Peak 4864 is the highest point in the Santa Ynez range (the range of peaks closest to the coast, from northern Ventura County up to Goleta). So naturally, I decided we should climb it. According to Wikipedia, this is one of the few east-west trending mountain ranges in the U.S. – makes sense since the “west coast” for this part of California is really to the South.
Despite being the highest point, the peak is unlabeled (and unnamed) on all the maps I’ve seen. There is also no trail going to the top – making it a little tricky to climb.
We parked at the end of the Matilija Rd and quickly began our hike. The first section of this trail is a road that passes through private property – Matilija Canyon Ranch. Various single track trails split off to the right and left, but a dirt road continues onwards and eventually Murietta Canyon fire road splits off to the left. We followed this fire road for miles and miles (upwards and upwards and steep upwards) until we reached Murietta Divide.
I’m not really sure why people visit Murietta Divide. I suppose it’s a high point, and a good work out, but there’s really not much to see. Last time we hiked in this area, two mountain bikers were headed up to the Divide. On this trip, we came across two hikers (on our way down) who were also making their way to Murietta Divide. You will know you are there when the fire road begins descending towards Jameson Lake. Another fire road splits off to the right – heading up towards Old Man Mountain.
From Murietta Divide, it’s a little tricky to find the single track Monte Arido trail. Basically, it splits off the fire road to the left and heads straight up the ridge. Once you are a little ways up the hill, the trail becomes slightly more clear. It’s a steep trail all the way up to the Divide Peak OHV road.
I’m not used to seeing motorized vehicles of any sort when I am out hiking, but so few people seem to use the OHV road that it’s not a huge deal. Plus, you can hear dirt bikes coming from pretty far away, so it’s easy to scramble off the road before getting run over. Also, everyone we met up there was very friendly.
The OHV road provides gorgeous views over Carpinteria and the Channel Islands. From the junction with the Monte Arido trail and OHV road, we headed straight to our left (east) in our first attempt to get to the top of Peak 4864. We were immediately trapped in a thick wall of manzanita. We attempted to make our way towards the north face, but it was really steep (with a drop-off down to Murietta Canyon) and still somewhat overgrown with manzanita. Weird combination, but it seemed too hard.
We made our way back to the OHV road – my REI hiking pants survived the thick manzanita, but my legs were definitely cut up and bruised underneath. After heading further east on the road, we saw a much more clear trail with a rocky, somewhat overgrown slope on the southern side of the peak. This ended up being our route to the top! We hopped up rocks and whacked our way through less dense patches of manzanita. It was definitely more of a scramble than a hike, but we could finally see how close we were to our destination! There were a couple of false peaks on the way up- we stopped on the second false peak for lunch. The actual peak was in sight, but it didn’t look like it had much of a view. We ate our bagel sandwiches, then walked (scrambled, Class 3-ish) over to the highest point to sign the registry.
It was a somewhat gloomy day- overcast and 60-ish degrees, but there was no wind and it was really the perfect temperature for hiking. We still had some visibility into the Los Padres National Forest backcountry and over to Ventura/Carpinteria and the Channel Islands beyond.
The gloomy weather made me feel like the sun was setting the entire time we were headed back to the trailhead. I kept thinking: “we’re going to be stuck out here in the dark and I forgot to pack headlamps!!” But luckily it was only around 2:00pm when I was having these thoughts. Of course, we made it back with plenty of time to spare.
More Info: This hike is also described by David Stillman. If you plan to hike in the area, you’ll want to pick up this great map of Matilija and Dick Smith, made by Bryan Conant. The latest edition (2013) has trail descriptions on the back side: