Santa Barbara, framed by the Santa Ynez mountains and kissed by the Pacific Ocean, is a hikers’ paradise. Here are a few of my favorite day hikes. They range from a short 45 minutes to 1/2 day treks. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.
INSPIRATION POINT — Whether for an early morning or evening hike, Inspiration Point is the perfect hike.
Highlights: For those who want to combine a two-hour workout, great views and access to cool spots such as Seven Falls as part of the trip up to the top, Inspiration Point is one of the best local hikes. You can reach the point from the Tunnel Road trailhead or the San Roque area, and with a shuttle make it a point-to-point trip that will test your muscles.
How to Get There: From the Santa Barbara Mission drive up Mission Canyon Road to Foothill and turn right, then turn left several hundred yards later (by the fire station). Continue up Mission Canyon to the Tunnel Road turnoff, a half mile before the Botanic Garden. Continue several miles to the end. Park properly. The police frequently ticket illegally parked cars. The trail begins about three-quarters mile beyond the locked gate.
COLD SPRINGS TRAIL — Deep and shaded by trees, the perennial creek offers scores of places to spend an afternoon.
Highlights: Cold Springs represents the shortest distance you can travel to get the furthest away from Santa Barbara. Above the trailhead you will find bedrock pools and places to sunbathe, overlooks of the coastline and a route to the mountain crest.
How to Get There: From Highway 101, take the Hot Springs exit and follow this toward the mountains until you reach the Highway 192/Foothill Road. Turn left and follow this for a mile to Cold Spring Road. Turn right and continue up to Mountain Drive. Park near the point where the creek crosses the road
ELWOOD BLUFF/MONARCH BUTTERFLY PRESERVE
Highlights: This lovely hike through the Eucalyptus groves and protected bluffs offers access to a beach with 80-foot cliffs and to a Monarch butterfly Preserve where thousands of butterflies come to feed during the winter months. It’s an easy hike along the bluffs and is also a pleasant way to spend the day with beautiful ocean views.
How to Get There: From Highway 101 (North) take Glen Annie/Storke Rd Exit. Turn Left, and drive half a mile to Hollister Ave. Turn Right, and follow Hollister for about a mile to Santa Barbara Shores and drive to the end. Walk through the fence and enter the bluffs.
RATTLESNAKE CANYON TRAIL
Highlights: Rattlesnake Canyon is filled with cascading waterfalls and deep pools. The alder cover provides shade and a lovely green canopy. If you hike up the creek from the trailhead or take one of the many side trails leading down to the creek you’ll find the remains of a dam built in the early 1800s to service the Mission. Within just a few minutes drive from downtown Santa Barbara you can be hiking up this picturesque canyon, lost in its wilderness beauty. A connector leading to Tunnel Trail makes it possible to hike all the way to the crest.
How to Get There: From the Santa Barbara Mission drive up Mission Canyon Road to Foothill. Turn right, then left several hundred yards later (by the fire station). Continue up Mission Canyon past Tunnel Road to Las Canoas. Turn right and continue a mile and a half to an open area immediately preceding a narrow bridge. You’ll find a large sign there noting the start of the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail.