Spending Spring in Santa Barbara


Andrew Melese
Staff Writer

In a Santa Barbara spring the air is breezy and brisk. The days are sunny but rarely hot. And, everywhere one looks, recreational opportunities lie.

A spring in Santa Barbara and its surrounding areas present an eclectic mix of possible places to go and activities in which to engage. If one looks to the ocean, they can pursue sea-kayaking, SUP boarding, whale watching, and — for hearty and weathered folks — snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and surfing.

However, one doesn’t need to be in the water to enjoy its beauty; walks along our pristine coast are the stuff of dreams at this time of year, particularly during low tide when the beaches are most sprawling and open.

If one ever wants to diversify their recreation they can look to the mountains. The Los Padres National Forest covers a great piece of the Santa Ynez mountains that look down on UCSB and the ocean each day. These mountains are covered with hiking trails that avail jaw-droppingly expansive views of the coastline, the coastal foothills, and the ocean itself. From one of these mountain trails a wise person is claimed to have once said, when gazing into the sea, “You know it’s an amazing view when it makes those oil platforms look good.”

One can access the Santa Ynez portion of Los Padres National Forest by driving along the 101 either Southward or Northward of Goleta. If heading South, the 154 junction will take one directly to the Forest entrance.

If one heads out northward, they can enter the Forest through the less traveled Refugio Road (the 101, exit 120). Through this entrance, one passes farms, horse ranches, and beautiful stands of oak trees. As they go higher, the road becomes crumbly and atrophied, but it’s still safe for the average sedan when driven carefully.

Eventually, like through the 154 junction, the Pacific seems to jump out before you. From that point, it’s just a matter of finding one of the multitude of trails. And even that isn’t necessary, for there is no hiking required. People can drive up that road for a serene picnic where the main noise obstructing your conversations is the breeze through the trees.

If one does choose to hike in Los Padres, they can hike either the “back” side of the mountains, which face predominantly inland, or the side facing the ocean, as most do. While the ocean is spectacular, the “back” side can feel more intimate and allow one to become to easily aware of the diversity of flora and fauna around them without the distraction of a bird’s-eye view at the greatest expanse of water on our planet.

One can also refine their hike to take place at the very highest of Santa Ynez’s elevations or choose to stay nearer sea-level where the air is just a little denser and the ocean closer and more detailed. There are many options for how to enjoy the mountains.

Santa Barbara and its surrounding areas offer some of the most accessible and beautiful outdoor opportunities in spring, when the weather isn’t yet hot but has lost the dismalness of winter. There are all sorts of ways to embrace these natural assets; these are just a few.