Montecito Cold Spring Trail

Montecito Cold Spring Trail


From the issue It's Easy Being Green

Lucky Charms

Santa Barbara's coastal mountains are beautiful any time of year, but right now Montecito's pristine Cold Spring Trail is rolling out such an intense sea of green foliage you might just feel like one lucky leprechaun. The 2.25-mile (round-trip) loop starts alongside tumbling Cold Spring Creek and follows a canopied path festooned in sword ferns. A series of moderate switchbacks bring 700 feet of elevation gain as large oaks and bays cast shadows across the path. You're likely to spot a plant with a trio of heart-shaped leaves that could easily be mistaken for clover, but spare yourself the four-leaf search: these leaves are actually wood sorrel, an edible green that tastes like tart lemon. Cross a creek twice as you ascend the canyon through huddles of chaparral. The highest point of the hike features a view out the mouth of the canyon to the Pacific, which remains a constant companion during the loop's descent. Magically delicious!

Take US-101 to the Olive Mill Rd. exit, just east of Santa Barbara. Drive north up Olive Mill Rd., which joins Hot Springs Rd. and continues to Mountain Dr. Turn left and go another mile until Cold Spring Creek flows over the road. Park along the road before the creek. Head straight up East Fork Trail (marked by a wooden sign) for 0.9-mile, turning right after the second creek crossing. Make four more right turns at unmarked junctions to complete the loop. The trail ends 10 feet from the original trailhead. Dog-friendly!

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