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Santa Barbara Hikes

The Playgrounds

The Playgrounds

[out of 5]
 *  *  * 1/2
For:Involves class 3 rock climbing if you do the whole thing. You can avoid the rock climbing if you wish, reducing this hike to about a 2.
Big Boulder at the Playgrounds
Big Boulder at the Playgrounds

This hike is a very special treat. The hike itself is not very long. Perhaps you will travel 3 or 4 miles. But much of that will be rock hopping on a Playground of sandstone boulders and crevices. If you are lucky, maybe you will find your way to The Narrows, which is a very long, narrow crack in the rock that runs for several hundred yards and leads you through a dark cave at one point. If you are a climber, there are many great opportunities for bouldering, and there is even a climbing wall or two. I am not much of a climber, but looking at one of them, I would guess it is rated quite high on the climber's rating scale as it is an overhang all the way and possesses "biohazards"—wasp nests in enough holes that I would be afraid of each and every handhold. But it is a well-used and obviously well-loved climbing spot. Someone has taken the time to put in wood benches.

Disclaimer: Just because this hike is short it is not easy. It can be difficult climbing the rocks. But you can make a short, easy hike out of this if you want. You are free to stop at the first rocks you see for a nice picnic overlooking Goleta.

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This trail is fun and full of surprises! We weren't able to find the narrows, but we explored many fascinating other formations. There was many bouldering opportunities on the duration of the hike, but since the walls are made of sandstone (which breaks easily) some of the foot and handholds didnt seem secure. If your going in the summer like we did, bring a lot of water! The area has great views of Santa Barbara and there are many opportunities for interesting photos. The directions to the trailhead were pretty good, though we drove past it at first. When they say that the phone pole is "touching the road," they mean that it is set in the ground right by the road. The big tree is actually fairly modest.
Posted by: Dang  on  2013-08-17
For what it's worth, you climbers are crazy. (And I like how you say "The Narrows" when we all know it's "The Amphitheater," haha.)
Posted by: Jeff  on  2013-03-26
For what it's worth, most local climbers refer to this place as The Playground, not The Playgrounds. Not to overly mince words or anythingójust trying to reduce confusion. The cave you encounter in "The Narrows" portion of the hike gets truly dark. A must-find!
Posted by: apatters  on  2013-03-24
Found it, not that hard to find. The playgrounds have jumped to the top of my favorite hikes, pushing Cathedral Peak to 2nd. I liked it so much, I am going back tomorrow.
Posted by: gonzo6869  on  2012-01-15
Please don't tell me where it is, I would like to find it. However please tell me what it is, so I will know I have found it when I do. I have never been to the playgrounds, but looking forward to doing it real soon. Done Cathedral Peak a couple of times and loved it. From what I hear, the playgrounds should be just as good.
Posted by: gonzo6869  on  2012-01-06
This being my first post, I need to start off with a thank you. I've used this website pretty extensively over the last year and it has led to some great hikes. I also found my all-time favorite local spot (the Playgrounds) through this website and I'm happy to say I've been there no less than 15 times since last fall. That being said, a group of taggers have recently hit the Playgrounds hard. Most notably the narrows. There's so much tagging in the narrows now that it's not even fun to hike to; I just get bummed when I see it. They even spray painted "blaze it" down the trunk of the tree growing up through the middle. Is there any way to remove it?
Posted by: SBMX  on  2011-05-25