Just an hour or two north of Los Angeles, the diverse landscapes of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties offer great hiking opportunities. From year-round streams and waterfalls to unusual sandstone formations to the remote Channel Islands, the “805” has plenty to keep hikers busy. Here are fifteen of them.
Nojoqui Falls – located half an hour north of Santa Barbara off of Highway 101, this 80-foot waterfall is a popular destination that can be reached with a short hike. Pronunciation? “no-HO-wee.”
Inspiration Point – just north of downtown, this moderate hike leads to a plateau where one can enjoy amazing vistas of the Santa Barbara area and the ocean. On the climb up, enjoy the sounds of a trickling stream and pass by some interesting sandstone geology. By the time you get to the top, you may want to rename the hike “Perspiration Point” – but the views make the effort worthwhile.
San Ysidro Creek – this pleasant hike along the creek, which flows almost all year, is shaded and quiet. On the way down, enjoy some nice ocean views.
OJAI/LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST
Piedra Blanca – the famous rock formations here are the destination, but the wide open plains and dramatic mountain views are also worth coming a long way to see.
Rose Valley Falls – one of So-Cal’s tallest waterfalls, this one can be reached with a short hike from the nearby campground. Unfortunately, only the 50-foot lower tier can be seen up close, but it’s still a very pleasant place to sit and have a snack.
Potrero John – a very enjoyable hike through a canyon and a meadow, to a secluded trail camp. Views of the higher summits in the Los Padres National Forest and the geology of the canyon are among the highlights of this great but often overlooked hike.
RANCHO SATWIWA/POINT MUGU STATE PARK
Big Sycamore Canyon Waterfall – though it doesn’t flow year-round, this waterfall, in the northern corner of Point Mugu State Park, is a pleasant place to visit for a little R&R. The hike is a nice, moderate 3.4-mile round trip with great views of Boney Mountain’s rugged geology.
Old Boney Loop – this challenging route from Rancho Satwiwa cuts through the heart of Point Mugu State Park’s eastern back country. Highlights include secluded Blue Canyon and panoramic views of the Thousand Oaks area.
CONEJO VALLEY/THOUSAND OAKS
Wildwood Park/Paradise Falls – this is one of the most popular hiking destinations near Thousand Oaks, and with good reason. Year-round Paradise Falls is a perennial favorite, and the park’s wide variety of geologic scenery, quiet canyons and open meadows makes it possible to visit many times without hiking the same route. Lizard Rock is another highlight of the park.
Angel Vista Point – a moderate, 7-mile round trip brings hikers to this panoramic spot, where the view includes the ocean, the Los Padres National Forest, and on clear days, the San Gabriels and Santa Monica Mountains.
Lang Ranch Open Space – wide meadows, sandstone geology and distant mountain views are among the highlights of this park. Springtime is best, when the fields are bright green.
Hillcrest Open Space – this challenging route, with a lot of ups and downs, offers views of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Santa Susanas and the Thousand Oaks area.
CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Anacapa Island – the name means “Mirage”, and if you come to this island at the right time – such as spring, when the giant coreopsis flowers are in bloom – you may not quite believe your eyes. The rugged geology, 100-foot cliffs and panoramic ocean views make Anacapa feel farther away from the mainland than twelve miles. Anacapa is the most popular and most developed of all the five islands in the park, but it is still very primitive compared to what some visitors expect, so be open-minded.
Santa Cruz Island – the largest of the Channel Islands, and in fact the largest land mass off the state of California, Santa Cruz is easily accessible and makes a great destination for people who want hikes more ambitious than the Anacapa loop. Highlights include Cavern Point, where hikers can peer down over the edge of a cliff, and Potato Harbor, whose turquoise waters may remind visitors of the South Pacific.
Santa Rosa Island – one of the three “outer” islands in the park, Santa Rosa requires a longer (and more infrequently run) boat ride than Santa Cruz or Anacapa, but it’s worth the effort to get there. In addition to having a more secluded feel than popular Santa Cruz, highlights of Santa Rosa Island include a grove of rare Torrey pines and interesting, wind-carved limestone on the shore of Becher’s Bay.
Whether you want to hike on an island, in a canyon, through a stream or on a forest, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in the “805” – so make that drive up the “101” and get out there this weekend!