Situated in between the mountains and the ocean, Santa Barbara offers some of the most scenic day hikes in California! Whether visiting the city or lucky enough to be a local, hiking enthusiasts alike have the opportunity to explore shady canyons, enjoy swimming holes and waterfalls, or find the perfect picnic spot with a view of the Pacific. After living here for over a year, and being a lover of the outdoors myself, I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the top hikes in Santa Barbara.

Note: the ratings I have listed under each hike is a combination of my personal experience + online research and reviews.


Lizards Mouth

difficulty rating: easy

Lizard’s Mouth is a popular hiking destination for locals and tourists because it has some of the best views in the Santa Barbara area. After a short hike (about 1/4 mile), you will come across a series of rock formations where you can climb on the rocks, explore, or watch the sunset! These outcroppings are wind-carved pockets on the underside of the sandstone that give the rock a resemblance to a lizard’s mouth, which is how it got its name.

Tangerine Falls

difficulty rating: hard

Best visited after a spring rain, Tangerine Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls around the city. The total journey is around 2.5 miles to the falls and offers something for each type of hiker – a creek, shaded areas, views of the ocean, and a little bit of rock climbing. Not to mention the spectacular waterfall at the end!

Franklin Trailhead

difficulty rating: moderate

The Franklin Trail is a 15.5 miles (total) back trail located near Carpinteria, California that reaches the crest of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The trail is accessible year-round, and begins in an urban setting near an avocado farm that takes hikers to an overlook with great views over Carpinteria, Summerland, and the Channel Islands.

Rattlesnake Canyon

difficulty rating: moderate

This trail is well-maintained, shaded, and offers great views of the Santa Barbara skyline. While walking along the path, you will be able to enjoy waterfalls and deep pools – if you take one of the side trails that leads down to the water, you’ll find the remains of a Mission service dam built in the early 1800s.

San Ysidro Trail

difficulty rating: hard

If you are looking for a hike that doubles as an excellent workout then this is the perfect one for you! On this trail, the usual destination is a waterfall about 2 miles from the start. This waterfall can be impressive after a strong rain, but still a pretty sight in the dry months. If the water is running, I highly suggest stopping at the creek to lounge by the water until continuing up the steep trail that reaches 1,700 feet of elevation gain, which is the trail’s end and the beginning of East Camino Cielo.


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