Posted by: James Wapotich | April 15, 2011

Trail Quest: Montecito Peak

If you’re looking for a good workout that’s close town with great views then the hike to Montecito Peak may be just the answer. Montecito Peak is near the top of the Cold Spring Trail, which connects East Mountain Drive to East Camino Cielo Drive along the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The hike to the top and back is about 9 miles and provides some exceptional views of Cold Spring Canyon and Santa Barbara.

Cold Spring Canyon

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 Spring 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. Here the Cold Spring Trail continues along the eastern side of the canyon while the trail to Tangerine Falls crosses the creek and continues along the western side of that canyon. Shortly after this intersection the Cold Spring Trail follows a series of switchbacks as it climbs its way up the canyon. This entire area was spared the recent front country forest fires and makes a good contrast to some of the other front country trails that were affected by the fires.

At the about the half mile mark the trail crosses the creek, continues on a little bit further before crossing it a second time. It is along this stretch that one can find several nice pools and places to rest along the creek. In fact exploring the length of the creek can be an adventure in itself.

Pools along East Fork Cold Spring Creek

Immediately after the second of these two crossings, the trail branches again. You will want to continue towards the right and follow the trail as it climbs away from the creek heading more or less south for a while. If you go the left you’ll find a disappointing maze of trails that someone felt the need to create.

About half mile later the Cold Spring Trail begins to head eastward, here again the trail branches, however in this case both trails meet up at the same place although, the trail to the right does include a turnoff that leads back down to East Mountain Drive along what’s called the Cold Spring Ridge Trail. The Ridge trail does make for a suitable alternate route back to the trailhead.

About a quarter mile later these two trails meet up and briefly join the Edison Catway, a dirt road that connects to the San Ysidro Trail. The trail up to this point is mostly shaded. From here the Cold Spring Trail curves east around a prominent rise as it makes its way toward the ridgeline that ultimately connects up with East Camino Cielo. It’s through this portion of the trail that the plants transition to chaparral and are dominated much of the way by Chamise and Manzanita.

View of East Fork Cold Spring Canyon

At the 3.5-mile mark one reaches the turnoff for Montecito Peak. Montecito Peak is the last notable rise along the trail before East Camino Cielo. The last quarter mile to the top of the peak is definitely a test of one’s stamina. From the top however, one is rewarded with some great views of the coast and surrounding canyons.

Continuing from the turn off it’s another mile to East Camino Cielo. From East Camino Cielo you can gaze towards the San Rafael Mountains and take comfort in knowing that the entire trip back is downhill.

The article originally appeared in section A of the April 15th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.


  1. […] in National Public Lands Day with about 40 other volunteers doing trail maintenance along Cold Spring Trail. Article in section A of today’s edition of the Santa Barbara […]

  2. […] continues along East Fork Cold Spring Creek before then climbing out of the canyon, continuing past Montecito Peak and eventually arriving at East Camino […]

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