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Backpacker Magazine – September 2010

Local Hikes: Santa Barbara/Ventura

The best local hikes near Santa Barbara/Ventura.

by: Kim Phillips

Sandstone Peak, Santa Monica Mountains NRA. (Chuck Graham)
Sandstone Peak, Santa Monica Mountains NRA. (Chuck Graham)

Your Guide

Los Padres Sierra Club (

Your Hikes
» Cathedral Peak, Los Padres National Forest Climb a 3,333-foot sandstone spire just four miles north of Santa Barbara. From Mission Canyon, hike northeast past chaparral and crest the Dragon’s Back, a steep ridgeline punctuated with gargantuan boulders. At the top, follow a use trail along the summit ridge to a short scramble ending with bird’s-eye views of neighboring Santa Ynez peaks and the Channel Islands. Miles from city center 4.5/34; Trip ID 748134

» Rincon Beach Park to Carpinteria State Beach Fifteen minutes from Santa Barbara, this six-mile out-and-back traces the coastline on sandy beaches and a cliffside trail. “I’ve seen everything from dolphins playing to sea lions lounging on the rocks offshore,” says outings leader Suzanne Tanaka. Grab lunch in Carpinteria, the turnaround point, before heading back. Miles from city center 14/16; Trip ID 678892

» Topatopa Bluff, Los Padres NF A makeshift stone bench marks the highpoint of this 14-mile (round-trip) route. Follow the fire road north up Sisar Canyon to a steep, .6-mile path, gaining 900 feet, that tops out on the 6,367-foot summit. Take in views from the rock perch of coastline and the surrounding Sespe Wilderness before starting the return descent. Miles from city center 42/25; Trip ID 768514

» Sandstone Peak, Santa Monica Mountains NRA In addition to cresting the highest peak in the Santa Monicas, this six-mile circuit swings past prolific wildflower displays. “Coreopsis, shooting star, and Indian paintbrush cover the hillsides,” says Tanaka. From Circle X Ranch, follow the Mishe Mokwa Trail north past balanced rocks and sheer cliffs to Sandstone Peak’s 3,111-foot summit. The return trip drops 1,000 feet in 1.4 miles. Miles from city center 61/33; Trip ID 8573

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Reader Rating: -


Jul 12, 2012

You can do a lot better when it comes to hiking than Ventura. Santa Barbara has some of the best views around when hiking in their hills. Some of the best hikes-Seven Falls and Gaviota! Love hiking there, my kids love it as well. The place to be? The Sandman Inn ( Inexspensive and the way to go when looking to save money!

Jan 22, 2012

I've never actually heard of this magazine but I am really into hiking, especially in Southern California and Santa Barbara so I will have to look into this! I have done all of these trails and they are all a great time, especially with friends who like you, enjoy the outdoors! Amazing way to spend the day. I have to agree with the comment above me-Cathedral Peak IS excellent on a clear day. As well, I've stayed at the Sandman Inn, great hotel and it is really affordable. If you enjoy budget friendly hotels you should really check out the South Coast Inn ( Much more upscale and in a great area as well.

Chris Martin
Dec 14, 2011

Good blog and a good magazine as well! These are some good trails to look into if you are ever in the Santa Barbara area. I travel there quite often to enjoy the beaches as well as hit the trails for a good work out and becoming "one with nature." I really enjoy Cathedral Peak-a great hike on a clear day, the views are spectacular once you battle through and reach the top! I did this one back in September when I was there last and it was awesome. Stayed at the Sandman Inn ( Really cheap and a great hotel.


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