Santa Barbara > Activity Guide > Santa Barbara Hikes > Cold Spring Trail to Montecito Peak


Cold Spring Trail to Montecito Peak

Hiking Distance: 6.8 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1939 feet

Trail Notes & Photos

Trail Head, sign and information board. There are two trail heads for Cold Spring Trail. Start at the east side of the creek where the wood sign is rather than the west side where the rusty metal sign is.
West Fork sign next to a bench. Stay right on East Fork. Do not cross creek to West Fork!
View of trail and canopy of trees
First creek crossing. Can have a lot of water at times, very little water most of the time.
Second creek crossing, view of water & fern.
Fork in the trail: About 10 feet past the second creek crossing you hit a fork in the trail. The heavily traveled direction is right. Stay right.
Fork in the trail: About 50 feet past the second creek crossing you encounter another fork in the trail. The trail is heavily traveled in both directions. Go right. It is a common mistake to go left here because it seems like the logical way to go (along the creek, uphill). If you go left here you will hike uphill 0.17 miles until the trail dead ends into boulders. Go right at this fork, NOT left!
Fork in the trail, go left and your next stop will be the fire road, near the trail to Montecito Peak. If you instead go right at this fork you soon encounter another fork in the trail that takes you 1) left, to another place on the fire road or 2) right, all the way downhill to the trail head where you started.
Fire road & power poles. Take a left once you reach the road. Going left takes you in the direction of the mountains). There is very little shade from this point forward and water consumption tends to take a big jump here. Be sure you still have lots of water. It is common for people to end their Cold Spring Trail hike at the dirt road, soak up the great view and then head back. From this point onward the hike is steep and there is very little shade all the way to Montecito Peak. Be sure to have lots of water. To this point you have hiked 1.40 miles with an elevation gain of 1152 ft.
First city view from power poles. If you look towards the mountain tops you will see a pair of Eucalyptus trees all alone on a ridge high above you. The trail goes right past those trees.
About 200 feet after you turned left at the dirt road, you exit to the left up an unmarked zigzag trail. If you don't leave the dirt road here you will soon encounter a private property sign which means you have gone too far along the dirt road.
View of city and dirt road
View east of trails and coast
Eucalyptus trees. This is a great rest spot. The root of the Eucalyptus tree on the left forms a nice seat. Close-up of tree on the right. Relax and enjoy the view! To this point you have hiked 2.57 miles with an elevation gain of 2002 ft.
Fork in the trail. Suggest you go left. Either way is fine however.
View of eucalyptus trees, dirt road and city.
Trail exit point. You need to exit the trail to the right here. If you don't exit the trail takes you all the way to Camino Cielo Road at the top of the mountain. There is no sign directing you to Montecito Peak so you need to keep a look out for the exit point. You go up a steep, slippery grade (about 50 feet) to get to the saddle behind Montecito Peak. There are two paths up, the left is a little less steep, though both paths have very steep slippery sections. To this point you have hiked 3.22 miles with an elevation gain of 2411 ft.
You have reached the saddle ridge behind Montecito Peak. This is a view of the peak ahead and a view looking west from the saddle. From this point the trail gets very steep with lots of gravel. Here is a view of the trail looking up a 45 degree slope. This is the hardest part of the hike, but if you take your time and take careful steps you will make it to the top in a few short minutes. Just before you reach the top the trail wraps around the left side of the peak. You make the final steps to the top from the opposite (ocean) side.
You've reached the top of Montecito Peak. Enjoy the 360 degree view! To this point you have hiked 3.40 miles with an elevation gain of 2690 ft.
View of Santa Barbara Harbor
View of Carpinteria
View of Channel Islands and oil derricks
View of the flat top of Montecito Peak, looking north west and south east.
View of the the 1927 geologic survey reference pole and marker.
View of metal message box and contents where people leave pens, notepads and write about their hike.
View looking north, south, east and west.
View looking north at Cold Spring Trail to Camino Cielo for those who wish to hike beyond Montecito Peak.


Directions to Trail Head

Just south of Santa Barbara on the 101 freeway exit at Olive Mill Road (exit 94A). Turn north toward the mountains and drive up Olive Mill Road until it becomes Hot Springs Road. Continue up Hot Springs Rd until you reach Mountain Drive. The distance from the freeway to Mountain Drive is 1.9 miles. Turn left on Mountain Drive and drive 1.05 miles to where Cold Spring Creek crosses the road. There are parking areas on both sides of the creek. There are also trail heads on both sides of the creek. Don't start on the west side where the rusty Cold Spring Trail sign is. Start on the east side of the creek (the side you came from) where you will see a wood sign marking the trail head. The GPS coordinates of the trail head are 34.456203, -119.653474.

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