In Montecito this week. I read that this is the most popular hike in the area and to expect lots of company on the trail. However, I left at first light and followed a specific route which meant I only saw a handful of people on the trail all day long. This is close to 11 miles and follows a figure 8 shaped route.
I arrived too early. I waited around for first light and began hiking at 6:15 am. I encountered a few trails that break off of the main trail during the day. Having a good map makes things really easy. The first junction happens about 0.4 miles in – a fire road runs to the left. Don’t take it. Keep going to the signed junction at 0.5 miles. I began the first of two connected loops, which I will refer to as the lower and upper loops. From the junction at 0.5 miles, I took the fire road to the left. This part of the lower loop is longer and has much less cover, so I wanted to get it done early. The road rises on a moderate incline.
Tibetan prayer flags and a hazy view of Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands.
After rising up for awhile the road flattens out. In this picture you can see the trail running across the bottom of mountain on the right. If you look closely you can also see the trail that I would be take later, running near the top of the mountain in the middle.
There is another road to avoid if you are following the route I did on this day, and it runs to the right where these power lines stand. Just keep going on the main road. Photo 2 – You’ll pass by a couple more of these power lines on the trail.
I reached a four way junction. At this point I had just completed the first half of the lower loop. The trail that comes down on the right is the one I would come down on later in the day, the second half of the upper loop. The trail that runs downhill to the left starts the second half of the lower loop and I would connect to this trail from the one running down on the right. For now I began the first half of the upper loop by going straight ahead. This section is similar to the section I had just hiked up, longer and more moderate in steepness than the second half of the loop.
As I gained in elevation I looked up and down the coast. The trail hugs the side of these mountains, twisting back and forth several times. I kept thinking that the trail would end just around the next corner but was always met with yet another curve around the hill. Photo 3 – Extreme close-up of the Santa Barbara Pier
Photo 1 – I believe that’s Montecito Peak on the left, and La Cumbre Peak on the right in the background. I could be mistaken. Photo 2 – Finally the trail made the turn away from the ocean and headed inland. Soon after I came to an important unsigned junction. You’ll want to take the trail leading to the right when you see this view. Photo 3 – You can see the return trail, the second half of the upper loop, zigzagging it’s way down the mountain in the middle of this picture. It looked a little sketchy from above.
Looking down from the top.
Looking to the left from my rest point I saw East Camino Cielo carved into the side of these mountains. Photo 2 – Beautiful mountains beyond. From here I headed down to the paved road. Just a few yards and I found the trail which runs steeply up the hill. Don’t go down East Camino Cielo, which becomes a dirt road at the point you pick up the trail.
Photo 1 – These mountains looked familiar, particularly the sharp pointy one on the far right, which I believe is Chief Peak. The high point on the left, I believe, must be Nordhoff Peak, which I hiked to about six months ago. Photo 2 – Close-up of Nordhoff Peak? Photo 3 – Close-up of Chief Peak?
What a view!
The trail down is steep and narrow with loose dirt. Sometimes it got quite narrow, but I never really felt like I was in serious danger because there was usually thick brush next to the trail. Photo 3 – Looking back at another skinny section of trail, about wide enough for one boot.
I reached the four way junction, completing the upper loop. I noticed a couple of interesting things that I had missed on my first pass. First, a trail sign that has tree roots growing around it. Also, a “bench”, made by wedging a log between two trees. I rested here for a few minutes as my legs were tired from the steep downhill. I then began the final part of the figure 8 loop, the last half of the lower loop. The trail is in the shade for about 80% of this section.
As I got lower on the trail it gets really rocky and uncomfortable to hike on at times. Maybe I was just tired at this point. There are also some nice pools by the side of the trail.
As is often the case when hiking creekside, sometimes the trail is hard to locate. Photo 4 – Coming to the end of my journey. Another great day of hiking.