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Hike Santa Barbara and discover some of the very best hiking in Southern California along trails through the mountain canyons right behind Santa Barbara and Montecito. The creekside paths, the mountain tracks, and the marvelous views of the Pacific, the islands and “America’s Riviera,” add up to world-class walking.

After college, I moved to Santa Barbara and have lived here and hiked here ever since. The Santa Ynez Mountains are my home mountains. I like to hike Santa Barbara with friends and family, and hike Santa Barbara alone to re-focus my thoughts and restore my spirit. I love leading hikes for Santa Barbara school kids, faith-based groups and conservation organizations, as well as for private groups and companies.

The wild side of Santa Barbara charms the hiker with antiquarian oaks and sycamores lining the canyons and a host of seasonal creeks washing the hillsides. In spring, the chap-arral blooms and adds frosty whites and blues to the gray-green plants. The mountains look particularly inviting after the first winter rains.

The trails generally follow creeks to the top of the range. Typically, Santa Barbara’s front country trails start in lush canyon bottoms, zigzag up the dry canyon walls, and follow rock ledges to the crest. Many of the trails intersect Camino Cielo (the sky road), which follows the mountain crest. From the top, enjoy sweeping views of the Pacific and Channel Islands, the city and coastal plain.

From the viewpoints, hikers can decipher the region’s confusing orientation; that is to say, the east-west direction of the coastline and the mountain ranges. When the sun seems to set in the north, well, that really confuses visiting hikers! Geographically challenging the range may be, but that soft south light illuminating the mountains makes them all the more magical.

Take a hike in the Santa Ynez Valley, too. The hiking includes trails along the back side of the Santa Ynez Mountains along the Santa Ynez River; a few paths in the wine country itself (though public parkland is scarce) and the high country around Figueroa Mountain, complete with conifers and fabulous vistas.

Hike smart, reconnect with nature and have a wonderful time on Santa Barbara’s best trails.
Hike on.
–John McKinney

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