Posted by: James Wapotich | March 6, 2011

Trail Quest: Tangerine Falls

If you’re looking for a great waterfall close to Santa Barbara, Tangerine Falls would certainly qualify. Over 100 feet high, these falls when running make for a great day hike destination. From the trailhead on East Mountain Drive the hike to the falls is about 3 miles round trip and does involve some scrambling over rocks.

Tangerine Falls

To get to the trailhead find your way to the intersection of Cold Springs Road and East Mountain Drive (near Westmont College), continue east on East Mountain Drive to where it crosses Cold Springs Creek. Parking is to be found along the road.

From the trailhead continue upstream along the eastern side of the canyon. At the quarter mile mark the trail branches. This is also where the East and West Forks of Cold Springs Creek meet. From here the trail to the right continues towards Montecito Peak and the trail to the left crosses the creek and continues towards Tangerine Falls.

The trail passes through riparian plants and is shaded much of the way, most notably by California Bay Laurel trees which are related to but distinct from the Bay leaves used in cooking.

At about the 1-mile mark the trail branches again with the trail to the left continuing up the smaller West Fork Cold Springs Creek, while the trail to the right crosses this smaller creek and continues up the larger Cold Springs Creek towards Tangerine Falls. Shortly after this intersection one sees another trail on their left that climbs away from the creek and ultimately leads above the falls. The trail to Tangerine Falls however continues upstream.

Cascade along the trail to Tangerine Falls

From this last intersection the trail narrows as it continues its climb up the canyon. Along the way you’ll be treated to several smaller cascades. You may even notice the faint smell of sulphur and if you look closely you’ll notice in some of the pools the rocks are fused together from the mineralization and even have a slight pale orange color, hence the name Tangerine Falls.

The last part of the trail gets progressively steeper, as well as rockier and requires more scrambling the closer you get to the falls until after a good workout you arrive at the base of the waterfall.

Tangerine Falls

The last creek crossing can be challenging, but does offer one a chance to stand at the base of the falls as well as an impressive view down Cold Springs Canyon towards Montecito and the Channel Islands. Regardless of how far you hike the trail brings with it a great sense of adventure.

This article originally appeared in section A of the Sunday, March 6th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

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


  1. […] last on this list, and in some ways the most impressive of our front country waterfalls is Tangerine Falls, it is also more challenging to get to as it involves scrambling over rocks and following a trail […]

  2. […] are a number of ways to explore Cold Spring Canyon, but the road less traveled leads above Tangerine Falls, where one can find the remains of an old homestead deep within the canyon. Cold Spring Canyon, […]

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