Cold Spring Trail loop
Central Coast

How To Hike The Cold Spring Trail Loop In Santa Barbara

Cold Spring Trail Loop is a beautiful hike in Montecito that leads to a viewpoint of the coastline. If you’re looking for a relatively short hike in the Santa Barbara mountains – put Cold Spring Trail Loop on top of your list!

The Cold Spring Trail Loop is 3 miles long so it’s perfect for a morning workout or if you’re looking for a quick nature escape around Santa Barbara.

In this post, we cover where the Cold Spring Trail is located, what you can expect if you plan to hike it, and other visitor tips!


Views of Santa Barbara from the summit

Quick Trail Highlights

Here are a few quick trail highlights before we go into more details:

  • Length: 3-mile long loop
  • Elevation Gain: Around 900 feet
  • Time Needed: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Dogs allowed?: Yes, this trail is very dog friendly

A small waterfall along the trail

Location & Parking

The Cold Spring Trail starts in the foothills of Montecito along E Mountain Dr. You will need to drive through a residential neighborhood with beautiful giant estates to reach the trailhead.

If you’re using Google Maps, you can look up the trail starting point as ‘Cold Spring Trailhead’. If you’re using the AllTrails hiking app, search for ‘Cold Spring Trail Loop and set the directions through the app. Both will lead you to the same starting point.

E Mountain Drive in Montecito

Parking is available along E Mountain Dr and can fill up quickly, especially on the weekends. This is also the starting point for Tangerine Falls Trailhead so this area can get busy.  

At the trailhead, you will see a large sign with a map and information about the local hikes available here. Cold Spring Trail Loop is part of the Montecito Trails Foundation which offers over 90 miles of scenic hiking trails.

Cold Spring Trailhead

About Cold Spring Trail

The Cold Spring Trail Loop is a 3-mile-long hike that connects several hiking trails into one longer loop:

  • East Fork Cold Springs Trail
  • Edison Catway
  • Ridge Trail

Map of Cold Spring Trail Loop from AllTrails:

If you’re looking for something more challenging, you can extend the hike to Montecito Peak for a total of 7.6 miles.

The trail to Montecito Peak

From the Cold Spring Trailhead, you can also reach the Montecito Hot Springs, a popular turquoise hot spring hidden in the Santa Barbara mountains.

The 3-mile-long Cold Spring Trail is a loop, so you’ll see two entrances at the starting point. I suggest hiking the trail clockwise and starting with the trail marked as ‘East Fork Cold Spring Trail’.

The starting point for the hike

The first section follows the East Fork Cold Spring Creek and climbs around 900 feet in elevation.

It’s nice to get the uphill climb done during the shaded section as the second part of the loop is exposed to the sun. This trail also passes several creek crossings which are great for hikers with dogs.

The second part of the loop has very few trees but you’ll get to enjoy beautiful views of the coastline during the climb down.


Our Hiking Experience

Here is the detailed breakdown of the Cold Spring Trail Loop covering what the trail is like and some of the main stops.

After arriving at the Cold Spring Trailhead, we found parking slightly south in a small dirt lot along E Mountain Dr. This is one of the most popular hikes in Santa Barbara so be prepared to encounter a lot of people on this trail.

Follow the signs for East Fork Trail

I suggest hiking the trail clockwise and starting with the East Fork Cold Spring Trail to stay in a shaded forest. This part has a difficult uphill climb with many switchbacks.

Uphill climb through a forest

Once you head into the trail, the path follows next to a creek. You will come across several creek crossings and a small waterfall.

In the summer the waterfall was down to a trickle, but it was a fun little stop to check out.

At 1.2 miles you will reach a junction. If you go to the right, you can take a shortcut to skip the next part.

If you go to the left, it will add additional 0.6 miles to the loop. The views along this section are phenomenal so don’t skip it!

Edison Catway Trail

If you choose to do this extra leg, you will climb out of the forest clearing into an exposed ridgeline called Edison Catway. This area offers amazing views of the Santa Barbara coastline from up top, especially on a clear day.

There is no shade along the ridgeline so this area can get very hot in the summer. Be sure to bring extra water, sunscreen, and a hat to battle the harsh California sun. It’s best to do this hike early in the morning to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

Views of the coastline

After taking in the panoramic views, you can start the descent. We lost the trail and had to do a bit of scrambling over large rocks but not for too long before spotting the main path again.

If you choose to hike the Cold Spring Trail Loop clockwise, you’ll get to enjoy views of the ocean during the entire climb down.

In about 2 miles you will reach a small side trail that leads to an overlook with a bench where you can take a break. If you have the extra energy, I recommend checking it out!

A scenic bench overlook

From there, you can make your way back to the main trail and continue along the Cold Spring Trail loop back to the car. There will be several switchbacks and trail signs pointing to which way to go.

The trail will end at the same place where it started. Altogether, it took us a couple of hours to hike the entire 3-mile-long loop.

Ending point at the Ridge Trailhead

Other Visitor Tips

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind before you head out to hike the Cold Spring Trail Loop:

  • There are no restrooms at the trailhead or along the hike.
  • There are no trashcans past the trailhead. Be prepared to bring out any trash including your pet’s.
  • The Santa Barbara foothills are known for having lots of rattlesnakes. While snake bites are rare, we recommend bringing a snake venom extractor kit.
  • Bring plenty of water for the hike, especially if you plan to hike with your dog. We packed 4 bottles of water each and used most of it before getting back to our car. We also pack a collapsible water bowl for our dog.
  • This is a great trail to do with your dog, but keep in mind that the sand can get very hot. I keep a pair of RUFFWEAR dog boots in my backpack in case the sand starts getting too hot for our dog to walk on.

Where To Stay Nearby

Visiting Santa Barbara from out of town? Here are some of the best places to stay in the area!

Hotel Californian

Hotel-Californian-Santa-Barbara
Photo by Hotel Californian

Hotel Californian is nestled in Santa Barbara’s vibrant Funk Zone, a district well known for boutique shops, gourmet restaurants, and art galleries. This five-star hotel sits oceanside and is brimming with upscale comforts that include an outdoor pool, an onsite spa, and easy access to delicious eateries.

The hotel offers suites as well as standard and deluxe rooms. There are also two onsite restaurants, one cafe, and one serving Mediterranean dishes.

Click here to book Hotel Californian!


Santa Barbara Inn

Santa-Barbara-Inn
Photo by Santa Barbara Inn

Wake up to the sound of ocean waves at the Santa Barbara Inn. This beachside hotel exudes elegance while highlighting the beauty of the coast.

When you’re not off enjoying the ocean, relax in the hotel’s bubbling hot tub or get in a workout at the fitness center. The hotel’s Italian restaurant, Convivo, serves satisfying meals overlooking the ocean.

Click here to book the Santa Barbara Inn!


Palihouse Santa Barbara

Best-Hotels-in-Santa-Barbara-Palihouse-Santa-Barbara
Photo by Palihouse Santa Barbara

The Palihouse Santa Barbara is a lovely hotel with spacious guest rooms and an abundance of luxurious amenities. In every room, a Bluetooth speaker, coffee maker, fireplace, and private outdoor area elevate your stay. For guests who need some extra space, the hotel also has studio suites that can sleep up to five. 

When hunger strikes, there’s an onsite bar and restaurant ready to serve you. The property is within walking distance to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and is a short drive from Leadbetter Beach.  

Click here to book the Palihouse Santa Barbara!


Read More: 10 Best Hotels In Santa Barbara For A Perfect Seaside Escape


Related Posts

Cold Spring Trail is a great hike in Santa Barbara that offers stunning ocean views and beautiful scenery. If you’re looking for more things to do in the area, check out these posts next:


Some of the links used in this blog may be affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I earn a small commission when you book through these links for which I am very thankful!

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