A Montecito Mainstay
Hike of the Month: Montecito Peak
Length of Trail: 7 miles round trip
Elevation: Approximately 2,150 Feet
Level of Difficulty: Difficult to Strenuous
How to Get There: Drive south from Santa Barbara on Highway 101. Exit at Olive Mill Road (94A). Drive north on Olive Mill Road (toward the mountains). Olive Mill Road will become Hot Springs Road, continue until you reach Mountain Drive. Turn left on Mountain Drive and continue one mile to where Cold Spring Creek crosses the road. Parking is found on both sides of the creek, as are two trailheads. Start your trek on the east side where a wood sign marks the trail.
Description: Montecito Peak sits perched high above the private estates of upscale Montecito. A short distance from the trailhead, a bench marks the junction of the East and West Fork trails. Veer right and follow the East Fork to continue the climb to Montecito Peak. The path winds past Cold Spring Creek and climbs quickly while offering panoramic views of the frontcountry mountains, Santa Barbara, and the beach. The trail traverses the creek twice and both crossings are great settings for a picnic, relaxing in the shade, or rock hopping around the natural playground of waterfalls and boulders. A few feet after the second crossing, the trail splits requiring another right turn. (As there are several junctions, watch for the brown Forest Service trail markers to stay on track.)
When you reach the fire road, turn left and hike toward the mountains. After roughly 200 feet, another Forest Service sign indicates where the trail departs from the fire road and climbs up the mountain. From here the going becomes rocky and steep, so sturdy shoes and even trekking poles will help. After a long uphill stretch comes a small clearing with two large eucalyptus trees that provide a great location to take a rest or eat a snack. After passing the eucalyptus trees, stay alert for a well worn, unmarked path to the left. An offshoot from the Cold Spring Trail—which eventually reaches Camino Cielo Road—the trail to Montecito Peak is a steep dirt climb. After a few minutes however, you’re standing on the summit and being treated to 360-degree views of the beach, city, and mountains. While taking it all in, make sure to spot the small metal box containing notes from other hikers and leave your own words of encouragement or gratitude. Happy Hiking!