The trailhead begins on East Mountain Drive about 1.5 miles west of Hot Springs Road, just before the creek crosses the road. The full Cold Spring Trail is about 9 miles rounds trip, but there are plenty of benches and loop turnoffs if you’re looking for a shorter hike. Be on the lookout for poison oak hanging onto the trail.
What Makes It Great
Multiple paths emerge out of the same trail head, causing some confusion for hikers who are new to the area. To ensure that you stay on the Cold Spring Trail, continue on the right hand side of the creek once you pass the first bench (If you would like to hike the Tangerine Falls trail then cross the creek at the bench). When continuing up the switchbacks be sure to continue on the main trail and not get detoured onto one of the shorter loop trails (unless that’s what you are looking for).
You can choose the nine mile loop or you can choose to do an out and back that takes you to Montecito Peak. Take the East Fork for a tougher route with almost 2,700 feet of climbing. The West Fork is a more mild route with 1,700 feet of climbing. Creek crossings, waterfalls and switchbacks are all common features, and the trail also ranges from smooth to rocky and is subject to run out. Mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners are treated to 360 degree views of the Channel Islands and Santa Barbara Harbor at the top of the peak.
Who is Going to Love It
Besides a great hiking spot, the Cold Spring Trail is also a great destination for mountain biking.
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 and turn left. The road becomes Hot Springs Rd. 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.