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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