Dirt Works: 10 Local Trail Runs that Awe
Abandoning impervious land cover and derailing onto trails can stimulate your run with pure pleasure. Easier on the joints and even easier on the eyes, Santa Barbara’s runners know how to off road. Here are some local favorites that raise heart rates in more ways than one. Or simply just awe!
1. More Mesa. From the 101 exit Patterson and head towards the ocean. Patterson will turn into Shoreline Drive. Parking is either at the end of Shoreline Drive just past the horse stables on the left or in the small lot on the right where the bike path crosses Patterson. Enter the Mesa trails just past the horse stables before Shoreline climbs into neighborhoods. Runners can wind and climb around and around the Mesa enjoying sweeping views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Even on a hot day, ocean breezes keep runners cool. A single loop around the park is about 3 miles, but it never gets boring and runners can rack up a lot of miles on these soft Oceanside trails.
2. Ellwood Bluffs. From the 101 exit Glen Annie/Storke Road and head towards the ocean. Turn to the right onto Hollister Avenue and follow north past shopping district. Parking is to the left of Ellwood Elementary School. Trail entrance begins at parking lot. The Ellwood Bluffs offers trails winding through eucalyptus tree groves, tall California grasses, expansive ocean and mountain views, and glimpses of the Sandpiper Golf Course. A single loop around the park is about 4 miles, but can easily be made into a much longer runner by meandering down to the ocean or running trails all the way to UCSB. It is not uncommon to hear seals barking or spot dolphins playing in the surf.
3. Las Positas Park/ Elings Park. From the 101 exit Las Positas and head towards the ocean. The park entrance is on the left just after the Santa Barbara Municipal Tennis Courts. There is ample parking within the park or runners can park at Arroyo Burro County Beach Park and combine this run with the Douglas Family Preserve trail run, see below. Parking within the park, the trails have many entrances. A favorite is to run back down the hill from the parking area and enter the trail to the left of the park entrance and then climb back up to the park summit. Runners can wander around mountain biking trails and switchbacks. A single loop is about 1.5 miles. This run is especially spectacular at sunset. The summit offers some of the best sunset views in all of Santa Barbara. Bring a picnic and make it a date.
4. Douglas Family Preserve. From the 101 exit Las Positas and head towards the ocean. Turn to the right onto Cliff Drive and park at Arroyo Burro County Beach Park. To run the preserve, follow the side walk leading to a trail along Cliff Drive and follow the path over a footbridge into the preserve. Although this trail loop is somewhat short, only about a two mile loop from the beach, it is spectacular. This 70 acre grassy mesa perches on cliffs high above the picturesque Arroyo Burro Beach and is covered with mature oak, eucalyptus and cypress trees. Runners will find it hard not to stop and “ah.”
5. Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point. From the 101 exit Las Positas and head towards the mountains. Las Positas Road becomes San Roque Road after crossing State Street. Continue on San Roque Road to the trail head located just above the filtration plant. Follow the trail to the Moreno Ranch entrance and continue on past the ranch following the trail signs. A series of twelve switchbacks have runners climbing out of the canyon to a magnificent vista of Santa Barbara and the coastline. Inspiration Point is an elevation of 1,750 feet. Runners can turn around here for an out and back 6mile run or continue down Tunnel trail. Tunnel trail ends at Tunnel Road which can be followed back down to Foothills. Once at Foothills turn right and follow for about 1.5 miles back to San Roque Road. The entire loop is approximately 9 miles.
6. Seven Falls. From the 101 exit Mission Road and head toward the mountains. Follow signs to the Santa Barbara Mission. From the mission, take Mission Canyon Road north towards the mountains to Foothill Road and turn right. Turn left on Mission Canyon Road and follow until the road splits onto Tunnel Road. The trailhead is at the end of Tunnel Road. Enter the trailhead through the marked gate and continue on until a three-way junction, where the pavement ends. Take the left fork, the Jesusita Trail, into Mission Canyon. Once across the creek, leave the Jesusita Trail, which leads to Inspiration Point. Follow the narrow path to the right up the west side of the canyon. Seven Falls is a beautiful, sculpted gorge in Mission Canyon. Runners can return for a 4 mile round trip or jump back onto the Jesusita Trail and continue to Inspiration Point.
7. Parma Park. In Santa Barbara, take Sycamore Canyon Road north to Stanwood Drive and turn left. Parma park is on the right. Parma Park is an undeveloped open space of more than 200 acres in the foothills of Sycamore Canyon. Although the trail loop is short, about 2.5 miles, runners can make several circuits for a lengthy, challenging run. The highest points offer 360 views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the ocean.
8. Romero Canyon Loop. From the 101 exit Sheffield Drive in Montecito. Turn right and drive to East Valley Road. Turn left and quickly turn right onto Romero Canyon Road. Turn right on Bella Vista Drive. The trailhead is a quarter mile on the left by a steel gate. Follow the main trail over a creek crossing and take the left fork to begin the loop. Runners will follow the creek until a series of switchbacks climb up to Romero Canyon Road. Take the road to the right, beginning a four mile descent with dramatic views of the canyon and coastline. The 6 mile loop is complete back at the creek crossing. Retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
9. Cold Springs Canyon. From the 101 exit Hot Springs Road in Montecito and head toward the mountains. Turn left on East Mountain Dive and drive 1.1 mile to the Cold Spring trailhead on the right, located where the creek flows over the paved road. The trail will eventually switchback up the mountainside away from the creek and joins a utility service road that can be followed to Montecito Overlook. Runners can venture further up to Montecito Peak making the entire out and back run just over 7 miles.
10. Los Carneros County Park. From the 101 exit Los Carneros Road in Goleta and head toward the mountains. Park at the Railroad Museum parking lot located on the right. From the parking lot follow the rail fence past the museum and along the paved path. Runners can follow the paved path over the dam and then weave around on multiple dirt trails following the lake. As runners complete a loop, there is a little wooden footbridge. It is easy to run as little as 1.5 miles or as many at 10 miles by looping back on dirt trails. There are willows and reed wetlands as well as expansive views of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Although short, runners will not get bored.