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Santa Barbara Hikes

Arroyo Burro

Arroyo Burro Trail

[out of 5]
 *  *  *  * 1/2
For:Long with extra 500ft elevation drop/gain in middle, plus not well-maintained
One Baby Blue Eye
One Baby Blue Eye on the North side of Arroyo Burro Trail

This hike is a challenge. It's one of the rare front country hikes that has uphill both on the way up and on the way back, and all of it is steep. It's a long hike, too. 12 miles.

You will have to hike part of the way on paved and dirt roads and through private easements that are constantly in flux.

The Arroyo Burro Trail is a historic trail. In the days before automobile travel trails the only way over the impenetrable mountain barrier between the coast and the interior. Arroyo Burro supplied a route for miners and other trade. The trail continues over the other side of the mountains to the Santa Ynez River. This other half of the trail is shady and very lovely, but not described here.

The hike is 12 strenuous miles round trip with an approximate 4000ft elevation gain. The gratuitous 500ft. drop you do in the middle of the ascent adds that extra 1000ft.

Algalita Research - Learn about the pelagic plastic problem

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I try to hike this trail every year or two to document that it is in use as historic trails seem to be under attack from lack of Forest Service budget / interest and from private landowners at trailheads. Gaia GPS had my out and back from Jesusita trailhead at 17.7 km with elevation gain of 1001 meters. A bit more overgrown than last time but easy to follow. Washout at junction with old road along creek easily navigated. Could use a little maintenance, any volunteers?
Posted by: DiscgolfingMD  on  2017-12-24
ditto the previous comments, very overgrown - did not see a soul, I was able to make it just about camino cielo but it was annoyingly overgrown in many spots, so much so I was second guessing myself along the way. I like to trail run the flats and downhills but the overgrowth made anything but walking difficult. I'll probably stick to the jesusita trail but this one would be great as it is much more challenging and steep, it just needs more traffic.
Posted by: Matt  on  2017-10-09
Attempted to hike through today, but there is a switchback totally washed out about 4 miles in. The trail is also very overgrown after the big sandstone boulders - not recommended to go past that point without pants and long sleeves! Nice views from the water tower and boulders. Lastly be sure to use the directions provided here to get to the trailhead. Google maps will take you to the wrong place on private property.
Posted by: Connor  on  2017-09-24
Hiked Arroyo Burro yesterday from the water filtration plant. The trail past the sandstone out-croppings is a bit overgrown in places, particularly once you drop into the canyon bottom, but the tread is easy enough to follow. Water tanks at the spring are still full. Someone has done some brush-clearing work along the final stretch before Camino Cielo so that section is open and really nice. Thanks trail work Gods. 8)
Posted by: Uncle Rico  on  2015-11-08
I hiked this trail Sept 4 from Steven's park. My experience was similar to the previous report. Only difference is that I am not sure where the spring is located, but the two water collection tanks were full and water was slowly entering them still. This is a challenging hike due to the lack of switchbacks climbing the hill. But I love the canyon section, one of my favorite, perhaps my very favorite, part of the front country. On the way back down I saw 5 do not trespass signs, which I thought was odd. None of these signs are visible on the way up, unless you stop and look behind you. Is the land owner only trying to keep people from coming down the trail?
Posted by: sbslider  on  2015-09-05
I hiked this trail this past Sunday with a friend. Update on trail conditions: the trail is actually very easy to follow the whole way up to Camino Cielo, but there's a stretch in the middle that's kind of overgrown; we just had to shove our bodies through the encroaching chaparral. Nevertheless, there's a well-defined tread to follow. The creek was dry, but the spring partway up was flowing and the water tanks collecting water from it were full. And it was really hot: the shady creekbed was a welcome relief.
Posted by: Sebastian  on  2015-06-10