Hiking Santa Barbara, California, USA

Santa Barbara is one of my favorite cities on the planet: it has character and history, it isn’t too big, the weather is great, and it is literally surrounded by beach and mountains.

Hiking in Santa Barbara wasn’t something I had prioritized in the past. I mean, when you have that beach, why would you do anything else?

But I’m here to tell you that hiking Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Mountains is an incredible experience. If you’re into panoramic views, you won’t be let down.

Getting There

Mountain road in the Santa Ynez Mountains

Gulp. What’s on the other side of this hill?

After doing some research, we decided to hit up the Cold Spring Trail. We chose it because it wasn’t too strenuous (we were hiking in the morning before a busy day), and it was supposed to have unsurpassed views of the city, the Pacific Ocean, and the Channel Islands.

No matter which direction you’re coming from, prepare for it to be a pain in the ass to access. The road is quite remote and lacks signage. The trailhead is also poorly marked. In fact, I can’t even say for sure that we made it to the Cold Spring Trail. But we found a path along the ridge that had great views, so what more could we ask for?

Be very mindful of the switchbacks on the mountain roads. The roads themselves were narrow with many blind turns. I was white-knuckling the steering wheel the whole way. Oh, and there aren’t many bail-out roads that will take you back down the mountain. At one point I began to panic thinking we were going to be stuck up there forever.

On the Trail

Eventually we found our way, parked the car, and started the hike.

The mountains are very dry but have an abundance of vegetation. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere and created a colorful landscape.

The trail took us along the ridge with 360-degree views of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara, the Pacific Ocean, and the Channel Islands. I think I stopped every five feet to take photos… but what else is new.

The trail we wound up on appeared to run the length of the ridge. You can see how far it extends in this photo:

Hiking Santa Barbara, California, USA

And when you’re on a mountain ridge, you know what that means: views in every direction!

If we weren’t time bound, I would have loved to continue hiking much farther than we did. It was relatively easy and level, so people of most fitness levels could enjoy it.

If You Go

Santa Barbara Hikes is a great resource for the dozens of trails in the area. You can find just about anything for your skill level, desired distance, and desired scenery.

They also have detailed driving directions and maps so you can get to where you’re going better than we did.
Here’s the link to the Cold Spring Trail, which I’m thoroughly convinced we never found.

But regardless of which trail we actually hiked, I was left in more awe of the Santa Barbara area after seeing it from a new perspective. The natural beauty is a huge part of what makes this city such a great travel destination!

Have you hiked in or around Santa Barbara? Any recommendations for future treks? Let me know in the comments!

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Hiking Santa Barbara, California