Posted by: James Wapotich | January 14, 2011

Trail Quest: Rattlesnake Canyon

If you’re looking for a great hike that’s close to Santa Barbara, accessible to almost all ages and has a variety of sights along the way, then the trail through Rattlesnake Canyon may just be it. The hike from the trailhead to the meadow is about 3.5 miles roundtrip and with the re-growth from the recent forest fires, offers a rare opportunity to see the natural cycle of fire and growth among chaparral plants.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Hike Rattlesnake Canyon Santa Ynez Mountains

Shortly before the second crossing there is a trail that climbs steeply to the right. This is the beginning of the trail along the eastern side of the creek. The main route, which is marked with a sign, crosses the creek and then heads through a group of pine trees before continuing its climb. These two trails eventually meet up at the third crossing. The eastern trail is slightly longer, but also has the distinction of being used by less people and so at times can feel quieter and more rustic.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Hike Rattlesnake Canyon Santa Ynez Mountains

From the third crossing the trail continues to the meadow, which makes for a natural resting place and return point. Rattlesnake Canyon has always been a personal favorite because of its beauty, but that beauty has become even more nuanced because of the fires.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Hike Rattlesnake Canyon Santa Ynez Mountains

Regrowth from the recent fires

In 2008 the Tea Fire burned a portion of the eastern slope of the canyon. The next year the Jesusita Fire burned the remainder of the canyon and that difference of just one year is noticeable in the plants growing back. Not only has the recovery been impressive, but the whole process has also provided us a unique opportunity to witness firsthand our local chaparral as it moves through its cycle of fire and renewal. 

This article originally appeared in Section A of the Friday, January 14th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press

If you have a trail report, I’d love to hear it. thedreamingland@gmail.com


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