Santa Barbara & Montecito - - Top Hiking Trails
Tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, the Santa Barbara hiking trails are difficult to beat. Within minutes, you can drive to a trailhead and quickly gain elevation, showcasing the beautiful ocean views below while hiking up in the hills. The extensive trail system Santa Barbara offers (*for all skill levels*) is one of the many reasons why people come visit the area and ultimately decide to live in Santa Barbara and make these adventures a regular part of life and their exercise routines. Santa Barbara offers the best of both worlds when it comes to the ocean and the mountains, and is nicknamed “The American Riviera” for this very reason.
The trailheads loved most by the locals (and EK&A!) tend to be in Montecito - - but that doesn’t mean we should discount Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and the Santa Ynez Valley - - because these areas all offer a variety of fantastic trails. In Montecito, Cold Spring Trail takes about 45 minutes to reach the top, the trail is shaded for most of the trail, it crosses a creek the creek here and there, and then offers ocean and mountain views at the top. This hike is great on hot days for those seeking a bit of shade and offers an alternate route to Tangerine Falls toward the beginning of the trail. During rainy seasons, this is a gorgeous waterfall. Romero Canyon Trail begins on Bella Vista, up above Romero Canyon Road, and offers both a trail that follows a creek under the trees, or one can choose to walk the fire road for their entire hike. This is also a popular area for those who love to mountain bike. The creek trail connects eventually with the fire trail, allowing an alternate path back down to the bottom of the trailhead, and views for most of the hike. In addition, McMenemy is a beloved trail, along with San Ysidro Trail, and many others.
Inspiration Point is one of the most heavily traveled hiking trails in Santa Barbara with 180-degree panoramic views nearly 1,800 feet above the city. This trailhead is easy to access by car from the middle of Santa Barbara and the hike takes roughly 45 minutes each way yet allows for a great workout with views at the top. Rattlesnake Trail is another popular Santa Barbara hike. For those looking for flat ground within Santa Barbara, the Cabrillo bike path offers a smooth and level route all along Shoreline Park and Chase Palm Park, and quintessential views of the Santa Barbara palm trees lining the beach. This is also a fun area for bike rentals and accessible by foot right into downtown Santa Barbara for those wanting to stop for a cocktail or bite to eat along the way. On Sundays there is an art show all along this route with local vendors and artists selling their work.
The Franklin Trail was recently opened in Carpinteria and starts right at Carpinteria High School with quick gains in elevation, multiple switchbacks, and views over Carpinteria and the ocean. The Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve is another beautiful site to see, with very little elevation change along the trail, the Seal Sanctuary Overlook as an added bonus, and the ability to drop down to Bates Beach and Rincon Point for an addition to your walk.
Further away for those willing to travel, the Channel Islands National Park (including Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara islands) is just a day trip away, unless you plan to stay longer which is also a fun adventure. These islands are located not too far off the coast of Santa Barbara. These protected islands have much to explore and a diverse plant and animal life. The islands can be accessed by boat - - both by private boats and/or through local companies offering excursions. From mountaintops with incredible ocean views and unspoiled terrain, to gorgeous beaches, the stunning contrast from the mainland offers quite an experience to remember and should not be missed for those with the time to venture out further.
Gaviota Peak is a bit north of the City of Santa Barbara and contains incredible coastal views with a 6.5-mile loop trail that goes up to 2,458 feet. Steep climbing is involved but this is definitely worth the effort. Scenic views are everywhere you turn, with both the mountains and the sea. Gaviota Peak is a must do if you are up for a challenge.
Having some of the world’s most beautiful trails to explore, you will find everything from flat and easy pathways, to manicured gardens, to challenging heights that overlook the Pacific Ocean. These are just a few of the many options available. Santa Barbara’s natural landscape offers a year-long playground for people of all ages. Many great trails run through the mountains, the quiet canyons, gushing waterfalls, and overlook the ocean with tranquil views. Whatever you may be seeking, there are different destination trails with a variety of perspectives showing the many angles of Santa Barbara’s beauty and a continued reminder of why Santa Barbara is such a special place to live.
Feel free to visit www.santabarbarahikes.com for more detailed local trail information and directions.