- Nojoqui Falls
Trailhead: North of the Gaviota Tunnel
Nojoqui Falls is an easy one-mile walk, making it the perfect choice for a family outing. The well-maintained and easy-to-navigate trail is just over a quarter of a mile each way, taking about 20 minutes to get there and back. Located on the north slope of the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara County, the falls are at their prime in the spring. The trail is wide, meandering through majestic oaks and laurels. At the halfway point, the trail enters a canyon that leads to a wooden bridge with stone steps on the left bank of the creek. The path will crisscross the canyon and deliver you to the viewing platform at the base of the falls.
- Tangerine Falls
Trailhead: Montecito’s Cold Spring Trail sign on East Mountain Drive
This more challenging hike comes to life from March to November with a 100-foot waterfall, one of the largest in the area. If you’re in good shape, the 2.5-mile hike is well worth the effort. Part of the challenge involves crossing a creek and climbing boulders at the base of the falls, But once you reach them, oh, what a stunning view down the canyon with a glimpse of the Pacific. The fun begins at the main Cold Spring Trailhead. Climb the steep, wooden steps and continue walking along a creek. When you reach a bench at the signed junction for the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail, turn left and cross the stream. Continue uphill to a junction marked by a giant boulder. Take the fork on the right heading down, and crisscross the creek until you reach the falls. Be careful as you climb the slick rocks to the base because they can be slippery.
- Seven Falls
Trailhead: Tunnel Road above the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
This classic Santa Barbara hike is a mildly challenging 3.2-mile trek through the Los Padres National Forest. Begin on Edison Road, cross a wooden bridge, then continue straight on a dirt road. Veer left at the Tunnel Trail sign that will take you to Jesusita Trail. This trail leads to a creek where you’ll turn right, hop some boulders, and, voila! You’ll see the falls at the end of the trial. Go ahead and stop to splash and play in the pools along the way. You’ll be traversing history.
"The music of falling water comes at intervals upon the ear. The uneven trail winding around huge rocks, upon the edge of precipitous banks or plying through the slippery stones at the bottom of the creek, gives just enough elements of beauty, danger, grandeur and loneliness to make a ride here thoroughly enjoyable. Near the head of the canyon is what is known as 'Seven Falls.' The water here falls into seven stone basins in succession. The rocky banks are broadcast with delicate maiden hair ferns and are green with moss. This is a favorite resort. At the head of the canyon is a large rock [Mission Falls] over which the water leaps with considerable force in the rainy season. This fall can be seen from the city." —Geography of Santa Barbara, Francis W. Conrad (1889)
- San Ysidro Falls
Trailhead: End of Montecito’s East Mountain Drive
In the foothills of Montecito, you’ll find a moderate 3.5-mile trek to the San Ysidro Falls. Much of the hike is an uphill climb along the well-signed San Ysidro Trail that heads to the falls. After the rain, the falls here are as dramatic as possible. Begin your adventure at the San Ysidro Trail sign, where you’ll bump into a paved road. Turn left there and head to a heavy gate that leads to a dirt road. Take that dirt road, and before you've hit the one-mile mark, the trail will leave the road at a redwood tree with a commemorative rock marker below. There, you’ll turn right, cross a large creek, and stop to view the amazing waterfall just off a side trail. You can’t miss it!
Along with these 4 Santa Barbara waterfalls, outdoor lovers have plenty of hiking options with access to everything from easy, flat paths through manicured gardens to challenging climbs that reach towering heights over the Pacific. So grab your backpack to hit the trail and get inspired by our one-of-a-kind trails with incredible views (and waterfalls).