Dan and Hannah Hike the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail in Montecito, California

Just a week ago, Hannah and I hiked the East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail; it’s our new favorite hike in the Santa Barbara area.  Click here for that blog.  Today, on the last Thursday in January, 2020, we drive twenty minutes to the same trailhead in Montecito to hike her little brother, the West Fork.

EF Carp to EF

Taking the common trail with the East Fork for a quarter of a mile or so, we then branch left towards the mountains.

CSW 1 D at trail sign

Crossing the creek quite easily, I take a picture of Hannah in front of the boulders for scale to show what type of boulders came bounding down this creek bed two years ago.

CSW 4 boulders

I am immediately struck by the regeneration of the flora, just two years after the Thomas Fire laid waste to this mountain hillside; and then obliterated everything in its path, through the canyon and into nearby neighborhoods.  The black stick figures of the oaks and sycamores are moving to the background behind green bushes and new tree growth.  Mother Nature is the winner and still champion.

CSW 1AA H on trail


CSW 5 charred trees amid green

The single track trail takes us steadily into the mountains, soon climbing high above the West Fork of the Cold Spring Creek.  There are some dicey, sandy gravelly sections of the trail that kick up dust as we lean into the mountain to maintain our balance.  It’s no trail for our grandsons, Owen (7), Max (5), and Brooks (1).   In time, Brooks’s sisters will kick butt and leave these boys in the dust.

CSW 1 B H on narrow part of trail


CSW 1 F H on tenuous part of trail

Recently shored up portions of the trail

It’s a winding trail through the Santa Barbara Front Country that once lead to Tangerine Falls, now a distant memory thanks to the Biblical debris flow.  Climbing steadily along now dry riverbed, we are not surprised by the parched landscape as Santa Barbara County is experiencing a mini-drought this winter.

CSW 3 cold spring tunnel

Thirty minutes into our hike, perhaps a mile in, we come upon the Cold Spring Tunnel, built in 1905.  It has seen better days.  It was Santa Barbara’s first municipal water supply for this semi-arid area that gets just 18” of rain per year.  As a point of reference, uber-arid Phoenix, Arizona gets 7” of rain per year while Portland, Maine gets 49” of rain.

CSW 2 H on upper trail

Trail into the mountains

At this point, the trail takes a steep turn into the mountains with pebbly gravel switchbacks that take us by more evidence of the redemptive power of Mother Nature.  The Grand Lady aside, we find the footing uneven and have no interest in climbing further into the mountains without much shade.

CSW 1 G more of tenuous trail

Challenging sections of the West Fork trail

Now forty-five minutes into our hike, we abandon ship and U-turn for the trailhead.  Upon our return, we inch slowly down the trail as I hike fifteen feet behind Hannah.  The reason being, if I were to slip, I don’t want to take Hannah with me into the canyon below.

All’s well that ends well.  Though the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail takes a backseat to its Big Sister, the East Fork, what’s not to love about sunshine and blue skies on the trail.

CSW 6 palm tree cutting

Back in Carpinteria that afternoon, Hannah on her beach cruiser checks out a member of the Flying Wallendas

6 thoughts on “Dan and Hannah Hike the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail in Montecito, California

  1. Wow! The size of those boulders is stunning! It’s nice to see the resurgence of green– evidence of Mother Nature’s “redemptive power”. The trail you abandoned looks like it was intended for billy goats, not humans! Glad you turned back.

  2. I see you two proceed down narrow or gravelly trails the way we do — very cautiously. I’ve taken a few short sliders on my butt in years past but now don’t bounce the way I used to. No hip replacements in my future, thank you. We’re back home, and homebound like everyone else, after braving empty airports and planes. We were the only 2 people in the security line in Tampa! Stay safe, my friends.

    • Glad to have you back in the Northeast! Spring is acoming. We are doing a ton of walking on a local golf course as the town is closing our beaches, cliff walks, and walks through the in-town woods. The trail was challenging and Hannah did no surfing down its side.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s