, but my students wore the scars and bandages like badges of honor.  We also had very few mechanical issues, but one of our group bent his front rim badly only 2 miles from Upper Oso Camp.  He was forced to pack up his bike and hike out, but otherwise sustained only a scratch.  “I am just bummed to not be able to keep riding singletrack” was his only negative response after the crash.  Upon reaching the road, one of his comrades gave him his bike to ride the 1.4 miles while he “piggybacked” on the OMM rack of a fellow student.  They bent the rack skewer a bit, but otherwise I have to praise them for coming up with a solution and keeping the band together.  Awesome kids.

Our camps were: Hog Pen Spring Camp, Painted Rock Camp, Alamar Camp (a dry camp, but sufficient water was available at Chokecherry Spring), Bluff Camp, and 19 Oaks Camp.

Water info:

  1. Hog Pen Spring – trough was full, steady trickle from the spring
  2. Painted Rock – used Montgomery # 2 Spring – cattle trough – very fine sediment, supply a little low.  Montgomery # 1 was pooling, but insufficient supply for our group.
  3. Oak Spring – steady trickle as of 5/20
  4. Chokecherry Spring – steady trickle down the creek.  26 oz in 1 minute (5/20)
  5. Bluff Camp – 32 oz in 18 sec. (5/21)
  6. 19 Oaks – ample water in pools in the creek below camp (5/22)

Essential gear:

  1. I am deeply appreciative of the superb racks from Old Man Mountain in Santa Barbara as well the support from Channing.  These racks have been solid and are easy for my students to work with in the field (a critical element with a large group).
  2. I used a handlebar bag (a Sweetroll), Gas Tank and Jerry Can from Revelate Designs this spring and am very pleased with how well they install and pack loads on the bike.  For one reason or another I have been skeptical of carrying gear on my handlebars on technical single track, but this bar bag has changed, or perhaps better informed, my perspective on carrying gear in this manner.  Mounted on a Santa Cruz Blur, I didn’t feel that the load on the front was problematic at all while riding.  In fact, I appreciated the way that it allowed me to balance out the bike.
  3. Hammer Gel, Hammer Perpetuem and Endurolytes.  These fuels and supplements are always in my pack/jersey pocket and they make all the difference in the world on extended efforts in the mountains; my go to energy and electrolyte source.

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Comments (6)

JRAJune 9th, 2014 at 7:02 am

Awesome. Great to see kids out there doing it.

Erin CarrrollJune 9th, 2014 at 10:14 am

You private school kids are hard core! I love it. Hopefully you all will join us for the Tour De Los Padres in 2015!

battyJune 9th, 2014 at 11:28 am

Awesome Trip – Way to get the kids out there. Just finished a trip with kids on the C&O Trail in the mid-Atlantic area.

jbSeptember 23rd, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Greta report- thanks! Thinking of riding up there for a quick overnighter this weekend; do you by chance know if the spring at Bluff Camp is perennial? I’ve been up there a bunch, but it’s always been in the spring- any and all thoughts much appreciated: thanks!



BrianSeptember 24th, 2014 at 10:41 am


I am not certain of the flow at Bluff Camp right now. I recommend giving the Forest Service a call or contacting Bryan Conant (a volunteer wilderness ranger) regarding the availability at Bluff Camp. I would think that there would be at least a little bit of water there, but the conditions we are currently experiencing have given me more than a few surprises: in some cases there are pools of water where I expect there to be none, and in other cases the creeks/springs have dried up where I thought there would at least be a trickle of water.

I would be interested in hearing about your experience.



ArctosSeptember 25th, 2014 at 7:38 am

Talked to friend who rode to Bluff camp ten days ago on a day ride. No running water in the stream.

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