AS Beat Reporter
Photos by John Clow
Just a short drive down the 101 to La Cumbre Road is one of the most popular hikes for University of California, Santa Barbara students, the one to Seven Falls.
The hike starts at the end of Tunnel Road, although you have to walk up a fire road to the trailhead.
The trail begins with some switchbacks down to a creek, where you have two options. To the left is a moderately steep hike to Inspiration Point, which offers a great view of the ocean, downtown Santa Barbara, UCSB and some of the Channel Islands.
To the right is a trail up the creek that leads to the Three Pools and Seven Falls.
Although the trail to the falls is not very steep, it is not a simple dirt path. The trail is mostly rocks you must climb over, jump to and slide down.
However, the distance from the bottom of the creek to the first pool is not very long. Although this pool looks very clear, it is small and shallow and not a good spot for swimming.
Farther up are two more pools, the second of which is a good place to stop and take a break to admire the beauty of nature and hang out on the rocks with some friends.
If you wish to go further to the Seven Falls, you must continue up a trail to the left of the pools that is steeper and more difficult, but is worth the reward.
The climb up consists of some more small pools, but soon enough you will hear the rushing of water and will come to a larger pool and waterfall where you can hang out and go swimming (in good weather).
The climb down is similarly difficult to the climb up, as you will have to scramble over and slide down rocks without necessarily good footholds. In addition, the trail back down veers off a bit from the creek, and if you do not see where it splits off, you will be climbing down even more difficult rocks.
However, whichever way you go, you will reach the bottom again, where you can either go to Inspiration Point if you have not done so already, or hike back up to the fire road that will lead you down to your car.
Although there is water in the pools year-round, the creek and waterfalls have the most water in the winter, after there has been a lot of rain. While this could seem like a problem because it could be too cold to go swimming in the winter, we are lucky to live in a place where it can reach 75 degrees in the middle of January and going for a nice dip in a natural pool after a long hike is an amazing feeling.
Bring lots of water and snacks. You will get tired very quickly on whichever hike you take, and you will need energy.
Go when the weather is nice and you can go for a swim (even in the “dead” of winter).
Wear good shoes and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Rock climbing will get your hands and clothes dirty, and you need shoes with good traction for the more risky jumps across rocks.
Go with people who are willing to go all the way. This is a very fun hike, but it can get hard and tiring to climb up all the rocks. You will be sore the next day, but going to the top is a rewarding experience that is worth the fatigue and then pain.
*If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, bike there. I had two friends who did that and it created an all-around active day.