Montecito Peak is a local favorite in the Santa Barbara area. It has a unique position overlooking the entire populated coastline and can be seen from almost everywhere in the city especially it namesake city Montecito. Montecito Peak is on the Lowers Peaks list of the Sierra Club. This is especially a great place to watch the sunset. The main trail to Montecito Peaks is the Cold Springs Trail. Cold Springs Trail is a favorite downhill route for local mountain bikers so beware of fast riders. Using the short route on Montecito makes this a good hike to combine with ascents to other nearby peaks like Cathedral Peak
, Santa Ynez Peak
, or Gaviota Peak
Route 1 Cold Springs Saddle to Montecito Peak
A Santa Barbara map will help greatly with this route. Find Gibralter Road with is above the northeastern end of the city of Santa Barbara. Take this road as it winds up to Camino Cielo. Turn right onto Camino Cielo and go east 3.5 miles to Cold Springs saddle, there is a trailhead next to a water tank. Park here. Camino Cielo can also be reached from San Marcos Pass which is Highway 154. This is the easiest but longer way to reach the trailhead.
From the parking area hike down the trail south pass the water tank. The trail is rugged but in good condition. Watch for mountain bikers this is a major downhill route for locals, they are suppose to have cows bells on their bikes though. You reach a saddle after about 800 feet of descent. Then hike uphill until you see a use trail on the left that leads to the summit of Montecito. This use trail needed some clipping when I hiked it. Reach the summit and take in the amazing ocean views. There also very cool summit rocks to sit on, one or two of them may contain registers in hidden nooks.
Roundtrip is 3 miles with about 1100 feet of gain.
Route 2 Lower Cold Springs Trail to Montecito Peak
Take the 101 Freeway to Santa Barbara and take the Olive Mill exit and drive north for about a mile to East Valley Road Higway 192. Drive more then a mile to Cold Springs Road and turn right going north. A little over a mile turn right on Mountain Road and little pass Creek Crossing park.
Take the mark trailhead for Cold Springs Trail it is on the eastside of Cold Creek. The trail will cross the stream a few times and passes many pools and waterfalls. After about a mile you reach the Edison Cat Walk fireroad, turn left, west. After about 500 feet or so the trail resumes on the left. Continue up this trail to the high saddle just north of Montecito. Take the the use trail on the right all the way to the summit.
Roundtrip is 7 miles with 2500 feet of gain.
The road to the peak is within Los Padres National Forest so a Adventure Pass
would be required for parking. A Adventure Pass can usually be bought at most gas stations near forest roads. The remote nature of this part of the National Forest makes it pretty doubtful that rangers will be checking for permits, but it could happen.
For camping in Los Padres National Forest Campgrounds
For camping at any of the local State Beaches.
1. Gaviota State Beach
2. El Capitan State Beach
3. El Refugio State Beach
My personal favorite place to camp is El Capitan State Beach.
For current conditions in Los Padres National Forest go their homepage.
Montecito Peak is on the Lower Peaks List