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Santa Barbara Hikes

Indian Creek Trail Description

This trail may not be accessible due to recent fires and floods. The trail itself may be okay, and its inaccessibility may be due to road closures.

Indian Creek Trail

Indian Creek trail begins with a long drive on a very dusty, very exhausting dirt road. Please forgive my hazy memory on some of the details. I forgot my pedometer and paper the day I did this. But the details are really unnecessary for this straightforward hike.

The trailhead for Indian Creek actually begins after a walk along the road past the iron gate where you park the car, but for our purposes here, the trailhead will begin at the gate.

You'll need an Adventure Pass to park anywhere on the roads back in this area.

Begin the hike heading along the road past the iron gate. You'll have to cross at least 3 creek crossings across the road. These can be kind of slippery and your boots might get wet. I had success with water proofed boots and didn't get my feet wet.

At about 1 mile, there is a junction with the actual Indian Creek trailhead, at which point you will see a strange iron structure which blocks entrance to motorcycles or other motor vehicles, and a little rusty metal box on a post, which contains a trail register. Sign in if you like, but you don't have to. I like to stay anonymous sometimes myself.

At 1.2 miles there is a creek crossing that can be a little tricky to find the other side. You will have to go a tiny bit to the right off the trail to find the best place to cross, then when you come up the other side, make sure you look a little bit to your left for the trail. Note that the trail is headed upstream.

Cross a knoll and drop back to the creek. Cross again, this time diagonally, looking for the continuation of the trail going uphill. This crossing, like most, will be a little tricky. But I never got my feet wet.

The trail will criss cross the creek innumerable times. There is one little uphill section on this hike, at about the 1.75 mile mark, and another one around 5.5 miles, otherwise the hike is virtually level as it travels upstream in the creek bed.

At the two mile mark, if you have a topo map, there appears to be a trail junction. I didn't see one while hiking. The trail you want makes a sharp leftward turn. As long as you follow the creek you can't go wrong.

At 2.5 miles there is a makeshift camp to your left by the trail.

Criss cross the creek merrily on your way over and over and over again. At 4.25 miles, the trail becomes a jeep road. You won't see any jeeps, though. This is an intersection with Pie Canyon Road.

A little more than another .5 miles miles, you meet up with Pie Canyon Road again. At this junction you should cross the creek and stay on the road. Going uphill. If you're looking at a topo, this means take the left fork in the road. I didn't see a fork (I didn't see a spoon, either) when I was walking the route.

At 5.5 miles you reach Lower Buckhorn Camp, which has a nice picnic table for lunch. The camp is just a brief little jaunt off the trail. It's marked with a sign.

To continue past Lower Buckhorn Camp, go up the hill on the jeep road past the sign.

At the summit of the small hill, look for a trail descending to a meadow below through the brush. A sort of right turn. Don't stay on the jeep road anymore.

Go down the hill. There will be a junction in the meadow. You'll be wanting the left fork in the road. But if you stay straight on the trail, you'll come to another campsite with a picnic table at the 5.5 mile mark.

Taking the left fork you will soon cross the meadow and reach a spot with reddish soil and chaparral brush. Then the brush will get more and more dense, and you'll be pushing your way through severely overgrown ceanothus bushes. In spring their white blossoms smell delightful.

If you can persevere through all the brush, at 6.5 miles, and probably after a few more creek crossings, you'll reach an old sign post.

Keep going because the trail is going to pay off soon. At the 7 mile mark, the creek will get very bouldery and very shady. Almost suddenly the vegetation has changed into something much more lush and you feel like you are so very far away.

Proceed up the creek, paying close attention for places where the trail emerges from the creek. The going is difficult because the trail is seldom used and hard to find. There is boulder hopping and it's so lush and natural you won't really mind.

At 7.75 miles is Indian Camp, but I've never made it that far on a day hike. Where I did make it to was a very distinctive rock formation with swirly layers of black and white. It's the photo accompanying the introduction to the hike.

This hike is about 14 or 15 level miles round trip, with lots of creek crossings.