Posted by: James Wapotich | April 30, 2011

Trail Quest: San Antonio Creek

If you’re looking for a great beginner’s hike that’s close to town then the San Antonio Creek Trail may be the answer. Located near Tucker’s Grove Park, the San Antonio Creek Trail is well maintained, follows the creek and is suitable for almost all ages. To hike the length of the trail is about 3 miles roundtrip.

Santa Barbara day hike Santa Ynez Mountains  San Antonio Creek Tucker's Grove

To get to Tucker’s Grove Park, take Turnpike Road north to where it intersects Cathedral Oaks Road. This places you at the park’s entrance; from here continue towards the right all the way to the parking area for the Kiwanis Meadows. The trailhead is at the far end of the parking lot.

The trail immediately crosses the creek, and continues upstream crossing the creek a half dozen times on its way to State Route 154. The trail is well shaded and experiences only a modest gain in altitude. And because the trail follows the creek it supports a rich variety of riparian plants.

One of the plants that stands out along the trail is wild blackberry, which this time of year can be recognized by its white flowers and red ripening fruit. If you’re intent on gathering some blackberries you will have to be faster than the birds that also live along San Antonio Creek who seem to know just when and where to find the ripe berries.

And with this being spring, it is also a good opportunity to learn how to recognize Poison Oak. Poison Oak tends to favor areas in and around creek beds. It can appear as both a vine and a ground plant, and grows year round. And with its characteristic 3-leaf arrangement can be fairly easy to spot. The leaves can range from green to red in color depending on the season.

Santa Ynez Mountains Santa Barbara Day Hike San Antonio Creek Poison Oak

Poison Oak

San Antonio Creek like most creeks does have Poison Oak, however because the trail is well maintained you shouldn’t have any troubles unless you go off trail or brush up against it, as it’s the oil from the leaves and branches that cause irritation. People have also been known to come in contact with the oil from their clothes and pets that have brushed up against it. There are many remedies out there for Poison Oak and everyone seems to have their favorites, one worth mentioning here is Mugwort as it grows in the same places that Poison Oak favors.
Santa Barbara Day Hike Santa Ynez Mountains San Antonio Creek Mugwort


Mugwort is part of the mint family and has a distinct fragrance and symmetrical leaf arrangement that can make it easy to distinguish from other plants once you know what to look for. I’ve heard it used both as a preventative and as an antidote. The most common use is to brush exposed skin with the underside of the leaf, this either blocks or counters the oils depending on your perspective.

At the about the one mile mark the trail arrives at a cement dam. Here the trail crosses the dam and continues upstream. Depending on how much water is there you may find ducks in the small pond created by the dam or animal tracks in the drying mud. This time around mixed in with the tracks of barefoot kids and dogs, I found raccoon tracks as well those from several different species of birds.

Santa Ynez Mountains Santa Barbara Day Hike San Antonio Creek butterflies

Pair of Swallowtail Butterflies along San Antonio Creek

About half mile later the trail reaches State Route 154. If you’re interested in a little extra exploring, the trail continues south above State Route154 another half mile and provides some extra views of San Antonio Creek Canyon and the Santa Ynez Mountains. The trail then arrives at the end of Via Chaparral, which can serve as an alternative trailhead.

Regardless of how far you hike you will get to see some of the scenery of our local front country.

This article originally appeared in section A of the April 30th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.


  1. […] joined Lanny Kaufer on one of his Herb Walks, this one along San Antonio Creek Trail. Article appears in section A of the March 22nd, 2014 edition of the Santa Barbara […]

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