Best Santa Barbara Hikes

If you’re looking for wild mountain hikes with unparalleled sea views and plenty of water features, Santa Barbara is one of the best places to go. Santa Barbara is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, where you can see out to the Channel Islands and the historic city. Think of any kind of terrain — waterfalls, wildflower fields, beaches, tree-lined canyons, clifftops — you’ll manage to find it in Santa Barbara. Although it’s nearly impossible to pick just a handful of spots to name the “best,” you have to start somewhere, so we did the hard work for you. Check out these 6 amazing Santa Barbara hikes for your next adventure. 

Inspiration Point

We’ll start with one of Santa Barbara’s most famous hikes — Inspiration Point via Tunnel Trail. The hike itself is a moderate 3.75 out-and-back climb, culminating in a scenic 180-degree view of the ocean, mountains, islands, and city. Basically, if you want a hike that lets you see everything Santa Barbara has to offer in one go, this is it. The trail is dog-friendly, and you’ll probably encounter some mountain bikers along the way. To make this hike more difficult, use Jesusita Trail rather than Tunnel Trail, and the hike turns into a more strenuous 8-mile journey.

Seven Falls

For a more adventurous (but still only moderately difficult) hike, try making your way to Seven Falls via Seven Falls Trail. Pack your bathing suit to take a dip in the waterfall basin after your journey, which includes scrambling over some boulders (watch your footing on slippery rocks) and crossing small creeks. You can even bring your pup (on leash) with you.  

San Ysidro Trail 

More water features, please! After this year’s massive rainy season, these waterfall hikes are going to be more beautiful than ever. Start from the high-end town of Montecito (Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres have homes here, to name a few) and hit the dirt San Ysidro Trail to find yourself encased in spring wildflowers, the calming sound of the rushing creek, and canyon shade. You’ll reach a waterfall about two miles in, and can use this as your turnaround point, or you can make this a 9-mile round trip by continuing to the summit at East Camino Cielo.

Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve

Enjoy panoramic views of the harbor seals basking in the sun as you trek along the Carpinteria Bluffs. This easy 1-mile trail is only about 15-20 from downtown Santa Barbara, and is one of the best ways to watch the seals from above. Many artists bring their supplies to paint the views, and birdwatchers can expect over 200 species of birds around the salt marsh.

Rattlesnake Trail

For a less crowded version of Inspiration Point (which is adjacent), and one of the only trails where bikers are not allowed, try Rattlesnake Trail. Despite its name, you most likely won’t encounter rattlesnakes, but you will follow a gentle creek through chaparral and oak and sycamore trees to a rolling meadow with stunning views. Keep an eye out for hang gliders sailing through the sky! This trail is 3.5 miles round trip.

Cathedral Peak

For a more challenging hike that involves clambering over boulders and pushing your way through thick chaparral, try Cathedral Peak. On this four-mile round trip hike, you”ll climb a little over 2,000 feet in elevation, making for incredible views at the peak. You’ll be able to see down to Seven Falls along the way, and finish with stunning views of Santa Barbara. Getting to Cathedral Peak involves some steep climbing, and is not recommended for children or anyone who struggles with agility.