Dan and Hannah Hike the San Ysidro Waterfalls Trail in Montecito, California


Santa Cruz Island, 15 miles from Ventura Harbor

Waking early on this Saturday in mid-February, Hannah and I have planned an excursion out to the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara for some hiking.  Calling before dawn to confirm our departure, I hear that Island Packers, the local cruise line, has cancelled the morning whale watch due to strong winds and large swells.  Even so, our trip to Santa Cruz (one of the Channel Islands for which we paid $54 each as seniors) is on.  Island Packers warn that if you are susceptible to motion sickness, consider rescheduling.


Island Packers transportation from Ventura to the Channel Islands

The stormy seas came out of the blue.  When we went to bed Friday night, a sunny Saturday in the mid-60s was predicted.  We had no idea that rough seas might kibosh our fifteen-mile boat ride to Santa Cruz.  After hearing the news of the strong winds and large swells, Hannah and I look at each other and immediately decide that we are not that kind of mariners and reschedule for the following Tuesday.  Barfing and hiking are not a pretty mix.  That said, barfing and anything are not a pretty mix.


With sunshine aplenty here on the mainland, we plan a hike to the waterfalls on the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, the next town north of our cottage.  We smile at each other and know in our hearts that we are, indeed, citrus wonderfolk  (i.e. we don’t just make lemonade from today’s lemons (the postponed trip to the Channel Islands), we make margaritas!  The stormy seas off Ventura did not happen to us, they happened for us.  Today we will have waterfalls!


The San Ysidro Trail begins

Jumping north on The 101 highway for the San Ysidro exit two miles away from our cottage, we turn right towards the mountains. Two miles from there, we eventually weave our way up to East Mountain Road, which dead ends at our trailhead.  While multi-million dollar homes hide behind arbored walls of green, we easily find side-of-the-street parking.  Click here for both John Dickson’s fabulous directions to get to the trailhead of the San Ysidro Falls Trail as well as his directions once you are on the trail itself.


The trail is not mobbed at all but joyful with couples, singles with dogs, and coeds from University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).  Tree-lined and bracketed by the tasteful but impenetrable walls of the estates of the foothills, the trail skirts the driveways of the Montecito rich and famous.  Soon we are above the last of the estates on a trail muddy from the last week of rain.  This bodes well for the falls to be amazing.


Muddy, then rocky muddy, the trail is easy for us to step along to find the drier dirt.  With the San Ysidro Creek to our left, we notice the foliage has not leafed out so we can see down the rocky ravine to the creek.  All good signs that the waterfall is going to blow us away.


At the half mile point, there is a turn to the McEnemy Trail and Saddlerock Mountain.  Click here to visit that blog from a year ago, when the land was parched, the large peace sign intriguing, and the terrain brown on brown.

As the trail narrows, it heads into the foothills forest.  Shaded most of the way, the San Ysidro Trail rises gently and steadily, as the rocky terrain begins to dominate.


Crossing side streams from time to time, we did not have any such mini-creeks in the previous three winters we have been here in the mountains of Santa Barbara. At the mile and a quarter in point, the trail steepens and we get the workout we love.  As a four-mile round-trip, we rate the hike as moderate, most worthy of the time, especially with the payoff at the end.


The last sidestream crossing the trail, 200 yards from the falls

Using the health app (the one with the red heart) on my iPhone6, I have an accurate measure that we are within 0.2 of a mile of the falls.  Rocky and narrow, we hike with a steady flow of weekenders to the falls.


First, we see the first of about twenty students from the UCSB Adventure Club with climbing ropes, who have come to  climb the falls.  And then around the last bend, we see the most dramatic falls we have ever seen in the Santa Barbara area.  Parallel flumes of thundering white descend over the head of the falls.


With our hometown of York, Maine blanketed with one 14” storm and awaiting another in two days (that turns out to be 24″), we stand in awe of nature’s water show in the parched desert of California.  Owen’s Woodstock and Max’s blue elephant add a touch of our grandsons to the mountain falls experience.

Again, no surprise, California delivers.

3 thoughts on “Dan and Hannah Hike the San Ysidro Waterfalls Trail in Montecito, California

  1. Pingback: Dan and Hannah Hike to the San Ysidro Falls with the Family Rawding and Then…  Part 1 of 6 | over60hiker

  2. Pingback: Dan and Hannah Pickle, then Hike to Black Hill at Morro Bay State Park | over60hiker

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