Cold Spring Trail

Cold Spring Trail Loop is an incredibly beautiful trail in the Santa Barbara/Montecito foothills. This is a "must do" hike in this area.

It's a moderate hike of about 3.6 miles. There is an elevation gain of about 870 feet, so it's a good workout.

Features: running creek, water cascades, ocean views, shaded trails.

It's hard to miss finding this trail as the creek runs straight across and on top of East Mountain Dr.  Start at the trailhead marked by the wooden sign on East Mountain Dr. (see slideshow and map below).

While there are a few different trails you can start on from here, the hike described on this page is a clockwise loop that starts along an easy wooded trail that travels along the right side of the beautiful Cold Spring Canyon Creek (aka Cold Spring Creek).

After you travel up the trail about 1/4 mile you will see a nice small waterfall in the middle of the creek spilling over some large rocks. There's a bench situated here for watching the waterfall and taking a break. While you can cross the creek here, do not do so.

There are two creek crossings on this hike but you will know them when you get to them as there's basically no way to go except across the creek.

Please enjoy the slideshow (note, photos taken on last day of January):

Cold Spring Trail Loop Slideshow


Continue on up the trail alongside the creek. You will hit some parts of the trail that are less wooded and the sun comes in pretty strong. You will start to get some great views of the foothills on the opposite side of the canyon, such as tress growing through large cracked rock formations.

Then the trail becomes shady and wooded again as you hit the first creek crossing. You cross over from the right to left side of the creek. The creek isn't always super easy to cross, so if you have unfit or elderly companions you are concerned about, you may wish to head back to the start of the trail at this point.

The trail now goes in and out of the shade and you hit this interesting patch to the right side that has some large rock formations with small waterfalls and pools. It's a good spot to have a snack or take a breather.

Continuing on, the trail eventually gets to the second creek crossing where you cross back over to the right side of the creek.

On the other side of the creek is where you really have to pay attention on this hike. You may seriously regret taking the wrong trail fork here. The trail either goes to the left (don't go that direction) or sort of to the right and in the direction up the foothills - this is the way you go. It's kind of tricky because you think you would want to continue along the side of the creek to the left, but that takes you on a much more difficult hike over rocks and boulders. You must go to the right to finish this loop hike as it now climbs up the foothills to the east, away from the creek.

This is another spot where you may want to turn around if you or your companions are not in decent shape. The next part of the hike goes up the foothills and is on more moderately difficult terrain than the fairly easy terrain you've been hiking on to this point.

As the trail goes up the side of the canyon the trails have more steep inclines and there is a lot more sun exposure. Eventually the shade completely disappears. The trail also flattens out at the top and after traveling a bit you will eventually get a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.

As there are no trail signs on most of the trail, you'll want to keep in mind that from here on to the end of the loop you will be going either flat or downhill. A good general rule to keep in mind is to take the right hand trail on any forks. There is a much longer trail that connects into the loop and it goes on a left fork for several miles further up into the foothills, so stay on the right turns.

The views of the ocean become more and more panoramic. You can see the entire coast line and the cities of Montecito and Santa Barbara below.

On a clear day it is worth it to take a short spur trail out to what some call Vista Point. The trip out to this view area is included in the total 3.6 miles of this hike. Soon after you see the panoramic views of the ocean, you will see a large oak tree on the left side of the trail. The main loop trail goes to the right. But this is one place where you want to take the trail to the left, it's right next to the oak tree. It's a much narrower trail and you can see it in the slideshow. Take this trail out to the point a hundred yards or more. Enjoy the fabulous views!

Then retrace your steps back to the main loop trail and turn left. It descends back toward the creek and into a more shady wooded environment. Eventually you get right back to East Mountain Dr and the trail ends right next to where it started.

Map and Directions:

Take the 101 freeway to Montecito. Get off on the Olive Mill Rd exit, and take Olive Mill Rd north towards the foothills. This street becomes Hot Springs Rd which you continue to take north. Turn left on East Mountain Dr. and go about a mile until you see the creek flowing across the road. It's hard to miss finding this trail as the creek runs straight across and on top of East Mountain Dr.  (Note: Whichever way you decide to get here, map your way carefully as the roads curve around and change names so you can get lost easily.)

google maps link for navigation

I recommend parking on the east side of the creek as otherwise you may get your shoes soaking wet walking through the creek before you get to the trailhead.

Start at the trailhead marked by the wooden sign on the north side of East Mountain Dr. (see slideshow). Another way to find the trailhead is to know that as you are looking towards the mountain you will be hiking up the right side of the creek, not the left side. There are other trails and signs that you can mistake for this trail so be careful to take this exact one. Don't follow the other signs that take you to West Fork trail, etc., etc.

The rest of the trail has very few if any signs. Too bad, because there's a few key places on the trail that really need them.



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