Best Hiking in Santa Barbara County

Explore the stunning landscapes of Santa Barbara County where scenic trails wind through majestic mountains, coastal bluffs, and lush valleys. The hiking trails in Santa Barbara County offer an array of outdoor experiences for hikers of all levels, from leisurely strolls with picturesque views to challenging treks through pristine wilderness. This guide will lead you to the best hiking destinations in the region, promising unforgettable outdoor experiences amidst the beauty of Southern California.

Santa Barbara Hiking

Lizard’s Mouth

Length: 0.5 Miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy

The Lizard's Mouth Trail in Santa Barbara is an easy-level hike known for its unique rock formations and panoramic views of the coastline. The trailhead is accessible from West Camino Cielo Road, leading hikers through chaparral-covered hillsides to the distinctive rock formations resembling a lizard's mouth. Along the trail, visitors can enjoy stunning vistas of the Santa Barbara coastline and Channel Islands. Overall, it's a memorable hike offering scenic beauty and photo opportunities.

Inspiration Point

Length: 3.4 miles round trip | Difficulty: Moderate

The Inspiration Point hiking trail in Santa Barbara offers breathtaking views and a rewarding outdoor experience. Located in the Santa Ynez Mountains, this trail begins at the Tunnel Trailhead and ascends through beautiful oak woodlands and chaparral. Hikers can expect a steady incline with some steep sections along the way. The highlight of the hike is reaching Inspiration Point, where panoramic vistas of Santa Barbara, the coastline, and the Channel Islands await. It's an ideal spot to take in the scenery, have a picnic, or soak in the tranquility of nature. This hike is a popular choice for local hikers and visiting hikers.

Seven Falls Trail

Length: 3.4 Miles round trip | Difficulty: Moderate

The Seven Falls hike trail in Santa Barbara is a scenic adventure that leads to a series of beautiful cascading waterfalls in the Santa Ynez Mountains. Beginning at the trailhead near Tunnel Road, hikers embark on a journey through lush vegetation, rocky terrain, and serene creek crossings. Along the way, the trail offers stunning views of the surrounding canyon and Santa Barbara landscape. As you approach the falls, the trail becomes more rugged, requiring some scrambling over rocks and boulders to reach each of the seven cascades. The final waterfall, known as the Seventh Falls, is the most picturesque and serves as a popular spot for picnics and relaxation. Due to its popularity, the trail can be busy, especially on weekends, so it's best to arrive early to secure parking and enjoy a quieter experience.

Rattlesnake Canyon Trail

Length: 4.5 Miles | Difficulty: Hard

Rattlesnake Canyon Trail in Santa Barbara is a popular hiking destination due to its natural beauty and panoramic views. The path offers a diverse landscape, including oak woodlands, chaparral, and rocky outcroppings. The highlight of the trail is Rattlesnake Canyon Falls, a seasonal waterfall cascading over moss-covered rocks. Due to its popularity, arrive early to secure parking. Overall, the trail offers an immersive wilderness experience and an opportunity to connect with nature in Santa Barbara.

Parma Park Loop Trail

Length: 3.3 Miles  | Difficulty: Moderate

Parma Park is a scenic hiking destination nestled in the foothills of Santa Barbara, offering visitors a tranquil escape into nature. One of the popular routes is the Parma Park Loop Trail, which offers a moderate hike with beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. Along the way, hikers may encounter diverse flora and fauna, including native plants and wildlife. With its peaceful ambiance and natural beauty, Parma Park provides an ideal setting for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy hiking, birdwatching, and picnicking amidst the scenic splendor of Santa Barbara's backcountry.

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Montecito Hiking

Cold Springs Trail

Length: 2.1 Miles  | Difficulty: Moderate

Cold Spring Trail in Montecito offers a picturesque journey through lush oak woodlands, tranquil creek crossings, and enchanting canyon landscapes. The trailhead is easily accessible from Mountain Drive in Montecito, making it a popular choice for both locals and visitors. Along the way, hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and glimpses of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. One of the highlights of Cold Spring Trail is the opportunity to cool off in natural swimming holes and cascading waterfalls, particularly during the spring months when the creek is flowing abundantly.

Romero Canyon Trail

Length: 6 Miles | Difficulty: Moderate

The Romero Canyon Trail, located in Montecito, is a beautiful hiking trail that offers a serene escape into nature and breathtaking views. This moderate trail takes you through stunning canyon landscapes, shaded oak groves, and chaparral-covered hillsides, providing hikers with a diverse and rewarding outdoor experience. The trailhead can be easily accessed off East Valley Road in Montecito, making it suitable for hikers of all skill levels. Along the trail, you'll come across a variety of native flora and fauna, including wildflowers in the spring and occasional wildlife sightings. Romero Canyon Trail offers several vantage points where hikers can pause to take in panoramic views of the surrounding Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Hot Springs Canyon Trail

Length: 3.5 Miles | Difficulty: Moderate

The Hot Springs Canyon Trail is a popular hiking trail in Montecito, California. This trail offers a moderately challenging hike through scenic landscapes and lush vegetation, leading to natural hot springs. Hikers can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains and canyons as they make their way along the trail. The highlight of the hike is reaching the hot springs, where visitors can soak in the warm mineral waters and relax amidst the tranquil surroundings. It's important to note that the trail can be steep and rocky in some sections, so hikers should come prepared with sturdy footwear and plenty of water.

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Channel Islands

Hiking the Channel Islands in Santa Barbara provides an exceptional outdoor adventure surrounded by breathtaking coastal landscapes and diverse ecosystems. The Channel Islands National Park comprises five islands - Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara Island - each offering unique hiking opportunities, ranging from easy coastal walks to challenging treks through rugged terrain. The trails on these islands offer stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, dramatic sea cliffs, pristine beaches, and native flora and fauna. Some of the popular hikes include the Scorpion Canyon Loop on Santa Cruz Island, the Torrey Pines Trail on Santa Rosa Island, and the Cavern Point Loop on Santa Cruz Island. While hiking, visitors may encounter endemic island foxes, colorful wildflowers, and historic remnants of past inhabitants. With its remote and unspoiled wilderness, hiking the Channel Islands provides an unforgettable outdoor experience for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike.

Not sure of the best way to the Channel Islands? Our concierge partner, West & Co, can help you book your trip to the island and generate the perfect itinerary.

Tips for Hiking

  1. Stay hydrated: Bring plenty of water, especially on longer hikes, to stay hydrated throughout your trek.
  2. Wear appropriate footwear: Choose sturdy, comfortable hiking shoes or boots with good traction to navigate varying terrain.
  3. Check the weather: Before heading out, check the weather forecast to ensure you're prepared for any changes in conditions.
  4. Dress in layers: Wear lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing that can be easily adjusted as temperatures fluctuate during your hike.
  5. Pack essentials: Bring a map, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, snacks, a first aid kit, and any other necessary gear for your hike.
  6. Stay on designated trails: Stick to marked trails to protect the local ecosystem and avoid getting lost.
  7. Leave no trace: Pack out all trash and waste, and avoid disturbing wildlife or vegetation along the trail.
  8. Hike responsibly: Respect trail rules and regulations, yield to other hikers when necessary, and practice good trail etiquette.
  9. Plan ahead: Research trails beforehand, know your route, and inform someone of your hiking plans, especially if venturing into remote areas.
  10. Enjoy the scenery: Take your time to appreciate the beautiful landscapes and natural surroundings that Santa Barbara has to offer while hiking.

Book your Santa Barbara Vacation Rental

After exploring the breathtaking hiking trails of Santa Barbara County, it's time to unwind and relax in the comfort of a vacation rental. Whether you prefer a cozy cottage nestled in the hills or a beachfront retreat with panoramic ocean views, there's a perfect accommodation waiting for you. Book your Santa Barbara vacation rental today and make the most of your hiking adventure in this picturesque region.