Chasing the Santa Barbara Sun

Keaton Hudson
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There’s no better way to salute the day than by watching the sun turn the sky into its natural canvas during dusk and dawn. And yet, too often we fail to capitalize on these novel and awe-inspiring moments of the day. For instance, imagine how much brighter your days would be (pun intended) if you saw the sun rise over the ocean before going to work every morning, or if your bike commute home took you along a windy mountain road that placed you in a perfect spot to see the sunset after a long day in the office. No matter when you choose to see it, there’s no better way to watch the sun work its magic than from your favorite spot in the great outdoors. RootsRated recommends 5 of the best places in Santa Barbara to marvel at a sunrise or sunset.

1. From the Beach

Jack Rogan

This one almost goes without saying because there are so many excellent beaches for sunrise, sunset, or both. For the viewing spots closest to downtown, take the Cabrillo Beach Bike Path anywhere from Shoreline Park to Butterfly Beach. These views offer water-level vantage points and often the dolphins will be quite active close to sunrise and sunset, which of course adds a little more excitement to the experience. For cliff-top views over the beach, the two best spots are More Mesa and Ellwood Mesa . These areas are perfect for runners because you can travel on single track trails along the cliffs with the waves breaking a hundred feet below and the sun casting long-shadows and beautiful colors with each step you take. If the tide is low enough, making the sand relatively flat and hard-packed, take your run onto the beach and soak it all in from there.

2. Over the Backcountry

Timothy Joyce

It takes a little more work to get to one of the peaks behind Santa Barbara, so it’s best to incorporate a view of the sun here at the end of a hike or during a backpacking trip. For a spot closer to town, head up to the top of Romero Canyon Road by bike, foot, or a car. For a true backcountry excursion, Little Pine Mountain rises 4065 feet above sea level for a fantastic panorama. One of the best backpacking spots in the area, only 30 minutes from downtown, Little Pine provides a perfect overnight weekend adventure, but it can also be completed in a few hours of mountain biking.

3. On your Board

Dawn Patrol: the act of waking up extremely early to go surfing before or during sunrise, typically by surfers who haven’t quit their day-jobs yet, but their first priority is to get in a good session before work. Dawn Patrol separates the washed-up weekend warriors from the committed veterans of the sea. Grab some coffee at the Daily Grind right when they open at 5:30am, and head straight for whichever break has the best sets that day. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a sunrise swell at Rincon, but more often than not, Campus Point will be your best bet. For the truly determined early birds, a thirty-minute drive takes you to an even more consistently good break at C-Street in Ventura.

4. During Breakfast

Jack Rogan

Like your eggs sunny side up? This one’s for you. A breakfast under the sunrise may be natural if you’re already backpacking, but for someone looking to scramble their daily routine, Camino Cielo is the best spot to crack your eggs in the morning. Just before you reach Lizard’s Mouth , there are a couple turnoffs with picnic tables where you can set up your camp stove and breakfast spread just in time for the sun to peek over the horizon. Just a 20 minute drive from downtown, this spot allows you to kickoff the day with a spectacular sight and delicious camp-style cooking, and still allows plenty of time for you to get back to town to meet the rest of your day.

5. By Bike

If you’ve ever commuted by bike in Santa Barbara, chances are you’ve had those few weeks where your ride to or from work takes you through a colorfully illuminated sky. Don’t be afraid to leave a little early so you have time to mix up your route to include some of Santa Barbara’s world-class cycling that also happens to give you some great views of the sun. Gibraltar Road or Old San Marcos Pass will get you elevated quickly to overlook the cityscape, ocean, and islands. If you’re pressed for time or distance, the Goleta Obern Trail takes you to some great open areas by More Mesa and Campus Point.

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