Posted by: James Wapotich | March 25, 2011

Trail Quest: San Ysidro Trail

If you’re looking for a hike with a waterfall that’s fairly easy to visit and close to town then the San Ysidro Trail may be the answer. The trail is well maintained and goes all the way to East Camino Cielo. And with the recent rains reenergizing all of our creeks and rivers now is a good time for viewing the falls. And unlike some trails, the hike to San Ysidro Falls does not involve any scrambling over rocks. The hike to the falls is about four miles round trip and the hike to East Camino Cielo is about nine miles round trip.

San Ysidro Falls

To get to the trailhead, make your way towards the intersection of San Ysidro Road and East Valley Road, and continue east on East Valley Road until you reach Park Lane on your left. Continue along Park Lane until the road forks with Park Lane veering towards the right, at which point you’ll want to turn left onto East Mountain Drive. This section of Mountain Drive is not attached to the rest of Mountain Drive, in fact it took me a long time learn that the San Ysidro Trail is not at the end of San Ysidro Lane nor can it be found by driving along Mountain Drive.

The trailhead is at the end of this section of East Mountain Drive and parking is found along the road. The first half-mile of the trail makes its way through a residential neighborhood and is well marked. At the half-mile mark the trail meets the Old Pueblo Trail, which climbs away towards the east. From here the San Ysidro trail follows a dirt road for the next half-mile and does not cross San Ysidro Creek until just shortly before the falls.

The first portion of the trail is shaded by Coastal Live Oaks and passes by a popular southern California rock-climbing destination that takes advantage of an impressive sandstone formation. The San Ysidro Trail also has the distinction of having not been affected by the recent front country forest fires. At the one-mile mark the trail leaves the road and continues upstream on its own. It is through this section that one can find number of pools and cascades in the creek.

At the 2-mile mark the trail transitions, with a very short side trail continuing up the canyon to the falls and the main trail continuing towards Camino Cielo. The falls, like the creek, run year round, but are more impressive in the spring.

Upper San Ysidro Canyon

From here the San Ysidro Trail begins its climb out of the canyon, first passing above the falls and then following a ridge towards the top. Along the way the plants transition from Oak and California Bay Laurel to chaparral. This portion of the trail is much quieter as fewer people make the hike and offers increasingly expansive views of San Ysidro Canyon as it makes its way to Camino Cielo. On a clear day you can see out to the Channel Islands and on overcast days it can sometimes feel like one is climbing into the clouds.

Regardless of how far you hike, you’ll find a number of great places to stop and take in the scenery.

This article originally appeared in section A of the March 25th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

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