From More Mesa, take a glorious sunset beach hike up-coast.

More Mesa offers more: a defacto nature preserve, great bird-watching, a network of walking-hiking trails and access to Santa Barbara’s most isolated beach. I’ve been hiking More Mesa for more than 30 years, and it’s been my great pleasure to share this hike in my guidebooks for nearly that long.

The More Mesa Preservation Coalition held a symposium recently to remind locals and conservationists statewide about the wonders of nature the mesa holds and the perils of development it could face.

Birds galore over More Mesa, including the showy white-tailed kite.
Birds galore over More Mesa, including the showy white-tailed kite.

More Mesa has a diversity of habitats and attracts an abundance of bird life. It’s known for its bird life, including 16 different species of raptors. The white-tailed s kite, marsh hawk and other raptors, are quite active over the mesa in their pursuit of prey. Rare birds include the northern harrier and short-eared owl.

This land has been threatened by development for decades. And it still is, though any development scheme faces vociferous opposition. Prominent Saudi developer Sheikh Khalid S. Al-Shobily purchased More Mesa in 2012, but has not announced any development plans.

The mesa was once part of Thomas More’s Rancho La Goleta, who bought it in 1857 and grazed cattle here. More noticed natural tar seeping from mesa cliffs, gathered it up and sold it to the city of San Francisco, where the asphaltum was used to pave city streets.

A mile-long walk up a residential street, across the bluffs, and down the cliffs on a combo stairs-pathway leads to a clean, mellow and sandy beach. More Mesa is a great walk without going down to the beach. The property is honeycombed with trails.

More Mesa Coastal Trail: One of Trailmaster John McKinney's favorite Santa Barbara hikes.
More Mesa Coastal Trail: One of Trailmaster John McKinney’s favorite Santa Barbara hikes.

I like hiking a 2.5-mile loop around mesa. If you’re new to More Mesa, I suggest taking a counter-clockwise route. Head for the stairs to the beach, then take the path extending up-coast along the oceanside edge of More Mesa. Choose from a narrow footpath at the very edge of the bluffs or a wider one paralleling and enjoy views of the Channel Islanda and of the UCSB campus a few miles to the west

The Trailmaster likes to walk the full length of the bluffs before turning inland near a line of homes and commercial nursery. (You can also follow the bluff trail to intersect other trails on your right that lead north toward the mountains and dip into oak-filled ravines.) Turn back east, along the inland edge of the mesa, continuing past a profusion of trails to close the loop and rejoin the main trail near the trailhead.

From More Mesa, take a glorious sunset beach hike up-coast.
From More Mesa, take a glorious sunset beach hike up-coast.

Directions to More Mesa: From upper State Street at its junction with Highway 154, continue west along State as it becomes Hollister 1.2 miles to Puente Drive. Turn left (south). Puente Drive bends west, undergoes a name change to Vieja Drive, and passes Mockingbird Lane on your left 0.7 mile from Hollister. Public parking is not permitted along Mockingbird Lane; you must park along Puente Drive/Vieja Drive and walk up the lane past gated residential streets to the gated entrance to More Mesa. (Or exit Highway 101 on Turnpike. Head south to Hollister and turn left. Drive a few blocks to Puente Drive and follow above directions.)