The 5 Best Trail to Pub Pairings in Santa Barbara

Third Window Brewing features seasonal brews made with local ingredients.
Third Window Brewing features seasonal brews made with local ingredients. Photo courtesy of Third Window Brewing
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For outdoorsy wine and beer connoisseurs, Santa Barbara, California, has it all—wooded mountains, a picturesque coastline, a Mediterranean climate, scenic wine country, and top-notch breweries. But what makes the city’s food and drink scene special is its people. They’re tech-savvy (for example, the Loyale mobile app has a map of local breweries called the "Santa Barbara Ale Trail," in which users earn points for visiting). They’re also outdoor-minded (several bars and breweries name drinks after hiking trails.) So what better place to combine the outdoors, fine wine, and beer? Let’s take a look at our top picks for trail-to-tavern pairings.

Rattlesnake Canyon | Third Window Brewing Co.

This trail snakes into the Santa Ynez Mountains along a lush tributary of Mission Creek. It’s busy with hikers, but worth it—a prime spot for spring wildflowers and at the top, broad views of the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands. The 5-mile hike crosses Rattlesnake Creek many times and its lower section is shaded by sycamores, oaks, and bay trees. Bring water and a swimsuit, in case you want to try a swimming hole, but watch for poison oak and ticks. The trailhead is on Las Canoas Road, across from Skofield Park.

A 15-minute drive away, the Third Window Brewing Co. is in a restored historic barn at 406 East Haley St. in Santa Barbara. They’re passionate about terroir—cultivating a taste and mouthfeel that’s quintessentially Santa Barbara. Their taplist is highly seasonal and based on local ingredients when possible. For example, one of its beers last summer was made from orange blossoms from the brewery’s trees and loquats foraged from around town.

Lizard’s Mouth | Figueroa Mountain Brewery’s Lizard Mouth IPA

On a Los Padres National Forest mountaintop overlooking the ocean and the city, the wind has carved the sandstone boulders into a shape of a lizard’s gaping maw. This hike is what you make of it: The trail extends roughly half a mile, but there’s plenty of bouldering to be had, as well as picnicking and appreciating the view. The trailhead is on West Camino Cielo. 3.5 miles west of Highway 154.

Afterwards, check out the Figueroa Mountain Brewery Company taproom at 137 Anacapa St. in Santa Barbara, a 30-minute drive away. They have an award-winning Lizard’s Mouth IPA, inspired by the hike, that has a smooth taste with notes of mango, papaya, and pineapple. Brewery staff say they love to pour it for people who don’t like hoppy beers, and it’s a perfect pair for spicy foods.

McMenemy Trail | Montecito Wine Bistro

The 2.5-mile McMenemy Trail in Montecito has views of the San Ysidro Canyon and the ocean. You’ll climb 650 feet up several switchbacks to Colonel McMenemy’s bench, a great place to read or snack. The trailhead is at the end of East Mountain Drive, a quarter-mile west of Park Lane.

Then, just a 3-minute drive away, check out the Montecito Wine Bistro, at 516 San Ysidro Road in Montecito. You’ll find California cuisine for lunch and dinner, and its wine list features selections from the local Lafond Winery and the Santa Barbara Winery, and others from around the world.

Inspiration Point | Alcazar Tapas Bar’s Ginspiration Point

This 3.5-mile hike has an 800-foot climb with views of the city, ocean and the Channel Islands, a perfect summit to watch the sunset. You’ll pass Mission Creek, plenty of coldwater sandstone boulders—and often hang gliders—before reaching Inspiration Point at 1,750 feet. The trailhead is at the end of Tunnel Road, one mile north of the Mission Canyon Road intersection.

A 15-minute drive away, at Alcazar Tapas Bar, on 1812 Cliff Drive in Santa Barbara, you’ll find Ginspiration Point, a gin, benedictine, and lime cocktail with Nostrom pineapple turmeric ginger shrub and egg whites from the Santa Barbara farmer’s market. It won the Santa Barbara Independent’s 2017 cocktail contest, and its inventor says the feeling and flavors the drink evokes are inspired by the Santa Barbara community’s "zest for life."

West Fork Cold Springs | Pure Order Brewing Company

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If you thought Santa Barbara hiking was all mountainous chaparral, think again. This four-mile hike showcases the lusciously-green, fern-lined Cold Springs Creek, a spectacular winter waterfall, and rocky terrain at the top of the canyon. This out-and-back hike is less traversed than the East Fork Trail due to its steep, eroded path.The trailhead starts on on East Mountain Drive, 1.2 miles west of Hot Springs Road in Montecito. Follow the trail 0.5 miles to a bench, then cross the creek and look for the West Fork trail sign. On your climb from the canyon, you’ll see Tangerine Falls in the distance. Follow the trail until it ends, enjoy the views of the Montecito coast, then return.

Then check out Pure Order Brewing Company at 410 N. Quarantina St. in a converted warehouse near downtown Santa Barbara. It’s a 15-minute drive from the trailhead. Their flagship beer, the Santa Barbara Common Ale, uses a local variation of a traditional California brew style. Its creators chose a label depicting the Santa Barbara Mission to highlight the church’s historical significance. Besides great local beer, the family-run brewery also has bocce ball courts and horseshoe pits.

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