Exploring Montecito’s Trails

Among the countless reasons why Montecito is one of the world’s greatest places to live is the close proximity of nature, which can be accessed through an extensive network of trails. Many of the local trails started out as Indian paths, were used by early Spanish settlers, and over time became part of the fabric of the community.

Great credit for the acquisition and preservation of the trails must be given to the Montecito Trails Foundation, which was founded in 1964 by equestrians and hikers to acquire easements from private property owners. These easements assured public access to a trail network that includes fire roads and the Edison Catway that runs east-west along the mountains immediately behind Montecito. Since then, the Trails Foundation has raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on trail maintenance, even paying for upkeep of trails that technically fall within the bailiwick of the City of Santa Barbara or the U.S. Forest Service.

When people talk about the Montecito front-country trails, they are usually referring to the several trails that snake up the canyons from trailheads along East Mountain Drive on the western end of Montecito, and Bella Vista Drive on the eastern end of Montecito. Going from west to east, the major trails are: Cold Springs Trail, Hot Springs Trail, San Ysidro Trail, Buena Vista Trail and Romero Canyon Trail. At the far east end of Montecito, there are trails that head out of Toro Canyon Park.

Each of the above-mentioned trails has its own attributes, and most of them traverse creeks that run year-round. Cold Springs Trail, for instance, is the way to reach Montecito Peak; the Hot Springs Trail actually does lead to the ruins of the historic old hotel where late 19th century health seekers sought the curative powers of the sulphuric mineral waters; San Ysidro Falls is a popular destination at the top of the San Ysidro Trail.

For those who aren’t up to tackling these fairly steep climbs, or those who want quick access to neighborhood walks, there are several easy trails found within the heart of Montecito. The Montecito Trails Foundation refers to these as “community trails.” They are fairly flat and marked with wooden “MTF” logo signs.

Among the favorite community trails is the Ennisbrook Trail, which can be accessed through a gate in the picket fence on the north side of San Leandro Lane. This trail follows San Ysidro Creek through what was the former Boeseke property (which is why sometimes this is referred to as the Boeseke Trail), which was later divided up into Ennisbrook, a gated housing development. The Ennisbrook Trail travels north and exits at East Valley Road through a private lane just past Knowlwood Tennis Club. It connects there with the trail that runs on the shoulder of East Valley Road, which can be taken east to Sheffield Drive, then loop down Sheffield and back to the starting point on San Leandro Lane.

The Hammond Meadow Trail can be accessed at the south end of San Ysidro Road, where there is parking at the Eucalyptus Lane beach access. Facing the ocean, the trail starts out to the right, and after a short distance, reaches Hammond Beach to the east of the Coral Casino. Walking back to the starting point via the beach makes for an easy loop with a variety of scenery.

The Peter Bakewell Trails border the south end of the Casa Dorinda retirement home, and can be accessed from the west at the stone pillars near the flood control basin on Olive Mill Road (a bridge leads across Montecito Creek), or from the east near the end of Wyant Road. Some sections of these trails lead through the remains of the old olive grove that once surrounded the mill for which the street is named, and other sections are paved and wheelchair accessible.

The best way to learn the trail system is to simply go out and start exploring. With more than 300 miles of trails open to the public, there is a path for everyone. The truly ambitious can even go all the way to the top of the mountains, then drop down the other side into the backcountry of Los Padres National Forest.

Trail Resources

Montecito Trails Foundation

P.O. Box 5481

Santa Barbara, CA 93150

Info: 568-0833


A membership form can be downloaded from the website. All members receive a trail map, as well as an updated hike schedule and invitation to the annual barbeque fundraiser.

Los Padres Trail Riders

Serafin Robles, membership chair

P.O. 808

Buellton, CA 93427

Info: 563-9031

While most strictly equestrian organizations in the Santa Barbara are invitation-only, Los Padres Trail Riders is open to any horse enthusiast who would like to participate in its sponsored trail rides and horse-related activities in Santa Barbara county.

Sierra Club


A membership form can be downloaded from the website. The Los Padres Chapter is divided into two groups, the Sespe Group, which serves residents in the Ventura area, and the Santa Barbara Group, which has about 3,000 members in the Santa Barbara-Montecito area. Members receive a subscription to the bi-monthly newsletter, Condor Call, which lists several local hikes per week, as well as information on environmental issues and special events throughout the year.


A comprehensive website created by Diane Soini, where trail information can be found on a regularly updated basis. In addition to maps, topos and directions to trailheads, this website has an extensive database of Santa Barbara wildflowers and links to other outdoor-related organizations.

Condor Capers

The Santa Barbara Zoo is partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor California condor nests in Los Padres National Forest. Volunteers are currently needed to assist in the effort for the current breeding season.

New volunteers are required to undergo training in the protocols of data collection and nest monitoring. This is not a job for the faint-hearted, as it entails long hours in the field, possibly in bad weather. Volunteers will be required to drive their own vehicles; four-wheel-drive is strongly recommended. Depending on where the nests are located, monitors may have to hike and camp in the backcountry.

The regular condor breeding season lasts six to eight months, and the ideal volunteer should be able to commit to regular observation days. If you fit the bill, contact Estelle Sandhaus at 962-5339, extension 31, or send her an e-mail at esandhaus@sbzoo.org.

Mark Your Calendar

Friday, March 2

Free Friday Flicks

“Arctic Dance: The

Mardy Murie Story”

Wildling Art Museum

Los Olivos, 7 pm

Free admission

Narrated by Harrison Ford, this 2001 movie is the only in-depth film biography of Margaret (Mardy) Murie, known as “The Mother of the American Conservation Movement.” Murie’s efforts, for which she won a Presidential Medal of Freedom, focused on the preservation of Alaska’s Brooks Range – which became the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Reservations not required, but seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Free popcorn, cookies, wine, water and soft drinks provided. Movie is shown in the museum’s administrative offices, 2948 Nojoqui Street, Suite 4.

Saturday, March 3

Scenic Beachwalk

1 pm (arrive by 12:45 pm)

Easy, 4 miles round-trip

The Naples Coalition invites the public to walk the beach to the Naples property, starting from the public access parking lot at Haskell’s Beach. The lot adjoins Bacara Resort, and participants should plan about three hours to complete the walk at a leisurely pace. There will be a minus low tide. For directions and more information visit www.savenaples.org.

Sunday, March 4

Sierra Club Hike

Potrero Trail

Strenuous, 8 miles round-trip

Starting from Nira Campground, hike up Potrero Trail to the grass meadow below Hurricane Deck and explore the nearby rock formations. Bring lunch and plenty of water. Meet behind Bank of America on upper State Street at Hope Avenue at 8 am (note early start time), and caravan to hike start point. For more information contact Diane at 687-1929.

Saturday, March 10

Montecito Trails Foundation

Romero Canyon Hike

Advanced, 8:30 am

9 miles round-trip

2,175-foot elevation gain

Meet at trailhead at Bella Vista, hike up Romero Canyon to Camino Cielo, then return on the fire road. Bring food and water. Arrive 10 minutes early to check in and sign release forms. Dogs are welcome if they are leashed and you bring cleanup supplies. For more information contact Dick at 963-8858.