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San Ysidro Canyon To Crest (Intermediate-Advan­ced)

  • to
  • San Ysidro Trail Trailhead (Park Lane side)

    1800 E Mountain Drive, Santa Barbara, CA (map)

    34.446728 -119.622276

  • Go To The Trailhead On Mountain Drive
  • Please join us for our next San Ysidro Canyon to Crest Trail hike.

    This is a two-section, two-level, out and back hike. The first section is an intermediate-level hike through San Ysidro Canyon and along San Ysidro Creek. This section covers about 4 miles roundtrip, has roughly 800 feet of elevation gain, and travels as far as the seasonal San Ysidro waterfall.

    The second section of the trail is more advanced, ascending from the waterfall at a fairly steep grade, moving out of the canyon and onto more exposed hillsides and ridgelines, and then traveling to the trail’s crest at East Camino Cielo. This second section adds about 6 miles roundtrip and 2200 feet of elevation gain to the totals of the first section.

    Overall, this is an adventure meetup for physically-fit people hiking at an intermediate level and above, and who enjoy time outdoors with fun and friendly people sharing similar interests and fitness goals. Since our route is out and back, and well-marked, you can and should feel free to turn around and return to our starting point whenever you would like.

    The hike’s distance and elevation change will depend on how far you follow the trail. If you hike with us all the way to the trail’s crest at Camino Cielo, expect a roundtrip of about ten miles, 3000 feet of gain/loss, and a total hiking time of 5-6 hours (not including any exploration around the trail crest at Camino Cielo, which is likely).

    If you are planning to do the full hike, please be sure to bring at least 2-3 liters of water, on-trail and top-of the trail snacks, a sun hat, and extra layers of clothing. For the first section only, about 1 liter of water, some on-trail snacks, a sun hat, and one extra layer of clothing should suffice.

    Details of the hike are provided below…hope to see you there!

    San Ysidro Trail Hike

    Hike Type: Adventure

    Level: Intermediate-Advanced

    Route Type: Out & back

    Distance: Up to ~10 miles

    Elevation gain/loss: Up to ~3000 feet

    Terrain: Primarily footpath

    Leashed dogs: Yes

    Route summary:

    This hike will take us up to ten miles roundtrip through and then above San Ysidro Canyon in Montecito, on the progressively athletic and quite scenic San Ysidro Trail. In general, we will walk in a northerly direction on our way in, and a southerly one on our way out.

    The route initially offers a great coastal canyon experience, with riparian forest and sandstone formations, following San Ysidro Creek to the San Ysidro waterfall. After the waterfall, the trail becomes much steeper, providing steadily increasing and then panoramic views of the southern Santa Ynez range to the west, north, and east, and the Pacific and offshore islands to the south.

    The full route is great training for more advanced area hikes, including the Franklin Trail (when fully re-opened), the crest and peak hikes above Ojai, and the Wilson and Baldy ascents in the San Gabriel Mountains.

    Our route begins at the San Ysidro trailhead on Mountain Drive, passes several homes, and follows a graded dirt road for about a half mile. After this, the remaining upper end of the canyon portion of the trail becomes a wide single track, and is quite picturesque as it winds along San Ysidro Creek and through a series of narrows formed by eroding sandstone.

    At the upper end of the canyon section of the trail, and at about the two-mile mark and after roughly 800 feet of elevation gain, we reach the 80-foot San Ysidro waterfall, which runs seasonally (and quite forcefully after heavy rains). We will stop to rest and enjoy the views of the waterfall for a short time, before continuing the second section of our ascent.

    Please note that this first section of the trail has some poison oak growing, though it is generally avoidable if you take care to step around it. Given this, you will need to walk attentively at some points on this part of the trail and/or wear hiking pants, especially if you are highly allergic. It is also worth pointing out that we will pass several side trails along this portion of the route – but none that we will take either during our ascent or descent. Overall, this first part of the trail is scenic, well-traveled, and suited to people hiking at an intermediate-level.

    After the waterfall and our first rest stop, the trail changes markedly in character. Our route becomes much steeper and more exposed to the sun and wind, as we ascend above the riparian woodland of the canyon and make our way to the chaparral and steep hillsides of the remaining portions of the trail. This second section and upper part of the trail is suitable for people hiking at or near an advanced level.

    As we proceed along the second section of the trail, which extends roughly an additional three miles and 2200 feet of elevation gain, and crests at East Camino Cielo, we will have a steady and nearly uninterrupted ascent, some of the trail partly shaded and some in full sun. This section of the trail is single track, mostly in the form of moderate to steep switchbacks, with some hillside and ridge traverses.

    When we reach Camino Cielo, we will stop briefly to gather the group. Then, depending on the group and weather conditions, we are likely to explore the area immediately around the trail crest, and in any case, will stop for an extended time to rest, enjoy the views, and have a light top-of-the-trail snack. After our rest stop, we will return to our starting point on Mountain Drive by the same route as our ascent.

    As summarized above, the initial section of our hike is within the canyon and partly shaded, but the route steadily gives way to open hillside and chaparral. Since we begin in a relatively sheltered area and reach exposed areas above the Pacific, weather conditions can range from hot and calm to cool and windy.


    Please wear – hiking or athletic pants or shorts, one or more wicking shirts appropriate to the temperature, comfortable hiking or running shoes, a hat and other needed sun protection, your favorite undergarments and accessories, and a light pack to hold your gear.

    Please bring – at least 2-3 liters of water, trail and top-of-the-trail snacks, extra layers of clothing in case you become cold, a charged cell phone, identification, a headlamp, a waterproof shell if rain is forecast, and any medications or anything else you might need on the trail.


    Please park to the side of Mountain Drive in the established parking areas near the trailhead, and please be considerate of the residents in this quiet residential area.

    Carpooling and public transportation are encouraged, both to lower our carbon footprint and to reduce the number of parking spaces we use at the trailhead.

    Please do not leave anything of value in your vehicle, at this or any trailhead.


    By car, take the San Ysidro exit off of Highway 101. Turn north on San Ysidro Road and continue on it for about a mile to East Valley Road. Turn right on East Valley and follow it another mile to Park Lane. Look for the eucalyptus-shrouded entrance to this narrow road, just after crossing San Ysidro Creek. Turn left onto Park Lane, and then left again after a half mile onto Mountain Drive. Follow Mountain Drive for a few hundred yards to near where the road ends. Park nearby and look for the trailhead on the right/north side of the road.

    By public transportation, take the MTD #14 bus to East Valley Road and Glen Oaks. Walk east on East Valley for a tenth of a mile and turn left onto Park Lane. Walk north for a half mile and turn left onto Mountain Drive. Follow Mountain Drive for a few hundred yards to near where the road ends. Look for the trailhead on your right.



    The event host is a volunteer and is not responsible for the event group. Safety should be a priority for everyone in the group. If you become fatigued and unable to continue with the event, it is expected that you will advise the event host of this and return to our starting point on your own. If you are able to proceed, it is expected that you will help to promote the group’s safety, fitness, and enjoyment goals.

    Outdoor sports and other events we plan can be inherently dangerous and accidents may happen. By participating in this event, you are taking responsibility for your own safety and well-being. The Santa Barbara County Hikers Meetup Group and its organizers are not trained event leaders and we do not confirm the qualifications of any of its members to host or participate in events. All participants take full responsibility for their own actions. Your personal safety depends on your own judgment and experience.

    WAIVER OF LIABILITY: This group, including its organizers, assistant organizers, and event organizers, will not be held responsible for any injuries or accidents that may occur traveling to and from events, or for any injuries or accidents before, during, or after group events. If you sign up for and attend this event, you are acknowledging that you freely and voluntarily assume all risks of injuries and damages, and agree to participate in the event on these terms.

    No +1s or other unregistered attendees are permitted on this event. All attending must be group members and sign-up for the event via the site. All attending also must be 18 or older, or accompanied by their parent or legal guardian.


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  • Nick H

    Hi everyone! I'm coming from Goleta, but have no transport so google is telling me I have a 90 minute bus trip. 11 to the transit centre then 14 up to the start. If anyone is coming from my direction, then it would be awesome to car share!!! Even a lift from the transit centre would be great! See you all on Saturday!

    1 · 4 days ago

    • Nick H

      Brilliant! See you on saturday morning! What time?

      2 days ago

    • Nick H

      Oh right. 8:30. :-)

      15m ago

  • James

    long descirption, is there going to be a test? lol. Seriously tho its supposed to rain so is the hike still happening?

    2 days ago

    • Nick H

      Saturday looks like the oasis of not rain in nearly a week of rain according to my forecast... Fingers crossed!

      2 days ago

  • Gosia

    I wanted to ask if anyone has maybe a free seat in a car to get to the trail. I've just moved to Santa Barbara this week (living very close to downtown) and would love to join a hike so if you have any spot available, I would much appreciate a ride. Thanks!

    1 · January 13

    • Gosia

      Hi John, that sounds great, thank you! I live in W Pedregosa St but can come wherever it's easier for you on your way from Goleta, just let me know.

      4 days ago

    • John E.

      That's right off the freeway, should be no problem. What intersection is best for you?

      3 days ago

  • Mark L.

    Hike moved to Saturday, January 21st at 9:00am

    1 · January 6

  • Mark L.

    Given our current weather pattern, I am watching the forecast. If we have or will have significant additional rain before or during the hike, I will postpone the meetup.

    I was on the Franklin Trail this afternoon (Thursday). It was passable to 1000 feet and then had thick mud above this point. This not only increases our slip and fall risk, but also makes for slow, laborious going.

    I am sending a note with this info to people who are signed up right now, and will send another late Friday afternoon advising if the hike is on or not.

    1 · January 5

  • kathy

    8:00am and my favorite undergarments?

    1 · December 27

    • Mark L.

      It's in all my hike write-ups...thought you knew! :-)

      1 · December 27

    • kathy

      Must not have read the fine print. lol

      1 · December 27

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