Romero Canyon Trail

This wonderful hike is in Romero Canyon which is situated in the foothills on the east end of the Montecito area, east of the city of Santa Barbara.

The hike described on this page is an out-and-back hike of 2 miles each way for a total of 4 miles. It can also be done as a loop hike, described briefly below.

This is a semi-strenuous moderate hike because it is basically all uphill on the way up, and there is a 1600 ft elevation gain.

It takes about 2-3 hrs for the round trip depending on your speed and how many breaks you take.

The hike:

This is definitely one of the best hiking trails in the Santa Barbara foothills.

The features of this hike most people will appreciate are that the trail and creek environment are very wooded and pretty, and also the fact that most of the trail is shaded.

The other outstanding feature is that this is a workout. It’s not so much that the inclines are outrageously steep on this trail, although some are fairly steep, it’s that the trail is gradually and relentlessly uphill up for a 1600 ft elevation gain. The main point here is that it’s not an easy hike, and it will give you a good workout if you’re looking for one.

As a result you have the opportunity to hike in a beautiful shady canyon with a creek running through it, and you can enjoy it for as much as you are willing tolerate. You can always turn around and head back to the trailhead when you feel like it.

The start of the hike is basically a fire road and has the most sun exposure on the trail. This lasts for about .5 miles. Fortunately, the remainder of the hike is almost entirely in the shade.

The first creek crossing is about a half mile up the road, and as soon as you cross it a trail sign points left to the main trail up the canyon. You turn left off the fire road here and take this trail.

From here the trail goes up the canyon mostly near the creek, and crosses over it about 4 times. While the creek isn’t very big, you hear it almost constantly throughout the hike which creates much of the charm during your adventure.


Please run the slideshow below to see photos of the hike taken in the month of March.

Romero Canyon Hike Slideshow

The largest creek crossing, the third or fourth one up the trail, is a very lovely place with several boulders in and around the steam. I call this spot the "Boulder Creek Crossing". It's 1.2 miles into the hike. This area is the best place to take a break, relax and explore around. You can sit on the boulders or walk around them and enjoy the various water features, have a snack, take photos, etc. (see slideshow)

There are usually a few pools in this spot where you can immerse your body into the water completely if you want to. It's very refreshing to wade in up to your knees, or soak your shirt or bandanna or whatever in it, on a hot day.

After enjoying this spot, take the rest of the trail up to the top. The top of this hike is where the trail intersects with the fire road, the same one you started on, once again all this distance from the trailhead. The main hike on this page is the out-and-back-hike which has you stop and turn around here when you get to this fire road.

There is an alternate loop hike, called Romero Canyon Loop, which you can do by turning right here, onto the fire road, and follow it down back to the first creek crossing and then down to the trailhead. One of the major pluses to taking the loop is that you will get very nice ocean views coming down near the top. The fire road is basically all exposed to the sun, so that might be a reason to do, or not do, the loop. In addition to sun exposure, taking the fire road for the loop is also a longer way back. It travels away from the creek and adds about 1.5 miles more distance to the hike than if you just turned around at the fire road and headed back the way you came.

There are other additional trails you can get onto from the upper fire road, but we won’t get into describing those hikes on this page.

However, if you want to get a good view of the ocean from up here turn left on the fire road and walk for about 3 minutes, you will get a very nice view of the ocean. Then turn around and head back the way you came up.

While most of the main trail is fine, much of it is rocky and also has some loose rock surfaces that makes the going unsteady and unstable at times. As a consequence, we had some tricky and trying moments coming downhill as much as going uphill. But none of this is treacherous, you just have to be careful at times.

Enjoy your adventure, this is an awesome trail!

Loop Hike

Many people consider this loop hike the best hike in Santa Barbara because it gives you a plentiful taste of woodlands/creek hiking as well as fabulous ocean view hiking.

At about .5 miles from the start of the trailhead you will come to a fork with a trail sign pointing to the left (see photo below). This is the trail fork you take (left) for the above hike, and is also the way to go to take the loop clockwise. Go right at the fork if you want to take the loop counter-clockwise.

Loop Hike Clockwise

This is the same hike in the beginning as the hike described above. When you get to the fire road at the top hang a right and take the fire road down back to the fork. This is an easy fire road type walk, but it's all in the sun. The positive angle to taking this way down is that you get very nice canyon and ocean views. This is definitely the better workout of the loop approaches. I recommend this way to take the loop.

Loop Hike Counter Clockwise

Hang a right at the fork and take the fire road up to the top, then at about 3 miles hang a left down the trail which takes you down into the wooded area and alongside the creek, which eventually takes you back to the fork and back to the original trailhead near the road.

I only recommend taking the loop this way if you are not in very good condition and/or want to do Romero trail the easiest way possible. The uphill part of the hike is on an easy fire road, and the more rugged trail down along the creek is all downhill.

Some additional notes:

May: on a warm day in late May we encountered many swarms of flying lady bugs, thousands of them, and saw hundreds of them at a time hanging out on the rocks at the creek crossings.


Take Sheffield Dr north (toward the hills) from the 101 freeway, or the main roads, to East Valley Rd; left on East Valley Rd., then almost instantly take a right on Romero Canyon Rd. Continue on this road north for a few miles until you reach Bella Vista Dr, take a right on Bella Vista. Not far up the road you will see a hard right turn in the road where the creek crosses over the road. This is where the trailhead is, on the north side of the road. Park along the road where you can. Start on the trail through the metal gates in the mini parking lot - see slideshow.

GPS coordinates: 34.452904, -119.590607  google maps link for navigation

Romero Canyon Trailhead

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