Posted by: James Wapotich | September 15, 2012

Exploring the Santa Barbara Backcountry

Los Padres National Forest San Rafael Dick Smith Wilderness Santa Barbara hike hiking trails camping backpacking where to

Ever changing, the Santa Barbara Backcountry is a place of surprising diversity and rich beauty, and most of it is within a couple hours of Santa Barbara.

On Wednesday, October 3rd, 7PM I’ll be hosting a FREE slideshow presentation, “Exploring the Santa Barbara Backcountry” at the Karpeles Manuscript Library, 21. W. Anapamu St., Santa Barbra, CA 93101.

The powerpoint slideshow with Q&A will include images of our local backcountry from the San Rafael and Dick Smith Wildernesses as well as trails closer to home and is a great opportunity to learn more about our local trails.

And for those who are interested, I will also be offering a 3-week workshop on, “How To Not Get Lost In The Woods”.

Group hike Santa Barbara trail guide Los Padres National Forest Mountains

You may have seen in the news, stories about people getting lost on our local trails. Last year a hiker got lost along the Santa Ynez River behind Santa Barbara, and earlier this year two hikers got lost while hiking to Cathedral Peak.

Through this class you will learn skills and awareness that will allow you to remove the word lost from vocabulary. This class is not about being a survivalist or living off the land, but rather it’s about learning how to see the land as a more familiar place and how to read the trails so that you can find your way anywhere.

This 3-week workshop will take place on our local trails, Saturdays 9AM-Noon, October 13th through 27th. And will include topics such as understanding the local topography so that you can easily orient yourself while out on the land, learning how to read the trails and transitions to be able to follow any trail, how to recognize plants and other features of the natural environment and how to shift one’s awareness from the place of outsider to native. And along the way enjoy some of the rich beauty of our local backcountry.

The class is $75 per person, or bring a friend and save 20% each, limit 12 students. Must be able to comfortably hike 2-3 miles.

James Wapotich, is an experienced backpacker and has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry, he is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with the Forest Service and is the author of Trail Quest, the weekly hiking column in the Santa Barbara News-Press.

For more information call (805) 564-6946 or email me at


  1. James – Is that first photo looking down Mono Creek from near the confluence with SYRiver? Sure looks familiar! Wish I could see it all again – Jim

    • Hey Jim, you’re close, this first photo was taken near where the Cold Springs Trail crosses the Santa Ynez River, it was taken July of last year, back when we had more rain.

      The other photo was taken from the Fremont Trail looking towards what some people refer to as the Pines along E. Camino Cielo.

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