Parma Park / Santa Barbara Botanical Garden

On this day I hiked in two areas separated by only a couple miles of road, but very different in character.  Parma Park has a maze of trails running through what was once a goat ranch.  All the trails are marked only by signs that read, “Trail”.  Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has several miles of trails, very well marked, and is much more manicured, especially in the heart of the gardens near the entrance.  Obviously, the latter is more crowded.  I enjoyed both parks equally.

A new thing I’m going to be doing from now on is including driving directions, and adding them to old hikes as well.  This will be particularly helpful in areas like Montecito and Santa Barbara as the streets seem to change names for no particular reason and seemingly come to an end, then pick-up down the road a ways on the left or right.  The street signs and names are also confusing.  So, here they are:
Directions: To Parma Park: From the 101 Fwy in Montecito, exit on Olive Mill Rd.  Go right at a junction in 0.5 miles.  Continue north, now on Hot Springs Rd.  Go 0.5 miles to East Valley Road (Hwy 192) and turn left.  There are a lot of helpful “192” signs along the way.  In a short distance the road continues under the name Sycamore Canyon Rd. to a junction.  Continue west on Stanwood Dr., also part of the 192.  There are three parking areas for Parma Park off of the 192.  I parked about a half mile before the main entrance in the second lot, 2.6 miles from where I first turned on to East Valley Road.  Parking for the main entrance is 0.4 miles ahead, along the road, on the left side outside the gates.
To Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens from Parma Park: Continue West on Hwy. 192 which undergoes three more name changes (Mission Ridge Rd., Mountain Dr., and Foothill Rd.)  Two miles past the main entrance of Parma Park, come to a stop sign and signed junction with Mission Canyon Rd.  Turn right and drive 0.75 miles to the Garden entrance on the left.
Getting back to the 101: Start backtracking south on Mission Canyon Rd.  Turn right on Foothill Rd.  Drive 0.1 miles and turn left on Mission Canyon Rd.  Stay on this road, which becomes East Los Olivos St., for 0.8 miles.  Turn left on Garden St.  Drive 1.9 miles to the 101.
Whew! Told you these roads are hard to navigate!

1       2      3       5

I drove up to the main entrance and the gate was locked.  I now believe that parking is only on the street outside the gate.  I circled back and parked along the road less than a half mile from the entrance to the second trailhead, shown in photo 1. There are two areas in Parma Park.  The eastern half has a loop and the western half has several trails that branch off of each other and dead end at different paved roads.  I headed toward the main entrance where I would begin the eastern half.  Photo 2 -They have goats clearing brush in Parma Park.  Awesome, I love goats, especially their weird eyes.  Photo 4 – The area has a ranch-feel, with tall, golden grasses.

4               6

Photo 2 – Ah-ha!  There were the goats, grazing away on the hillside above.

7       8      9       10

I quickly reached the main entrance, complete with a big map and picnic tables.  I walked down to the gate at the front, just to take a look.  Parking for this point is, I now know, in that open area in the upper right of photo 4.

11               12

Walking back up from the road I crossed a nice stone bridge.

13     14   From the main entrance I began the trails in the western half.  The trail sign shown in photo 1 is typical for the park.  Generally speaking, I tried to stay left at each junction, veering up and west.

15         16        17         18

Many of the plants, of different varieties, were changing from green to red (or is it red to green?)  Photo 2 – I thought this poison oak had an interesting look.  I’m sure if these leaves are diseased or drying out, but they now look like the digital camo I see troops wearing these days.


21   I heard the baking of a dog echo through the hills.  I looked back across and could see the goats had now moved up near the top of the hill they were grazing on.

19               22

23                 24

I came to a flat area with a house on the right.  I feared I had wandered onto private property.

25   I saw a trail sign nearby and followed it to my turnaround point, El Cielito Road.


These wonderful clouds battled the Sun all day.  I’m always thankful to see them.

27               28

29   I backtracked to the next trail junction and took one of the trails I passed earlier.

30   I passed a few wild artichoke plants growing next to the trail.  Gorgeous but invasive.

31               32

33               34

I wonder if anyone harvests these.

36       39  Haunted Tree – Two Angles

35     37     38   I kept hiking with that high ridge in my sights.  And in no time I reached West Mountain Dr., my second turnaround point.  Photo 3 – Cloudy view from West Mountain Dr.

40               41

I reached the third and final junction that branches off to another paved road.

42       43      44       45

Photo 1 – Trail marker on steroids.  Photo 2 – A wasp gall, similar to the ones I saw while hiking in Lion Canyon above Ojai.

46     47     48   I reached a different section of West Mountain Dr.  My map showed a short extension that began up the road.  I looked for it but found nothing.  I turned and headed back down.

49       50      51       52

My original plan was to backtrack along the same route I took up all the way down to the main entrance.  From there I would start the loop in the eastern half.  But I noticed something of a shortcut that lead down to the loop from where I was.  I took it.  I soon connected with Parma Fire Road which took me to the bottom of the canyon and then up into the hills.  After a bit of climbing I approached the goats, protected by an alleged electrified fence.


Goat Power!

55               56

57               54

Bellies full of brush, the goats took a well deserved rest.  Photo 4 – Cute dog helps to protect the goats from predators.

58     59     60   Photo 1 – Water tank for the goats.  Photo 2 – Looking back toward the hills I climbed to get to the three roads.  Photo 3 – I followed the trail up to a high point and a picnic table, known as Rowe’s Table, in tribute to a man who worked these trails.


Mountain view from Rowe’s Table.

62                63

And toward the ocean.  All those rows of palm trees shown in photo 2, I think that’s UCSB.

64       65      66       67

68   I took the wide trail heading down the mountain.  It’s a little tricky because there are several trail junctions along the way.  I counted the junctions as I descended.  I turned right at the six and final junction, shown at the top of photo 3.  After awhile I came to one more junction.  I went left hoping it would lead down to my car.  Instead it led down to the first, eastern most trailhead off the 192.  Now I had to climb back up to the junction and go right this time.  I followed the correct trail which led right back to just above the second trailhead where I was parked.

69     70     71   Next I drove over to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.  I was going to park in the lot on the left but the sign said the gates lock at 6 p.m.  I decided to park on the street because I didn’t want to feel rushed.  There is parking for about 5 or 6 cars.  I crossed the street, paid the $10 entrance fee and listened to a quick orientation.  Near the entrance is the gift shop.

72               73

74   At the suggestion of the volunteer who took my money, I began in the Desert Section.  Just a quick loop.


76       77      78       79

80   I then began my big loop heading south, or left of the entrance.  The Garden’s trail and exhibits are extremely well marked.  With the free map I was given at the entrance, there was no chance of getting lost.  Photo 5 – Native American mortar holes in a rock along the trail.

81               82

83               84

At the Garden there is a Japanese Teahouse, closed on this day, in which they perform traditional tea ceremonies.

85     86     87   Next I crossed over the creek.  At this point the park has a slightly more rural feel.  I followed the sign for Easton Aqueduct Trail.

88   Along this trail I found the children’s hedge maze.  Of course I took the time to walk through.

89                    90


92                    93

The maze is short but fun, with little gnome houses sitting at the dead ends.

94       95      96       97

I continued north on Canyon Trail.  Lovely.


I came to the old dam.  It’s a little hard to see through all the vegetation.

99               100

101   I stepped out on top of the dam.  The first few feet are gone, for whatever reason, replaced by a big hole and a footbridge spanning the gap.  Photos 2 and 3 – Looking down from the dam.

102       103      104       105

I circled back to the left on Prichett Trail.  This trail loops around the outer boundary of the Garden and would return me to the middle section of Canyon Trail.


107       108   After completing Pritchett Trail, connecting to Canyon Trail again and crossing over the dam, I came to the Redwood Section.  For me, this was easily the most beautiful part of the Garden – shady and peaceful.  I sat on one of the benches and just turned off my mind for a few minutes.

109       110      111       112

113       114   Beyond the Redwoods, the trail swings back to the south toward the entrance and is paved with bricks.  There are few interesting odds and ends along the path, such as this sundial and “melting” metal stands.  There are about five miles of trails here, of which I hiked about 2/3s, leaving enough for a return visit on one of my days of short hikes.  A fine and interesting day.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *