Posted by: James Wapotich | January 28, 2011

Trail Quest: Knapp’s Castle

The hike to Knapp’s Castle rates as one of the local highlights along East Camino Cielo Road, and with its exceptional views of the Santa Ynez Valley and the intriguing ruins of this former estate it’s easy to see why. Knapp’s Castle is reached from the Snyder Trail, which runs from East Camino Cielo to Paradise Road. To hike the length of the trail and visit the ruins is roughly 7 miles roundtrip.

To reach the top of the trail from Santa Barbara take State Route Highway 154 and at the top of San Marcos Pass turn right onto East Camino Cielo and continue pass the turn off for Painted Cave Road. It is a pleasant albeit winding drive. Just as the road straightens out a bit, you’ll see number of pullouts for parking. This is where the trail begins. To hike the trail from the bottom up, stay on State Route 154 and turn onto Paradise Road. The turnoff for the bottom of the Snyder Trail is just after Los Prietos Campground.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Ynez Mountains Knapp's Castle Santa Barbra Day Hike Snyder Trail

Knapp's Castle

Knapp’s Castle is about half-mile from the top of the trail and so plan your hike accordingly. And remember whichever route you take half of your hike will be uphill.

Starting at the top, one is immediately greeted with some great views of Lake Cachuma. The trail follows a dirt road and then branches with the road to the right going to Knapp’s Castle the road the left continuing down towards the Santa Ynez River.

In 1916 George Owen Knapp built his grand mansion overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley. In 1940 the house was burned in the Paradise Canyon Fire. And so what remains are the ruins. Currently the site is under going a measure of renovation by its latest owners. The site is open, but please be courteous and respect private property.

Los Padres National Forest Knapp's Castle Santa Ynez Mountains River Santa Barbara Day Hike Snyder Trail

A View of the Santa Ynez River from the Snyder Trail

The Synder Trail continues past Knapp’s Castle and at the 1.5 mile mark the dirt road ends and gives way to more traditional trail. This part of the trail has fewer hikers but watch out, as it’s also a favorite of mountain bikers. The views along the way can only be described as panoramic and include Lake Cachuma, the Santa Ynez River, Aliso Canyon and Little Pine Mountain. The trial continues another 1.5 miles before it joins the dirt road coming up from Paradise Road for the last half mile.

Regardless of how far you hike you will be visiting a piece of Santa Barbara history and share in the sense of majesty that our local setting can offer.

This article originally appeared in Section A of the Friday, January 28th, 2011, edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

If you have a trail report, I’d love to hear it.

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