green bridge across cold spring canyon

7 Of The Best Walks In Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is known as the American Riviera thanks to its Mediterannean vibe, Spanish Colonial architecture, famously beautiful weather, and of course, its immense natural beauty. From dry lands to luscious forests, there’s so much to see around this Californian city, which has made it a hotspot for walking enthusiasts. And one thing’s for sure – if you go on a walk in Santa Barbara, you’re going to get an amazing ocean view! There are a lot of fantastic walks to choose from, so we’ve narrowed it down to the 7 of the best walks in Santa Barbara.

Best Walks in Santa Barbara

1. Inspiration Point via Jesuita Trail

Length: 6.8 miles
Duration: 3 hours 40 minutes

For those that enjoy rugged terrain and the sense of accomplishment that comes with a steep hike, this one’s for you. The path is a mix of rock and sand, so that despite this being a popular trail, it feels like an authentic hiking experience. There’s also quite a lot of poison oak, but if you stick to the trail you’ll easily avoid it. The path is pretty steady until 2 miles in, when it gets steeper. But this is will all be worth it for the spectacular view you’re about to see. At an revelation of 1,800 feet, you’re greeted with panoramic views of the forest, the city, and the vast Pacific Ocean.

inspiration point in santa barbara

2. Cold Spring Canyon Trail

Length: 2.7 mile loop
Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes

Although this hike is only 2.7 miles, it gains an elevation of 912 feet in a short amount of time, so it’s likely to feel longer. Be sure to wear hiking shoes as the path does get steep. But it’ll all be worth it when you reach the summit and are met with sweeping views of the coast. We recommend taking a picnic and enjoy the view for as long as possible. Along the way you’ll walk beside a lovely stream that runs through the lower canyon, cross a few creeks and picturesque fairy pools, spot wildflowers, and see small but beautiful waterfalls. Much of this trail is shaded, so it’s a great activity for a hot day.
green bridge at cold spring canyon santa barbara

3. Arroyo Burro Beach Loop

Length: 1 mile
Duration: 30 minutes

The loop takes you through the Douglas Family Preserve, a 70-acre park along a stretch of steep limestone cliffs with outstanding ocean views throughout. The main even is when you reach the top of cliff – the perfect photo opportunity. It’s particularly popular with dog walkers, so do note that there will be lots of dogs around. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot migrating whales, dolphins, and seals. This walk is especially lovely in the evening, when the sun is setting and dipping into the inky sea. As well as unspoilt ocean and beach views, visitors are treated to wildflowers that cover the preserve.

douglas family preserve

4. Rattlesnake Trail

Length: 4.4 miles
Duration: 3 hours

This walk is for those that love the journey more than the destination. It’s a moderately steep walk with gorgeous scenery across the Rattlesnake Canyon throughout. The trail follows a creek through chaparral, oaks, and sycamores, and continues up to a meadow. If you want something a bit more challenging, take the Connector trail from the meadow up to the Tunnel Trail. This definitely ups the ante, but you’re rewarded this stunning views. And yes, you might spot a few rattlesnakes!

rattlesnake canyon

5. Lizard’s Mouth

Length: 0.3 miles
Duration: 10 minutes

This short but beautiful walk gets its name from its iconic rock formation, which looks like a lizard opening its mouth. It’s less of a strenuous hike and more of a spot to enjoy a picnic, enjoy the views, and take some cool pictures. As it’s a fairly easy trail, it’s perfect for all of the family. And while the trail itself is easy, there’s plenty of opportunity to scramble, rock climb, and explore. There is some scrambling required to get to the actual Lizard’s Mouth, but it’s nothing a beginner couldn’t do.

lizard's mouth rock in santa barbara

6. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Loop

Length: 1 mile
Duration: 30 minutes

There are over 5.5 miles of trails through the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, so there’s plenty of opportunity to explore. It’s the perfect place to spend a morning or afternoon, taking your time and drinking it all in. And with a Japanese teahouse, wildflower meadows, historical sites, and acres of natural woodland, there’s so much to see. There are also over 1,000 types of native California plants and trees and depending on what time of year you go, you’ll get something different. In spring, you’ll spot vibrant California poppies and purple lupine. Whereas during the winter and after strong rains, the creek gushes through the canyon. While this trail loops through just a mile of the gardens, you can take the Pritchett Trail which is considerably more challenging, acsending the steep canyon wall.

santa barbara botanic garden

7. Seven Falls Trail

Length: 3.5 miles
Duration: 2 hours

This moderate walk is perfect for those who long for a refreshing splash after a steep walk. Some sections do involve some scrambling, but it’s worth it to get to the waterfalls at the end. Do bear in mind that during the really dry months the waterfall might have cleared up, make sure to research beforehand. Even if you don’t get to see the waterfall, the hike itself offers beautiful views and the steep climb leaves you with a great sense of accomplishment.

Aleyna Yilmaz

Aleyna loves learning about a culture through its food, whether that's closer to home or being out there in the world. She’s always happiest when experiencing somewhere new, but her base in Manchester is a close second. A blend of her love of writing, food, travel, and culture has naturally led her to travel writing full time.

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