Until further notice, this destination is closed due to the Alisal Fire. This little known, special area is remarkable for its beauty and solitude. Nestled in a thriving and ecologically significant riparian coastal canyon, Baron Ranch includes the Arroyo Quemado Trail Loop and access to the West Camino Cielo Trail.
After descending a road and crossing a pedestrian bridge, the trail parallels Arroyo Quemado Creek. The first part of the trail is through Baron Ranch (managed by Santa Barbara County), and is an easy hike. The latter part of the trail is in Los Padres National Forest, and while somewhat steep, the Loop Trail consists of easy-to-hike-on dirt roads. At the top of the Loop Trail and in other segments, there are dense, shaded lush areas, some with ferns. The newly constructed spur to the West Camino Cielo Trail has especially spectacular views.
Watch for wildlife and indicators of wildlife -- scat, claw marks on trees, and tracks -- all along the trail. Birds and butterflies are abundant, and the wildflowers in spring are bountiful. Be on the lookout for mountain lion, bobcat, black bear, coyote, deer, several species of raptors, and migratory birds.
14550 Calle Real, Gaviota
Santa Barbara County (Public Works Department)
17 mi (bike)
Birdwatching, Hiking, Picnicking (no tables), Relaxing, Running (trail), Studying/Reading, Viewing (ocean, mountains), Walking, Watchable Wildlife
Open every day from 8:00 am to sunset, this is a very important area for the protection of numerous imperiled animal and plant species including: the California Red-Legged Frog, the Southwestern Pond Turtle, the Two-Striped Garter Snake, the Least Bell's Vireo, the Santa Barbara Honeysuckle, Plummer's Baccharis, and Hoﬀmann's Nightshade.
It is somewhat challenging to find the parking area for this trail. Going north on the 101, and after passing the Refugio State Beach turnoff, look for the next turnoff on the right. Take the frontage road to the end (the Barron Ranch Gate) and park along the frontage road. There is a good article on the trail.
The County of Santa Barbara has initiated a Baron Ranch Master Plan, which, among other things, is identifying and evaluating options for developing increased public recreational opportunities. The public has the opportunity to participate in this important planning process.