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Hiking Santa Barbara

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Overview

A gem among California beach towns, Santa Barbara lies at a geographical transition zone between Central and Southern Coastal California, The region has a mild and inviting Mediterranean climate ideal for year-round hiking and outdoor exploration. Between the south-facing coastline and Channel Islands lying offshore offshore and a backdrop of the rugged Santa Ynez Mountains rising above town the scenery is spectacular. For those looking for more remote and off the beaten path experiences, the Los Padres National Forest to the north covers a huge swath of the coastal mountains with longer loops, ridgelin hikes, backcountry camping and more. Myriad parks and open spaces sprinkled throughout the towns and surrounding county land means you don't have to travel or drive far to access trails.

If you are looking for abundant flowing water or waterfalls, winter and early spring is the best time to get out as summer through fall are often hot and dry in the coastal mountains around Santa Barbara, and seasonal creeks frequently dry up with flows reduced greatly. If venturing out into the Los Padres backcountry, make sure to carry more water than you think you'll need. Temperatures here are often 90-degree plus and mapped water sources are often dry.

Local Info

A diversity of coastal and Santa Ynez Mountains/Los Padres National Forest hikes abound in and around Santa Barbara. Below is a list of recommended easy, intermediate and more difficult/challenging hikes for the region:

Easy:
-Thousand Steps to Mesa Lane
-Douglas Family Preserve Loop
-Butterfly Beach
-Arroyo Burro Trail
-Knapp's Castle
-Santa Barbara Harbor

Intermediate:
-Inspiration Point and Seven Falls
-Aliso Canyon Loop
-Rattlesnake Canyon Trail
-San Ysidro Falls
-Romero Canyon Road

Difficult:
-Cathedral Peak Trail
-Buena Vista Loop
-Montecito Peak
-ACLCT Loop

Visiting Tips

Santa Barbara's mild climate affords comfortable hiking conditions along the coastline pretty much throughout the year. Fog can be an issue May through July (have you heard the saying, "May grey" or "June gloom?"), limiting views along the coast for the first half of the day and often burning off for the afternoon, although sometimes the fog lingers all day. Getting up higher on the mountain ridges will often get you above the fog if you are looking for sun.

Caution: when off the coast, temperatures can be oppressively hot from late spring through summer and into early fall once you get further inland over the first coastal ridge and up into the Los Padres National Forest. If hiking inland or on longer routes in the Los Padres, make sure to hike early and bring plenty of extra water as waters sources are often seasonal and dry outside of winter/early spring.

Once the rain hits, however, hiking in late winter and early spring in the mountain canyons and Los Padres can be magical when creeks and waterfalls are flowing, wildflowers blooming and California's "green season" is in full swing.

Camping & Lodging

Santa Barbara is chock-full of mid to high-end lodging options as the town itself caters to tourism. Slightly more affordable lodging options are more readily available in both the towns of Carpenteria and Ventura to the south.

If you're looking to camp, consider one of the state beach campgrounds along the Gaviota Coast west of Santa Barbara (at El Capitan State Beach, Refugio Sate Beach, or Gaviota State Beach) or at Carpenteria State Beach to the south. Some fun glamping options can be found at El Capitan Canyon across Highway 101 from El Capitan State Beach.

Gems in Hiking Santa Barbara - 1

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gem Favorite Travertine pools from above.

Travertine Pools

(1) Montecito, CA

Recommended Routes in Hiking Santa Barbara - 13

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Favorite A view into Los Padres National Forest from East Camino Cielo
Very Difficult

ACLCT Loop

8.8 mi 14.1 km 3,231' Up 984.75 m Up 3,230' Down 984.61 m Down

Mission…, CA
Favorite View from the trail to the ocean and Santa Barbara
Intermediate

Canyon Loop

4.4 mi 7.0 km 1,257' Up 383.04 m Up 1,271' Down 387.33 m Down

Montecito, CA
Favorite Panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean across Santa Barbara and Goleta from Inspiration Point.
Intermediate

Inspiration Point and Seven Falls

3.8 mi 6.2 km 916' Up 279.27 m Up 915' Down 278.77 m Down

Mission…, CA
Favorite Sugar Sumac shrub in spring along the Aliso Loop Trail
Intermediate

Aliso Canyon Loop

3.5 mi 5.7 km 814' Up 248.22 m Up 815' Down 248.49 m Down

Goleta, CA
Favorite Heading up the hill on Standwood Trail at Parma Park.
Intermediate

Parma Park Loop

2.8 mi 4.5 km 694' Up 211.46 m Up 694' Down 211.66 m Down

Mission…, CA
Favorite Turn towards Lower McMenemy at the Girard/McMeney intersection.
Intermediate

Montecito Connections Loop

5.4 mi 8.7 km 1,447' Up 441.08 m Up 1,449' Down 441.72 m Down

Montecito, CA
Favorite No Photos
Difficult

Buena Vista Loop

3.2 mi 5.2 km 889' Up 270.9 m Up 901' Down 274.53 m Down

Montecito, CA
Favorite View from the trail to the ocean and Santa Barbara
Difficult

Montecito Peak

7.0 mi 11.3 km 2,352' Up 716.99 m Up 2,352' Down 716.91 m Down

Montecito, CA
Favorite San Ysidro Falls in early March.
Intermediate/Difficult

San Ysidro Falls

3.6 mi 5.8 km 1,031' Up 314.18 m Up 1,030' Down 314.02 m Down

Montecito, CA
Favorite Beautiful sunsets.
Intermediate

Douglas Family Preserve Loop

1.6 mi 2.6 km 160' Up 48.72 m Up 160' Down 48.67 m Down

Santa B…, CA
Favorite Evening View
Easy

Santa Barbara Harbor

1.6 mi 2.6 km 8' Up 2.45 m Up 8' Down 2.44 m Down

Santa B…, CA
Favorite Sunset
Intermediate

More Mesa Beach

1.2 mi 1.9 km 99' Up 30.08 m Up 99' Down 30.1 m Down

Goleta, CA
Favorite Into the Sun
Easy

Thousand Steps to Mesa Lane

2.1 mi 3.4 km 48' Up 14.71 m Up 48' Down 14.77 m Down

Santa B…, CA

Hiking Santa Barbara Hiking

  • 197 Miles 318 Kilometers of Trail
  • 13 Recommended Routes
  • 1 Gem Gems
  • 16 Easy Trails Easy Trails
  • 42 Intermediate Trails Intermediate Trails
  • 5 Difficult Trails Difficult Trails
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Areas Within Hiking Santa Barbara

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Trails in Hiking Santa Barbara - 50

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2.5 mi 4.0 km #1Rattlesnake Canyon Trail
Intermediate
Mission Canyon, CA
Intermediate
Mission Canyon, CA 18 
2.0 mi 3.2 km #2Cathedral Peak Trail
Difficult
Mission Canyon, CA
Difficult
Mission Canyon, CA 10 
3.8 mi 6.2 km #3Camuesa Connector Trail
Intermediate
Mission Canyon, CA
Intermediate
Mission Canyon, CA
7.0 mi 11.2 km #4Romero Canyon Road
Intermediate
Summerland, CA
Intermediate
Summerland, CA
4.1 mi 6.7 km #5Jesusita Trail
Intermediate/Difficult
Mission Canyon, CA
Intermediate/Difficult
Mission Canyon, CA 15 
4.0 mi 6.4 km #6Romero Canyon Trail
Intermediate/Difficult
Summerland, CA
Intermediate/Difficult
Summerland, CA
4.5 mi 7.2 km #7San Ysidro Trail
Intermediate/Difficult
Montecito, CA
Intermediate/Difficult
Montecito, CA
2.5 mi 4.1 km #8Summerland Beach Trail
Easy
Summerland, CA
Easy
Summerland, CA
4.1 mi 6.6 km #9Tunnel Trail
Intermediate/Difficult
Mission Canyon, CA
Intermediate/Difficult
Mission Canyon, CA
0.9 mi 1.5 km #10Douglas Family Preserve Trail
Intermediate
Santa Barbara, CA
Intermediate
Santa Barbara, CA

Photos of Hiking Santa Barbara - 64

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San Ysidro Canyon from East Camino Cielo Road
Mar 13, 2022 near Montecito, CA
Romero Saddle vista.
Mar 26, 2021 near Summerland, CA
The route ahead to Arlington Peak
May 17, 2018 near Mission…, CA
Atop Arlington Peak
May 17, 2018 near Mission…, CA
Time to start scrambling
May 17, 2018 near Mission…, CA
A view into Los Padres National Forest from East Camino Cielo
Oct 22, 2017 near Mission…, CA
Choosing a scramble rout up the Dragon's Back to Arlington Peak
Aug 3, 2017 near Mission…, CA
The base of Tangerine Falls offers a great look toward Channel Islands State Park.
Apr 30, 2017 near Montecito, CA