This trip offers a taste of everything that the Santa Barbara mountains have to offer; a lush green canyon, gives way to sweeping views of the inland mountains, before descending to a quiet and secluded campground next to a creek.
Romero Canyon slices through the mountains above the little town of Montecito like something out of Jurassic Park. Steep canyon walls, and a burbling creek make this a popular weekend area for both hikers and bikers. However, climbing to the ridge and descending into Blue Canyon will give you breathtaking views and your choice of secluded creek-side campgrounds.
What Makes It Great
The first mile of this hike parallels Romero Creek, which winds its way through a lush deciduous forest that provides ample shade. After several creek crossings you’ll begin to climb more steeply toward Romero Saddle, leaving the majority of the day hikers and mountain bikers behind you. Once at Romero Saddle you’ll cross over the overgrown Romero Canyon Road, continue straight and follow the trail as it begins to descend toward Blue Canyon. Romero Saddle is an excellent time to take a break as you’ll be treated to views of the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands National Park to the south and west, and the inland ranges that make up the Los Padres National Forest to the east and north.
Upon leaving Romero Saddle you’ll begin a gradual descent into Blue Canyon. At this point it’s unlikely that you’ll see another soul until you return to saddle the following day. On the dryer backside of the saddle the trees give way to primarily chaparral, which means you have a mostly unobstructed view as you descend into the canyon. After a little more than four miles of hiking you’ll hit a T-junction with the Blue Canyon Trail. Taking the trail to the left will drop you at Blue Canyon Campground in less than half a mile. Blue Canyon Campground has fire rings, picnic tables, a pit toilet, running water from the creek, and several campgrounds. If you want something a little more secluded, turn right and hike a mile to Upper Blue Canyon Campground, this campground is more secluded and less developed, and perfect for those looking for solitude.
Who is Going to Love It
This trip is great for backpackers looking to get off the beaten path and explore some of Santa Barbara’s frontcountry beauty without a long drive. While the milage is moderate, the creek crossings on the front side, and the sometimes lose trail on the back side of the saddle make this trip feel more adventurous.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown take the E. Valley Road/CA-192 eastbound through Montecito. Turn left onto Romero Canyon Road and follow it for just under two miles. Look for a dirt pullout and a gated fire road on the left-hand side of the road at the apex of a sharp turn—this is where you will park. There are no fees to park here, but it can be crowded on the weekend so be sure that your car is completely off the pavement.