Cold Spring Trail and Montecito Peak
[out of 5]
|For:||Long, steady uphill, if you do the whole thing|
Cold Spring Trail (I've been admonished that there is no "s" in the name) begins gently in shade by a creek that almost always has plenty of water. After a gentle uphill for 1/4 of a mile you reach a bench by the creek where you can sit and clear your mind with the gentle sounds of small waterfalls. This bench is at the junction of the West Fork of Cold Spring Trail. To stay on the main Cold Spring Trail, continue from the bench without crossing the creek. The trail climbs up and out of the shade to an Edison road with power lines. If you are tall enough to see over the bushes you'll get a good view of Montecito. On the way up to this spot, be careful on one of those switchbacks that you don't head straight and get off the trail. You will end up on a loop trail that brings you back to the trailhead. Another place to find this loop trail is from the power lines by turning right (west) and following the Edison road. Either one of these detours will provide you with a nice short work-out hike perfect for after work or early morning, or just when you feel like a shorter hike.
After reaching the power lines the trail continues eastward in chaparral up a very steep, rocky climb all the way to East Camino Cielo Rd. Before reaching the top is a turnoff to Montecito Peak, a very steep, but short climb to a pointy peak in the mountain range. There is a box hidden somewhere at the summit for logging your triumphant summit. At the top of Cold Spring Trail at East Camino Cielo Rd. by the water tower the trail actually continues down the other side of the mountain and deep into the back country. That part of the hike is described under Camino Cielo Hikes as Forbush Flat and Blue Canyon.
9 mile round trip.
Cold Spring Trail and West Fork
From the Mission, corner of Laguna and Los Olivos Street in Santa Barbara...
Get on US 101 going southbound by taking Laguna St. to Mission St. (toward the ocean).
Turn right on Mission St.
Follow Mission St. to the freeway and take US 101 south.
Take the Olive Mill Rd. Exit. Turn left.
The road becomes Hot Springs Rd. at some point without turning.
At East Mountain Dr., turn left.
Drive about a mile and a half and park just before, or just after the stream crossing on the road.
The trailhead begins on either side of the stream, but is best started before the stream crossing at the Montecito Trails Association sign.
(About 15-20 minute drive)
Cold Spring Trail
From the trailhead...
There are two starting points for Cold Spring Trail. I find that the easier starting point is not at the rusty metal sign at the west side of the creek crossing, but at the Montecito Trails Association Sign on the east side. Careful starting this hike at this point because there are two trails starting a few feet apart from one another. The steeper trail is not described here, but makes a nice, steep hike that eventually meets Cold Spring Trail again for a pleasant and short loop.
The Cold Spring Trail immediately climbs some steep, wooden steps. The trail continues through refreshing creekside scenery.
At about 1/4 mile you reach a bench and a junction with the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail. Continue past the bench and junction, heading uphill.
There are some stream crossings that may be a bit difficult after heavy rains. The trail crosses the stream two separate times, then climbs switchbacks up to a junction with a dirt road (Hot Springs Rd.) with some power lines. If you are tall enough, there are good views of Montecito and the ocean. This is the mile and a half mark.
The Cold Spring Trail continues by taking the fire road to the left (east) for a few hundred feet. Look to the left for a small sign marked trail and continue steeply uphill.
At just under 2 miles, look down into the canyon to the right and see the old ruins of the Hot Springs resort.
At 2 and 3/4 miles, there are Eucalyptus trees with a makeshift bench for resting and taking in the views.
At about 3 and 3/4 miles look to the right for a small trail that goes up to Montecito Peak, elevation 3214ft. This trail is steep and in shale, making for a tough climb to a triumphant summit. Somewhere up there is a log book inside a box for recording your summit. There are breathtaking views 360 degrees around you. You can see other hiking trails from this vista, including San Ysidro Trail, part of Romero Canyon Trail, and Cold Springs East and West Fork.
If your destination isn't to summit Montecito Peak, continue on the trail until it meets with East Camino Cielo Rd. at the 4 mile mark. There is a rusty metal sign, a parking spot and a water tank at this spot. Cross East Camino Cielo to get a good view of the remote back country. The Trail continues across the road to Forbush Flat, a nice spot for an overnight back pack.
To return, go back the same way you came.