15 Best Hiking Trails in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara has been known for its amazing sceneries, especially when you come close to the coast and the ocean. There are also very many wineries and fantastic lodges that you will enjoy. However, most of the people that I know come to Santa Barbara for the sole aim of hiking. The exciting thing is that you will not get disappointed.

Out of most of the areas that I know, this is one is the most exciting places you can have your hike and enjoy the complementary views of the ocean and the flora that naturally grows in the forests there. You can enjoy it by yourself or even with your family and friends.

See Also: 15 Best Campgrounds in Santa Barbara

Knowing some of the best hiking areas will help you plan better and know what exactly you will need to carry it is better to be prepared than sorry.

15 of the best hiking trails in Santa Barbara

1. The Douglas Family Preserve

The Douglas family preserve
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It is one of the places in Santa Barbara that has been kind enough to allow permission to the furry animals to run around without much restriction. The 70-acre beauty of the land is filled with eucalyptus trees, oaks, and cypress trees among the many others that will provide a great shade as you have your hike. 

There is also a good chance that you will meet with dolphins and whales swimming offshore and also participate in good time of hang gliding at the peak. The preserve also includes the beach where you can opt to take your beach walk as you like. It is a perfect way to relax and unwind.

2. Cathedral Peak

Cathedral Peak
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It is one of the strenuous hikes that are available in the Santa Barbara land. The warning is usually even made to people with physical issues and children. The 2350 feet elevated hike is often no joke and in most cases, needs some good prior preparation.

It begins from the Tunnel Road just less than a mile over the locked gate. You will then go upstream and through the wall opening that goes into the cathedral peak that has boulders and thick chaparral, which could get quite hectic. There are also very steep places that will need careful moving. All these efforts are, however, worth it because once you get to the top, the scenery is exceptionally amazing.

3. Seven falls

The 3.2 mile that runs from the tunnel road trailhead into the Mission Canon is one of the best experiences that you could ever experience while you are in Santa Barbara. You will go through several boulders scrambling and creek crossings, which is just but a part of what you should expect during this hike.

The seven basins usually form a perfect swimming spot during the spring after they have filled with water. It then provides you a great place to relax after a long walk and most probably when you are tired.

4. Cold Springs East Fork

It is one of the parks that have been known by people over time because of the picturesque pools, several cascades, and Mother Nature’s wrath. It also includes many boulder-hopping crossings that allow you to adjust the hiking trail. It contains quite a good number of trees, which means that you can still enjoy the hike even on dry and sunny days comfortably.

At a 4.5 mile limit, you will get kids who are hunting for frogs and salamanders to the East of Camino Cielo. It goes through pools and waterfalls to the steep hills of the canyon through chaparral to Montecito overlook that is famous for the fantastic view that it offers its people. This includes the tree shoots that are seen coming from the burnt embers of the fires that hit the canyon some years back.

5. San Ysidro Trail

San Ysidro Creek
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It is a trail that starts from the Montecito enclave as you make your way through the residential neighborhood. It is called the San Ysidro trail because the path moves over the San Ysidro creek that is known for its cool canyon. When you hike during the spring, you will be able to enjoy the purple and yellow wildflowers on the hillsides.

There is also an 80-foot waterfall that fills up and forms a pool that people can enjoy a good swim and then continue with the 4.4-mile hike where you will get to enjoy an amazing array of the Channel Islands and the sea and mountain.

6. Romero Canyon Loop

This is one of the hikes that very many people avoid because of the 10-mile mountain loop that is usually very tiresome for most people. Lying just some distance from the Bella Vista Drive, it pushes 2 miles of the shady creek bed before getting to the ridgeline over the chaparral.

It also has the perfect view of the Montecito, the sea, and the channel island all at once. During spring, you will be able to enjoy the wildflowers and the creek crossings. West of the loop is the Romero Saddle that has been elevated 2000 feet from the trailhead. You will then need a lot of refreshment is you want to survive this hike.

7. Stevens Park

Stevens Park is, in most cases, not used, yet it is one of the best hiking trails you can ever go on. It does start in the residential areas where you will even go through a children’s playground; however, after that, you get to enter into a forest. The 1.6-mile hike is filled with a great view of the oaks, sycamore and even the flower-flecked meadows that are just amazing, especially if you are doing a family hike.

However, in this park, the furry friends have to be leashed in case you would like to go with them.

  • Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Map: Stevens Park
  • Location: Stevens Park

8. Rattlesnake Canyon

Just as the name says, this is a park that you could see a rattlesnake on the trail as you walk. Therefore, if you have a true phobia for snakes, you should avoid this park. However, it is a fascinating place to go for a hike. The 5-mile hike is one which unlike, most of the other hikes, you will not find bikes. They are banned in this specific canyon. 

While at Skofield Park, you will get a trail mark that will guide you through the road that you should use. This specific trail offers you two ways back. You could use the one you just used which is a 3.5-mile trail or try a new path. This one is ½ mile over the Gibraltar road, where you get to enjoy the fantastic scenery and breathe fresh crisp clean air that comes from the sea.

9. Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point
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It is known as the inspiration point for a reason. The hike on to the Santa Ynez Mountains will place you above the Santa Barbara coastline giving you a very clear and panoramic view of pretty much the whole of the water coastline in the city. The best way to get the most out of the hike is to try the 7.55 mile around the Jesusita trail from the San Roque Road.

10. Knapp’s Castle Trail

Knapp's castle
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The hiking trail here runs through the famous George Knapp castle mansion built-in 1916. The Los Padres National Forest then surrounds it. The 0.9 miles dog-friendly trail will allow you to enjoy the fantastic views of the mountains. It has also been known to be the best spot to take numerous photos, especially when there is a light cloud cover, especially in the morning.

Going through the Camino Cielo at the height of 2900 feet, you will go through the dirt road on the north of the mountain. You will then turn right; you will enjoy the ruins of the castle.

11. Tangerine falls

The 2.5 miles is worth your efforts. Enjoy the waterfalls, creeks, and the shade that covers everywhere along with the serene ocean view that covers the whole area. It goes through a canyon and into a creek where you will then enjoy the path towards the falls.

There is a belief that the more water the better the view. That is why people are advised to visit this falls after the winter weather.

12. Gaviota hot spring and peak

People have never really known that there are hot springs just some distance from the Santa Barbara 101 freeway. It is not the boiling water springs like most of the places you might be knowing, but it provides water that is just warm enough to allow hikers to relax and take a dip in the water.

There is a peak that is just 2 miles from the coast. Here you get to hike over the 2458 feet of elevation and enjoy the fantastic ocean views as you breathe in the cool air from the waters. There is also an overlook loop that allows the hikers to tour the ridges of the Gaviota State Park above the Gaviota Tunnel.

13. Lizards Mouth Rock

Lizards Mouth Rock
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The Lizards Mouth is just less than a mile from the West Camino Cielo Road that then leads you to an amazing scenic view, which is perfect for a good picnic or just a rest. It attains its name because of the arrangements of the rocks to look like a lizard’s open mouth facing away from the ocean.

The rocks are high enough to allow you to take a good hike and get that exercise regime working for you. You will need to then take with you a good cap in case the sun gets too hot and a good amount of water. It does not get to be in vain because I can assure you the view at the top will be so much your time. You might even get to join in on a few photoshoots that will be taking place.

Location: Lizards Mouth Rock

14. Nojoqui Falls

Nojoqui falls
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It is one of the shortest hikes that I have ever encountered. The 0.65 miles runs in the Nojoqui Falls Park that allows you to also see the 80-foot waterfall, 40 miles from downtown Santa Barbara. The water may be more during the spring period, which heightens the scene that you will get to enjoy.

See Also: 15 Incredible Stops on a San Francisco to Los Angeles Road Trip

There is a 175-foot hike that will go through a canyon that is loved because of the cover of oaks and laurels that presents an amazing view. There are stone steps and wooden bridges that were made to aid in the moving up and down of the trails, especially in areas where it is steep.

15. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
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This is the one place you will be able to find more than 100 species of the California plant species. The 78-acre preserve allows you to have quite an experience going round to be able to see them through either one of the five paths that will be leading you to the meadows.

You will also get to experience some of the Japanese teahouse and garden together with the mission dam. All these things are just a few miles from downtown the town of Santa Barbara. The trails are less complicated and do not need much effort because you will also get to enjoy most of the other natural views alongside it.


Hiking is an experience that quite a good number of people have been able to enjoy. More so people who are fit because this is usually just another way of getting some good dosage of exercise. Santa Barbara has been spotted as one of the best places to have a good hike once in a while. There are many hiking trails that you could enjoy, but it will need you to know which one will best suit your needs and your experiences. Even though you might not be a fitness freak, you can still enjoy some of the non-elevated trails for your hikes to be able to enjoy Santa Barbara more. Trying it out might be the one thing that you need.


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