Posted by: James Wapotich | May 7, 2011

Trail Quest: North Arroyo Burro Trail

If you’re looking for an undiscovered trail near Santa Barbara then North Arroyo Burro trail may be the answer. Arroyo Burro Trail actually starts near Stevens Park in Santa Barbara, climbs over the Santa Ynez Mountains and arrives at the Santa Ynez River. The trail can be seen as having two parts, with the northern portion of the trail starting along East Camino Cielo Road and descending down the backside of the Santa Ynez Mountains. To hike the trail from East Camino Cielo down to the river is about 7.5 miles roundtrip.

Los Padres National Forest North Arroyo Burro Trail Santa Ynez Mountains River Camino Cielo Santa Barbara Hike

Arroyo Burro Canyon

To get to the trailhead, take State Route 154 to San Marcos Pass, turn right onto East Camino Cielo Road, continuing past the trailhead for Knapp’s Castle. You’ll know you’ve missed Arroyo Burro Trail if you arrive at La Cumbre Peak. One can also reach East Camino Cielo Road from Gibraltar Road, as the Arroyo Burro trailhead is roughly halfway between Gibraltar Road and State Route 154.

Arroyo Burro Trail is said to be one of the main thoroughfares used by the Chumash to travel between the coast and the interior mountains; and it’s interesting to try to imagine the trail as it once was and the daily life of the people who traversed it. One can also observe that the trail crosses East Camino Cielo Road at a low point along the ridge.

The other major landmark for locating the trailhead is the shooting range, which also happens to be the turnoff for North Arroyo Burro Trail. You’ll want to park just past the shooting range to the left near the locked gate and continue on foot along the dirt road. This is Arroyo Burro Road, which also goes down the river but adds an extra two miles each way to the hike. The road however does offer some nice views of the canyon and the Santa Ynez River valley.

Bobcat Los Padres National Forest Santa Ynez Mountains Arroyo Burro Trail River Santa Barbara Hike Camino Cielo

Bobcat enjoying a hike along the Arroyo Burro Trail

Just a short way past the locked gate you’ll see the trail on your left, marked by a trail sign that has been used for target practice. From here, the trail descends the entire way down to the river so make sure to pace yourself for the hike out.

The trail is in good shape, easy to follow, and shaded much of the way. In fact, because the trail is along the backside of the mountains and follows the creek down the canyon it supports a wide variety plants; and represents a good opportunity for recognizing the different local trees, as each seems to have its favorite place along the trail. Higher up one sees Madrone with its red bark and Maple trees, then Alder and California Live Oak. In the lowlands near the river one finds Valley or White Oak and then Cottonwood trees at the river.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Hike Santa Ynez Mountains River Arroyo Burro Trail

Lower Arroyo Burro Trail

At about the 2.5-mile mark the trail meets up with the trail coming from Rancho Oso. Here you will want to turn right. Another quarter mile later Arroyo Burro Trail joins Arroyo Burro Road. And shortly after that you’ll arrive at the entrance to White Oaks Camp. Please respect private property. Directly across from the gate at White Oaks the trail continues down to the river. One can also hike down along the road as both meet at the river about a mile later.

With the Santa Ynez River full of water from our recent rains, the river makes for a good turning around point. When the river is lower and Paradise Road is open at the First Crossing one can also hike the trail up from Paradise Road to East Camino Cielo.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Ynez River Mountains Arroyo Burro Trail Santa Barbara Hike

View Along the Santa Ynez River

Regardless of how far you hike you will get see some of the scenery of our local mountains and perhaps even sense some of its rich history.

This article originally appeared in section A of the May 7th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Santa Ynez River Mountains Los Padres National Forest Arroyo Burro Trail Santa Barbara Hike

Santa Ynez River

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