Lake Casitas from East Casitas Pass


Ventura, Lake Casitas, Route One Loop

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

Ventura River above Foster Park

This circular ride appears in Don and Sharron Brundige's "Bicycle Rides - Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties".

View north to the snow above 5000'

The ride starts in Ventura and follows the off-road bike path as far as Foster Park. Here the route climbs above the Ventura River on Casitas Vista Road to the junction with Santa Anna Road.

The massively folded rocks on the side of Sulphur Mountain

From Santa Anna Road the massively folded rocks of Sulphur Mountain can be seen across the Ventura River Valley.

The northern edge of Lake Casitas

The road then turns westward and views of the man-made Lake Casitas open up.

The road undulates around the northern lake shore

The northern shore is lined with a number of recreational sites which are relatively quiet at this time of year. A snack bar here is the last source of refreshment for the next 15 miles or so.

The road gently undulates around the lake's northern shore with views to the north-west of the snow capped Santa Ynez Mountains.

Map of route around Lake Casitas

Road signs warn of rock slides on the steeper slopes ahead - these were to prove prophetic in the days ahead.

Road sign warning of rock falls
View south over the Lake

The route finally reaches the Casitas Fire Station on the eastern edge of the lake and begins the steady climb up to East Casitas Pass.

View east over the Lake from just beyond Casitas Fire Station

The climb yields ever expanding views of the lake . . .

View back as the road begins to climb towards East Casitas Pass

"In about 1¾ miles of steady pumping from near lake level, you reach the pass and take in the astounding view of distant Lake Casitas below."

View back over the Lake from East Casitas Pass

East Casitas Pass is about 1,150' above sea level.

Altitude profile of the route
The view westward towards Santa Barbara from West Casitas Pass

After the pass the route dips into the Casitas Valley and a further twisting climb leads up to West Casitas Pass at 960'.

Speed limit on the bends descending from the Pass

At the western pass views open up to the Pacific Coast. Santa Barbara and Carpinteria could be seen ahead with the cloud capped Santa Ynez Mountains above.

Highway 150 sign

These clouds preceded the storms of the next three days which dumped upwards of 20" of rain on the mountains and were to cause numerous floods and land-slides.

Clouds building over the hills to the north

"This is a joyous occasion to relish the 4½ mile downhill spin to U.S. 101 which follows."

From the Pass the route descends all the way to sea level to join the Pacific Coast Highway (101).

A serious bike rider

Throughout the route I was regularly overtaken by cyclists clearly out on training runs.

The junction with Route 101

The one exception was a cyclist who kindly stopped to help when I was investigating the source of a rubbing noise. He had been a 'wrench' in a previous life and was all too willing to offer assistance.

Planes are used to check speeds on the Freeway

At this point the mountain sides come down almost to the sea and the Pacific Coast Highway and the Amtrak rail line are squeezed onto a narrow shelf.

The bike path runs perilously along the edge of the Freeway

This leaves precious little space and for some four miles the cycle route is on the edge of the Highway. For the most part the shoulder is relatively wide - but there are a few pinch points.

The unstable slopes near La Conchita

In one of the wider points sits the small town of La Conchita which the following Monday was engulfed in a massive land slide in which ten people lost their lives.

Press report of roads closed after the landslides

The land-slides were so wide-spread that all the roads that I had ridden on this day were closed the following week.

An oil platform disguised as a tropical island

Further along the coast at Punta Gorda an oil terminal is disguised as a tropical island.

Surfers at Rincon Point with the Channel Islands visible beyond

All along this coastal strip are world-class surfing spots.

One of the enclaves of houses on the edge of the Pacific

Off-shore the Channel Islands can be seen. The five islands are a National Park renowned both for the surrounding sea life and their unique flora.

House fronting the Pacific

After the busy ride along the 101 the bike path switches to the old Highway 1 which runs alongside the Ocean on the way back to Ventura.

Along the shore line are enclaves of individual houses fronting the Ocean. In the summer the whole of the old highway is lined with RVs, but at this time of year only a handful of keen campers are out and about.

The last mile or two back to Ventura are on a custom bike path which delivers you back to Main Street.


Mud slide on Santa Ana Road

Aerial view of one of the landslides on Santa Ana Road near Casitas Springs posted on the Channel Island Bicycle Club's website.

La Conchita from the air

Photo of La Conchita taken by Doc Searls on Friday 14th January 2005 - some four days after the slide.

Close up of land slide on Sanata Ana Road

Close-up photo of one of the mudslides on Santa Ana Road taken by Brian Dallas of Shoreline Bikes two weeks after the slide.


Kirby James