By Robert Bernstein
Red Rock is a fun but challenging hike to lead and I was grateful to Sierra Club Outings Chair Alejandro for leading a Sierra Club hike there a few weeks ago. Here are my videos and many photos.
Red Rock is an area of beautiful formations of cinnabar minerals of mercury ore. The Sunbird Quicksilver Mine used to extract mercury commercially in the area. But Red Rock is also known for a series of pools that locals enjoy soaking and swimming in during hot weather.
Alejandro took us on a loop via a fire road to the Gibraltar Dam. Then back along the Santa Ynez river bed where the pools are.
Here we started up the fire road and it was already warm at 10AM.
Alejandro soon had us branching off on a narrow side trail that provides a short cut and a view down the canyon back to the parking area. We had a big group of 17 eager hikers!
We were soon back on the main fire road, climbing a bit higher. Hiromi and Seth were leading the way behind me.
The fire road peaks at about 400 feet above the parking area. There is a picnic table and an overlook of the dam at this high point. My hiking and unicycling friend Danielle kindly posed with me there!
Here is the view of Gibraltar Dam, Gibraltar Reservoir and various associated buildings.
After that high point, we dropped down pretty fast and far to the level of the Santa Ynez River, below the dam. We paused for a bit in the shade and decided what to do next. Most of the group wanted to go to the top of the dam, but others had the option to stay in this shady spot and wait for us to return.
Here Danielle posed at the Reservoir above the dam.
Most of the group sat in the shade of a building nearby and had a snack. Michelle and Hiromi are looking at me.
We started back down the fire road to the Santa Ynez River.
It is about a half mile from the fire road to the first pool. Here we enjoyed the shade of some magnificent oak trees along the trail. Leading the group behind me is Navya, a UCSB grad student in computer science from India. This was her first real hike ever in her life!At the beginning I was concerned that she might not be able to make it. At the overlook I suggested that she might want to enjoy that view and then make her way back at a leisurely pace. Others offered to accompany her. But Danielle talked her into continuing and she did great!I ran ahead to get a photo of Alejandro leading the group as we approached the first pool.
The final approach to the pool is a bit tricky in places. Yiuvany posed for me along this rocky, narrow passage. She had come all the way from Bakersfield for this adventure!
And then we were at the first pool! Almost everyone was prepared to go in with bathing suits, but one person went in fully clothed! A few were happy just sitting in the shade and relaxing. Here Hiromi and Seth posed for me.
Most people jumped in from the rocks. Here I got a video of Danielle making her jump.
But I was planning to snorkel to see if I could see any fish or turtles. So I wanted to take a different route into the water. I snorkeled all around, but the water was too murky that day to see much. Alejandro was the star at the pool! He did two back flips into the pool which I merged into one short video!
Hiromi, Yiuvany and Danielle took a break and posed on these rocks.
But mostly people enjoyed swimming in the water that was warm, but still very refreshing! Here Yiuvany kindly posed as she swam toward me.
Here was a beautiful rock formation at the pool.
We were at the pool from noon to 1PM and then people seemed eager to start heading back. Sometimes we swim in the second pool on the way back, but this time we just stopped to take in the view.
There are sections of this trail back that can be quite treacherous at times. It was totally dry for this hike. But imagine what this area is like when it is underwater! Yes, it is very slippery with algae and you need good grippy shoes that can take being submerged.
Here Anne posed by the third pool. She had brought her two daughters on the hike who you may have seen in the other photos. The daughters are studying in Portugal!
We passed this family on their way in with inflatable toys!
And then we came to the famed actual Red Rock formation!
I have been there when young people were climbing on it. And other young people were egging them on to jump or even dive into the tiny pool below. This often has a tragic ending. I have a story perhaps for another time. Fortunately, on this day the young people were just enjoying the pool! No risky behavior!
From there it was just a half mile walk back to the parking area. Our total loop was seven miles, including the mile round trip detour to the top of the dam.
You can see the schedule of all of our local Sierra Club Santa Barbara Group hikes through Meetup here. Everyone is welcome! If you are a member of Meetup you can receive free notifications of future hikes! My next hike will be a totally new and fairly easy hike on Saturday July 27!