Toro Canyon Park is a beautiful park in the foothills of Santa Barbara that covers 74 acres of lush landscape. Located between the small towns of Carpinteria and Summerland, this park offers a couple of secluded wilderness trails that are short in distance and are rarely crowded.
If you’re planning to visit Toro Canyon Park, in this post we cover a couple of the best Toro Canyon Park trails to day-hike.
About Toro Canyon Park
Toro Canyon Park is located near the coast and has two main trails for hiking. The most popular trail is called Toro Canyon Park Trail and it passes by a charming gazebo perched on top of a hill.
The second trail is called Toro Canyon Ridge Trail. This trail is less traveled and leads to a beautiful viewpoint of the coast. Toro Canyon Ridge Trail is more difficult in elevation and it’s often overgrown, but the coastline views from the top are quite stunning.
Along with hiking trails, Toro Canyon Park has multiple picnic areas that can be rented out for private events like Birthdays, family gatherings, and weddings. These picnic areas come with BBQ pits, tables, and restrooms.
Toro Canyon Park even has its own designated off-leash dog park. Dogs are also allowed on the trails but must be leashed outside of the dog park. Overall, Toro Canyon Park is a great place to come enjoy nature with your family or bring your dog for some exercise.
Trail #1 – Toro Canyon Park Trail
Toro Canyon Park Trail is the most visited hike at this park. Toro Canyon Park Trail is around 1.2 miles long and relatively easy with slight 200 feet elevation.
Toro Canyon Park Trail passes along a wide path through rolling foothills and leads to a scenic gazebo. From this gazebo, hikers can also see the ocean peeking through layers of mountains in the distance.
Trail Parking & Location
Toro Canyon Park has many places to park with lots of space for park visitors and hikers.
To get there from the coast you can take Highway 101 to Padaro Lane Exit. Then take Via Real to Toro Canyon Road. You will need to make a right onto Toro Canyon Park Road and then a left into the park.
These smaller residential neighborhoods can get a bit tricky to navigate and there is limited reception up in the hills. I recommend setting directions before you leave.
You can also follow directions from AllTrails hiking app but it doesn’t lead all the way to the trailhead.
I parked in a dirt lot next to a large off-leash dog area but you can also keep going and find closer parking right next to the trailhead on a paved lot.
Toro Canyon Park Trailhead is marked with a sign and starts behind a closed gate.
Hiking Toro Canyon Park Trail
After parking my car, I walked to the trail entrance. This trail isn’t marked on Google Maps but you can easily find the starting point by following AllTrails hiking app.
At the trailhead, you will see a trail sign and the trail hours which are 8:00 am to sunset. Go past the gate and continue along a dirt path.
Although Toro Canyon Park Trail doesn’t offer “epic views” like some other coastal hikes, right at the beginning you will pass giant boulders and immediately feel submerged into nature.
Toro Canyon Park Trail is made of orange clay-like dirt. This trail is surrounded on both sides by bushes and wildflowers but it’s quite wide and there is plenty of space to pass other people.
Toro Canyon Park doesn’t get very crowded and you might only run into a few other people, especially on a weekday.
Keep going along this wide path and it will gradually climb up a hill. You will come across a junction at which point you can go either left or right. This trail goes in a loop so eventually, it will connect back to this point. I went to the right and continued along.
About a halfway into the hike you will start seeing views of the ocean in the distance, although pretty limited. The ocean views here are obstructed by multiple layers of mountains that block the sight.
This trail doesn’t climb up far enough to see a clear view of the ocean but the next trail that we cover in this post, the Toro Canyon Ridge Trail, does. If you want to see panoramic views of the coastline, you might want to consider hiking the Toro Canyon Ridge Trail instead. These two trails at Toro Canyon Park are short enough that you can also do both on the same day as I did.
Once you reach the highest point of the trail you will see a charming gazebo on top of the hill. This is a great place to take a break and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The gazebo is covered with a roof providing much-needed shade in the summer and has a few benches for resting.
Although mornings on the coast are usually chilly and overcast, Toro Canyon Park is located more inland and can be hot so make sure to bring plenty of water for your hike. Besides the covered gazebo, there isn’t much shade on this trail or a place to take a break.
After the gazebo, I kept going straight down the hill. Eventually the trail loops around and takes you back to the entrance.
Toro Canyon Ridge Trail is only 1.2 miles long and takes around an hour to complete.
Trail #2 – Toro Canyon Ridge Trail
Toro Canyon Ridge Trail is another trail that’s available for hiking in this area. Toro Canyon Ridge Trail starts slightly outside of the main park and is less traveled, but it offers incredible views of the ocean.
Toro Canyon Ridge Trail is around 2.5 miles long out-and-back with around 600 feet of elevation. Most people only hike a portion of it up to a viewpoint of the Santa Barbara Coastline.
After this viewpoint, hikers can keep going but the second part of the trail is dense with sharp bushes that can scratch your legs so many people recommend skipping it. I only hiked to the viewpoint and back which came out to be around 1.2 miles.
This trail doesn’t get much foot traffic and is often overgrown. It is a wilderness trail so make sure to keep an eye out for snakes, coyotes, and mountain lions that reside in the Toro Canyon foothills (although mountain lion spottings in general are very rare).
Trail Parking & Location
Toro Canyon Ridge Trail starts along the Toro Canyon Park Road but there is very limited parking. If you plan to hike this trail you will need to park along Toro Canyon Park Road which is very narrow and doesn’t provide much space.
As a second option, you can park at the Toro Canyon Park main lot and walk from there up to this trailhead. But you will need to walk along a mountain road which didn’t feel very safe to me especially since it has a lot of sharp turns and blind corners.
Thankfully very few people hike the Toro Canyon Ridge Trail so I was able to secure a spot right by the trailhead. Once you park you will see a narrow trail climb up the mountain. This is the starting point for the Toro Canyon Ridge Trail.
Hiking Toro Canyon Ridge Trail
After parking my car along Toro Canyon Park Road I started hiking up the narrow trail. Right from the beginning the trail was steep and overgrown with bushes.
This trail is not as popular as the Toro Canyon Park Trail that we covered earlier so you might be the only person out hiking on it. On the way down I ran into another person who just started, but lack of parking and general information makes the Toro Canyon Ridge Trail a hidden gem.
As I was leisurely hiking along the trail, a couple of minutes in I looked down and spotted a giant snake in the middle of the path. This snake wasn’t fazed by our presence at all but after a while, it finally retrieved into its hiding hole and we quickly passed by.
Do keep in mind that the Toro Canyon Ridge Trail travels through the wilderness so keep an eye out for any animals. Some people report seeing coyotes and spotting mountain lion tracks.
The first portion of the Toro Canyon Ridge Trail goes straight up the mountain. A part of it also passes next to private property but the trail is very straight forward and has a lot of signs pointing which way to go.
About 0.6 miles in I reached the viewpoint overlooking the Santa Barbara coastline. On a clear day, you can see the ocean but during my hike, the ocean was covered in a dense layer of fog.
This viewpoint also has a bench for resting and enjoying the view. Parts of the viewpoint are obstructed by overgrowing bushes but overall it still provides a pretty great view of the coast.
From the viewpoint, you can keep going on the trail, but many people report the next section to be overgrown and difficult to navigate.
My dog was already getting tired from the mid-day heat so I decided to turn around and head back down.
If you decide to continue, I recommend wearing long pants and watching out for poison oak that grows along this trail.
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