Knapp’s Castle

A hike to the ruins of an old mansion high above Santa Barbara, built by industrialist George Knapp in 1916 and destroyed by wildfire in 1940. The trail is easy to follow and easy to hike, just a few short, steep hills along the way. With this trip I pass another milestone, this site’s 200th hike.
Distance: Around 7 miles

Driving Directions: From Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, take the State Street/CA-154 exit. Take CA-154 (San Marcos Pass) 10.6 miles to Paradise Road. Turn Right onto Paradise Road and drive 4.2 miles to a pullout on the right. There’s a sign for Snyder Trail a few yards off the road.

            I began on Snyder Trail.  The trail sometimes intersects with other trails or roads. I used my intuition and stuck with what I believed to be the most logical path. Most of these secondary trails have been made by people cutting switchbacks.  Photo 3 – Odd and kind of dangerous for those with wandering minds, a concrete utility vault pops up right in the middle of the trail.

            Photo 2 – A face growing in lichen.  Some lost soul transmuted by an ancient curse, perhaps?  Photo 3 – Spring is in the air. It was warm and flowers bloomed beside the trail.

As I rose, views of the mountains to the north opened up.


   I’d love to explore beneath this one someday.  Awesome walls of rock.

   I passed two water tanks near the beginning, at 0.3 and 0.7 miles. Just beyond the second tank the trail splits. The very steep path on the right dead-ends in about a third of a mile, according to my map. I stuck with the main trail heading left.


There is a very pleasant shady stretch.  It feels lovely being enveloped by nature.


Calming natural views.

        Shots of down below, there are areas for camping.  Also, there’s the Santa Ynez River.

The Four Sisters


There was a small amount of poison oak by the side of the trail, easily avoidable. This particular plant – a gorgeous shade of burgundy.

        I came across a trail sign which seemed to serve no purpose. At home I checked my GPS, comparing it to my trail map. It seems at this spot one may follow an old road up to a creek and several waterfalls, the biggest named Wellhouse Falls. That may be the case but I didn’t see a trail, let alone a road.

            I had powerlines in my sight for a good distance and wondered if they stood at the top and East Camino Cielo.  I got the answer when the trail passed beneath them.  Photo 3 – I was passed by a group of ten or so mountain bikers. I met others as well. Everyone was cool. This trail seems to be popular with bike riders.


After about three miles Knapp’s Castle appeared on a nearby hilltop.

   I passed the turn-off to Knapp’s Castle and headed another quarter of a mile up to East Camino Cielo.


It was reasonably clear today. Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands were on display.


Photo 1 – View back to the north from East Camino Cielo.  Photo 2 – To the west, Lake Cachuma on zoom.

            I backtracked and walked around the gate to Knapp’s Castle. The ruins sit on private property. Please treat this unique property with respect so that it may continued to be enjoyed by all.


There is a tiny loop around the property. I started by first exploring the upper ruins which are amazing.

Expansive views from Knapp’s Castle.



Exploring the ruins.


   Stone steps lead down to beautiful arches.

            Photo 1 – From the arches I looped down to the lower ruins. I circled back to the top and rested in the shade of an oak tree.  Photo 3 – On the way back a turkey vulture made several passes overhead. I saw a lot of these guys when I hiked at Lake Cachuma.

Another excellent day of hiking. I’ve been blessed with so many over the years. It never gets old.

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