Hiking in Santa Barbara

With the city located between a mountain range and the Pacific Ocean, almost every trail in Santa Barbara will lead you to fantastic viewpoints overlooking the city, the ocean, and surrounding hills.

For a more thorough look at hikes around Santa Barbara, we recommend the following guidebooks:

Some of the best easy to moderate hikes in Santa Barbara:

Note: always bring hats and sunscreen since most of the trails in Santa Barbara can be very exposed.

Knapps Castle

Knapps Castle Santa Barbara

1 mile/30 mins — easy
An easy walk leads to a 180-degree views of Santa Ynez Rever canyon and Lake Cachuma and the remains of Knapp’s castle. The 5 bedroom sandstone mansion burned down in 1940, but the remains are open for exploration. The site is located on a private property. But the site owner has agreed to keep access open to hikers. So make sure you pack all your trash and mind your trail manners to ensure future access to the site.

See directions on a map
From US 101, take Highway 154 and head north. About 11 miles, make a right on East Camino Cielo. About 3 miles on the road, there’s a gate signed “Private Property Ahead” on your left. Park across the gate.

Inspiration Point

4 miles/2 hours — moderate hard
The trail starts at the end of Tunnel Road and passes small cascades, rocky pools, and swimming holes along Mission Creek. A perfect year-round hike to do in Santa Barbara. After halfway in, the open and exposed switchback that will take you to the top starts. At 1750 feet, Inspiration Point will truly inspire with views of Santa Barbara, the ocean, and the Channel Islands.

See directions on a map
From US 101, take the Mission Street exit and head east until it ends. Turn left past Santa Barbara Mission, and then right on Los Olivos. After you pass the Mission, head left on Mission Canyon Road for about 3/4 of a mile, then bear right on Foothill Boulevard. Very quickly, head left again to keep going on Mission Canyon Road. You’ll see Tunnel Road on your left and follow it until it ends.

San Ysidro Trail

3.6 miles/2 hours — moderate hard
This trail mostly follows San Ysidro creek — a year round flowing creek with waterfalls, pools and cascades. It’s a perfect hike to go on a hot day in the summer for dips in the pools and exploring the waterfalls. Most hikers make these pools and waterfalls their main destination, but if you’re craving some sunshine and a much more rigorous hike, the trail climbs up and end at Camino Cielo (note: if you decide to do this it’s about 4.5 miles to the top with 3000 ft elevation gain).

Gaviota Hot Springs and Gaviota Peak

Gaviota Hot Springs

1 mile/30 mins – easy
The short and steep trail will lead you to two natural hot spring pools of Gaviota. These pools are not too deep, at about 2 ft. Enjoy the perfectly heated, natural mineral waters, but unless you arrive very early in the morning or on weekdays, expect crowds. Btw, skinny dipping is not allowed since the pools are on state park property.

Continue past the pools on the main trail for another 3 mile, and you’ll arrive at Gaviota Peak with tremendous view of the coastline.

Head north on 101 from Santa Barbara, take the Highway 1/Lompoc exit. Head right at the stop sign, and continue on the road parallel to the freeway. The road ends at the trailhead parking area.

Douglas Family Preserve

1.5 mile/45 mins – easy
The Douglas Family Preserve is 70 acre grassy mesa overlooking the ocean. The trail follows along the edge of the cliff, under which is the beautiful Arroyo Burro Beach.

The trail forms a loop that starts and ends close to the chained gate. From the parking lot, walk back along the road you just came from (Cliff Road) to Las Positas road. On your right, there will be a chained gate. Walk past the gate and follow the trail towards the bluff. Follow the cliff with the ocean on your left as the trail curves to the right and takes you to the junction. Retrace your steps pass the chained gate back to the parking lot.

From 101, take Las Positas exit and head towards the ocean. Turn right on Cliff Drive and continue until you see the Arroyo Burro parking lot on your left.

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