Paradise Road: A Family Mountain Escape

by | Feb 12, 2021 | Day Trips From Los Angeles, Destinations, Family Adventures, Traveling with Teens, USA, Weekend Trips, West Coast

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There is no reception in Paradise or on most of Paradise road rather. Because of that, Paradise Road is a great place for a tech-free Los Angeles family weekend getaway or day trip. Or, ditch the kids and take a romantic retreat away from the city. Either way, you’ll have a few days surrounded by nature at a location close to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Paradise Road is in the mountains of Santa Barabra sandwiched between Lake Cachuma and Knapp’s Castle. 




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This is one of the beautiful campsites at Upper Oso Campgrounds off of Paradise Road. My family loves the wide-open space each campground offers.



Our favorite way to enjoy Paradise is camping for the weekend. Paradise Road is saturated with different campgrounds that each have their own vibe so you can go hundreds of times and have a different experience every time, depending on the campground you choose and time of year you go. 

You can make reservations in advance on the website or app. It is $30 a night to camp at most of the campgrounds and if you can’t make a reservation in advance, then there are usually walk up or overflow campsites available. However, if you are going on a holiday weekend, then I would definitely try to pick in advance. My family loves to stay at the Upper Oso Campground because you set up camp in a beautiful valley. You get to enjoy an abundance of wide-open space at each campground because they are well spaced out and each one has a picnic table and a fire pit. We love to make fires most nights, especially during the spring or fall, to make our household favorite, Smores quesadillas. The Suburban Soapbox has a delicious and easy recipe you can follow to make your very own Smores Quesadillas. The key ingredients are corn tortillas, semi-sweet chocolate chips, marshmallows and graham crackers. My family also loves to add banana slices and caramel sauce.  After, we sit around the campfire and daddy plays songs on his acoustic guitar. 


PRO TIP: If you are going to camp for the weekend, then I would definitely recommend getting all the groceries you need before coming up the 154 because there are not many stores around once you get further up the mountain. If you forget firewood at the grocery store, don’t fret because many of the campsite managers have firewood you can purchase. 



Red Rock


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Red Rock is a beautiful place to spend the day and enjoy the Southern California sun with your family. When the water is high enough, you can even go cliff jumping!



If camping isn’t really your style, then you can make a day trip out to Red Rock from Los Angeles or Santa Barbara. Paradise Road will guide you to Red Rock. Growing up in the big city of Los Angeles, Red Rock always made me feel like I had a little taste of what it would be like to grow up surrounded by nature. A short hike from the parking lot off Paradise Road, brings you to a serene watering hole. Our family always makes a day out of going to Red Rock when we come camping. 


Wear a bathing suit, pack some sunscreen, snacks, drinks, towels and a speaker and you can make a day out of heading to Red Rock as well. Depending on the time of year and how much rain we’ve had, you can even go cliff jumping at Red Rock. My favorite part about Red Rock is that you see a little bit of everyone enjoying it with you. There are people of all ages, including small kids, enjoying Red Rock. If you don’t want to spend the day in the water, then there are also opportunities to horseback ride, go atving or hike.  


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Santa Barbara


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Experiencing a sunset on a Santa Barbara beach after a delicious meal is always a highlight of our trip.



A stay in Santa Barbara is a good option if you plan to visit Red Rock for the day. If you choose to stay around State Street versus camping, then I would definitely take the time to check out some of the delicious restaurants on State Street. One restaurant we never miss when we go to Santa Barbara is Via Maestra 42. Via Maestra 42 is an Italian Restaurant where you can find your favorite Italian classics. If you go, try their gnocchi because it really is some of the best gnocchi we’ve ever had. 



Knapp’s Castle


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Knapp’s Castle is another beautiful place to enjoy the sunset not too far from Paradise Road.



When we spend the weekend on Paradise Road, we usually make our way to Knapp’s Castle. Knapp’s Castle is a unique scenic point in Santa Barbara that you can see over the mountains surrounding Paradise Road. Knapp’s Castle actually used to have rope and tire swings scattered around, but the last time we went it was gated off. I would still recommend making the short 15 minute trip to Knapp’s Castle from Paradise Road because the view is incredible and you can get a little bit of a hike in! 



Lake Cachuma


If you enjoy fishing as much as we do, then I would also recommend checking out Lake Cachuma. Lake Cachuma is also a great place to spend the day because you can take a boat out on the lake, fish off the fishing piers or check out the nature center. The lake is also only about 15 minutes away from Paradise Road. 






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Going to Solvang is a little taste of Europe only a few hours away from Los Angeles and definitely worth checking out for the waffles.



Once you are done making memories on Paradise Road, then you can choose to take the long way and pass through Solvang on your way back to Los Angeles. Our family likes to add a little bit of extra time on our journey back because the waffles you get in Solvang are more than worth it. Our favorite waffles in Solvang are at The Belgian Cafe! Having the opportunity to see the quaint little town of Solvang is also an experience and good opportunity to see a windmill if you or your kids haven’t seen one before! 


Paradise Road truly is a little piece of paradise to enjoy with your kids, your partner or even a group of friends. Paradise Road is also our little dog, Millie’s, favorite place in the world. So if you have a furry friend, bring them too! Spending the day or weekend on Paradise Road gives you the chance to connect with the people you love because your kids or your partner won’t spend most of the day glued to their phone or tablet.


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When You Go



Red Rock is about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles taking the 101 North freeway to the 154 (which you can get to by taking the State St. exit) , unless you leave Friday afternoon. We usually try to head up to Paradise Friday morning if we are planning on spending the weekend there so we can avoid some of the Friday afternoon traffic. Paradise Road is right off of the 154!

Lake Chachuma is also right off of the 154 about 10 to 15 minutes past the entrance of Paradise Road. 

Knapp’s Castle is about 10 to 15 minutes before the entrance of Paradise Road on the 154. To get to Knapp’s Castle off the 154 you would turn right on Camino Cielo. 


Where to Stay


Upper Oso Campground – Obviously, this is our number one way to go. You can make reservations on


Hotel Milo is one of my favorite hotels in Santa Barbara because it is in the heart of everything and makes it easy to enjoy everything State Street has to offer as well as the beautiful beaches of Santa Barbara. Hotel Milo is about $200 to $300 a night depending on the time of year you go. Hotel Milo is also fairly kid-friendly if you want to bring your kids along!



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Ashley McGullam is an avid traveler who loves to share her experiences. She has found her way around the world adventuring for pleasure and business with friends and family. Ashley was a Health Education Volunteer in Cameroon for the Peace Corps and studied Social Welfare with an emphasis in Public Policy at UC Berkeley, which brought her to research in Chile and Argentina. Ashley is now working as the Director of Development & Community Relations for Meals on Wheels West based in Santa Monica, but finds time to travel locally whenever she can with her lovely family, friends and dog, Millie. Ashley spent most of her childhood in Los Angeles so she will help you find many unique adventures around the Los Angeles area.



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