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|For:||Long, uphill on the way back.|
Blue Canyon is like a secret treasure hardly anyone knows about. That is hardly true, but it is amazing how often you can hike in Blue Canyon and feel completely isolated from civilization, never encountering another person. This of course is not true on holiday weekends because Blue Canyon is a short drive from Santa Barbara and a short hike from the trailhead if you are planning a backpack trip. It makes a great day hike, too.
Blue Canyon is located in the canyon just behind the Santa Ynez mountains. You access it by hiking down to Forbush on the Cold Spring Trail and turning right to descend further into Blue Canyon.
There are meadows that fill with gorgeous wildflowers in spring after the rains, creeks that run fresh and clean, and three places to camp—Cottam Camp, Lower and Upper Blue Canyon Camp beyond. It gets quite hot back there in the summer time, which can be a blessing during the Santa Barbara "June Gloom" when it is cold and foggy in town.
From the Mission, corner of Laguna and Los Olivos Street in Santa Barbara...
Take Los Olivos toward the mountains. The road makes a jag to the left and right again and becomes Mission Canyon Rd.
Turn right on Foothill Rd.
At the fire station at the 3-way intersection, continue straight ahead.
Follow this windy road to Mountain Drive. Turn left.
Follow windy Mountain Drive to Sheffield Reservoir and turn left.
Continue a short way (2 tenths of a mile or so) and turn left on Gibraltar Rd. Make sure to stay to the left as you make this turn.
Gibraltar meets a 4-way intersection with El Cielito Rd. Continue straight through the intersection.
Gibraltar Rd. winds into the mountains and meets Camino Cielo Rd. at its summit.
At the junction with Camino Cielo Rd., look carefully. There is a large brown sign to the right. Turn right at the sign.
Follow E. Camino Cielo Rd. for about 4 miles. There will be a large, concrete water tank shaped like a flat, circular disk. Park at the water tank.
The trailhead is across the street.
Blue Canyon Trail
Begin this hike on the Cold Spring Trail on East Camino Cielo Rd., at 3425 ft. elevation, across the road from the cement water tank. You will be heading away from the city of Santa Barbara toward the north. There is a rusty metal sign marking the trail. The trail begins at this sign, the Cold Spring Trail. The sign says "Forbush Flat".
The Cold Spring Trail begins in Montecito and goes all the way up and over the mountains, down into the Forbush Flat area, and down into the deeper back country to Mono Campground and Little Caliente Hot Springs 7.5 miles away.
To get to Blue Canyon, head downhill into the canyon toward Forbush Flat.
At about 1/2 mile down there is a bench and a square concrete water trough for horses. Often the trough is dry.
At about the 1 mile mark you find yourself on a ridge with sweeping views into Blue Canyon to the right. The large meadow is Cottam Camp, and the prominent gray rock jutting up is the location of Blue Canyon Camp. In the distance you can make out Jameson Reservoir which provides water for Montecito.
At the bottom of the canyon you reach a rusty metal sign and a trail junction. This is actually under 2 miles, but close enough. The sign marks the junction to the Blue Canyon trial. Turn right at this sign.
Continue the descent into the canyon. There are a few small meadows and you follow a small creek, crossing small branches of it here and there.
At about 2.5 miles, cross a larger section of the creek. Stay alert for the continuation of the trail on the other side.
Just under 4 miles is Cottam Camp, marked by picnic tables, a creek, a very large meadow, and a rusty metal sign marking another trail junction.
Continue through the meadow, turning right at the sign, not crossing the creek.
At just over 5 miles there is a small fork in the road that goes to Lower Blue Canyon Camp. The Camp is marked by a very small metal sign. The camp has a couple of fire rings and is near to the creek. It makes a nice backpack or a nice day hike.
You can continue to follow Blue Canyon Trail if you wish, and eventually you will come to another camp, called Upper Blue Canyon Camp.
Eventually the trail emerges on Juncal Rd. about 3 miles past Blue Canyon Camp. If you go all this way, the hike is 16 miles round trip. You could make it a car shuttle by parking a car here. You would drive here by continuing along East Camino Cielo which becomes Juncal Rd. until you reached this end of the trail. You could also start your hike here.
If you turn around at Blue Canyon Camp, the hike is almost 11 miles round trip.