For active people, hitting the hiking trails in Santa Barbara is as second nature as hitting the beach. The beautiful hamlet isn’t just near the Santa Ynez Mountain Range and gorgeous Los Padres National Forest; it’s nestled at the base, making the figurative donning of Lederhosen a viable and rewarding recreation.
My favorite getaway in the front country is to Inspiration Point. Not the one Happy Days made famous, but a four-mile, round-trip hike that starts at the end of Tunnel Road. Just off Mission Canyon Road near Santa Barbara’s mission, the initial part of the hike is a mile-long, access road. From then on, the trail wends through open country and chaparral, both, a moderate grade that’s easy steppin’s for the fit hiker, while the view earned hiking is the epitome of eye candy. Some 1800 feet above sea level, Inspiration Point is an intermediate summit in the shadow of Cathedral Peak, offering stunning views of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands, and surrounding mountains. (see photos)
When I want to test my fitness levels further, I go a bit farther. The San Ysidro trail located off Park Lane in nearby Montecito can be as challenging as it is beautiful, depending on the distance one chooses to hike. The distance to summit is well worth it, here. A grueling, nine-mile round trip to East Camino Cielo, I take the edge off the steep switchbacks, and ever-increasing grade beyond the waterfall located 2 miles up with plenty of rest-stops dba scenery appreciation. Rest stops, and lots of on-hand water, since this trip requires replenishing, trail supplies, as well as a high level of endurance and fitness. The view from the mountain top is panoramic and transcendental, though, worth every aching muscle the next day.
Finally, when I feel the need to really get away from it all–even beautiful Santa Barbara–I head up San Marcos Pass to the back country, and the quiet of White Oak Trail. Situated in Red Rock just off Paradise Road at the edge of Los Osos campground, this trail is considerably less trafficked than the front country trails, and the nicer for the solitude it affords. I can really commune with nature as I ascend the 5 miles leading up to East Camino Cielo on the flipside. The trail starts out as an unused cattle road, branching out a mile up to switchbacks that grow narrower and more arduous as the summit nears. A great trail for the fitness guru, and a canine companion, water is essential on this one too.