Situated between the mountains and the ocean, Santa Barbara is a natural playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Beautiful hikes boasting stunning views are readily available for anyone looking to get in touch with their adventurous side. On a recent trip to Santa Barbara, I followed local photographer Blake Bronstad to a hidden hiking trail leading to the most breathtaking view of Santa Barbara I’ve ever seen. After sharing a photo on Instagram, several people asked me where the image was taken. The place is hidden and the trail unmarked, so identifying the name of the rock area required quite a bit of research. However, while this hike is currently one of Santa Barbara’s best kept secrets, it’s too beautiful not to share.
If you only do one hike in the Santa Barbara mountains, Rocky Pine Ridge should be it. Spectacular views of Santa Barbara are surrounded by pine trees and beautiful rock formations of smooth, rounded sandstone boulders. These boulders provide visitors the opportunity to climb over, under and between rocks in search of the best vantage point. Many people call this area the “Rock Garden.”
The trail begins at the junction of Gibraltar Rd and East Camino Cielo (on the Santa Barbara side of the road). The trail is unmarked, so finding it is a little difficult. To locate, just walk downhill slightly toward Gibraltar Rd. Look towards the right for a way up (we ran up a sand embankment). There is a very faint trail that becomes more distinct as you enter the brushy area (look for footprints). The trail will head up the hill traversing to the right, then after about 1/4 mile it will turn a corner to the left towards Santa Barbara.
After 3/4 of a mile the trail becomes more rocky, and you will find yourself boulder hopping and searching for the trail. If you successfully stay on the route, follow it another 1/4 mile and you will arrive at Rocky Pine Ridge.
While this is a somewhat short trail, that doesn’t make it easy. Some parts are fairly steep and there are numerous opportunities to get lost. The hike requires great navigational abilities — especially when returning to your car.
We went late in the afternoon to take sunset photos from the rocks. While the photos were beautiful, I wouldn’t recommend this. You will be walking back to your car in the dark and – unless you’re very familiar with the area – will most definitely get lost.
Once you arrive at Rocky Pine Ridge, you can do some boulder hopping and explore the rocks, or bring some snacks and take in the view. From there you can also continue hiking to Tunnel Trail or Rattlesnake Corridor.
Some other beautiful hiking locations are:
Lizards Mouth: 34.503078, -119.865743
Inspiration Point: 93190, Mission Canyon Rd & Tunnel Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Your pictures are absolutely amazing! Such a different terrain that the Oregon hikes!
Wow these shots are incredible – and so frameable! I’ve never been to Santa Barbara and so thankful you shared this secret because I will definitely visit to enjoy its magnificence. I understand the dilemna of how great the light is at sunrise and sunset- but then having to content with darker conditions without the sun before/after those times.
These photos are stunning. I’ve never hiked in Santa Barbara but I’ve bookmarked this for when I do!
Are you kidding me with those photos? Amazing! Santa Barbara will always and forever remind me of that 80s soap opera. So good.
Stunning photography! I haven’t been to Santa Barbara in so long. I might need to run away there after about the fourth month of rain here… 😉
I guess I’ll just echo everyone else and say “wow! gorgeous photos!” These sunset shots may even be worth the hike to get them 🙂
I love this post so much! The fact that its about my favorite city and about fitness just makes it such a good read! I love hikes. I have never visited these trails before, but plan to. Your photos are gorgeous.
I love this post! Santa Barbara is so beautiful and you capture it so well! Need to head back there and do these hikes, I’m feeling the need for some sun after a weekend of rain here in Seattle!
Wonderful! I’m excited to be going to Santa Barbara in January, will definitely check out these hikes while I’m there. Rocky Pine Ridge looks amazing!
Such gorgeous photography! Definitely want to head out to the West Coast soon!
I needed this post! I have been meaning to make it a good SB hike weekend. Thank you so much for writing this up and especially for the gorgeous photos!
Also, the blog layout! Is amazing.
The photos are indeed amazing! This rock garden is indeed spectacular! Sunset photos are always magical!
Hi! This is beautiful! What’s the round trip mileage of this hike?!
The hike itself is fairly short. I would say about 2 to 2.5 miles roundtrip.
Wow, these pictures are stunning. Iam not that much of a hiker, but these pic make me wanna go there and hike! 🙂
Santa Barbara seems like an amazing place for hiking! Thanks a bunch for the idea, Brianne!
Wow! Love your photos! Thank you for sharing about this hike and location- I would love to visit this spot when I visit Santa Barbara 🙂