There are many terrific hiking trails in the Los Padres National Forest on the south face of the Santa Ynez Mountains, but Rattlesnake Canyon is hard to beat. The trail features a beautifully clear stream, translucent pools, cooling shade, diverse vegetation (from dense oaks and sycamores to chaparral), glorious spring wildflowers, great views, birdwatching, and several route options, including hiking the fork to Gibraltar Road and beyond. Any chosen distance has its rewards.
Narrow and rocky, the trail is accessible to hikers and runners. For many reasons, it is the wildest feeling trail on the south face of the Santa Ynez Mountains, and every part of it is special.
This is a wonderful trail to experience and enjoy what the Santa Barbara Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest has to offer.
On Las Canoas, just before Skofield Park, Santa Barbara (can park on the road or in Skofield Park parking lot)
US Forest Service
Birdwatching, Hiking, Relaxing, Running (trail), Viewing (mountains and ocean), Walking, Watchable Wildlife
The name “Rattlesnake Canyon” comes from the curvy shape of the stream and canyon, not the reptile. In spring, the trail is lined in many segments with beautiful native wildflowers, such as Indian Paintbrush, Golden Yarrow, Lupine, Monkey Flower and Purple Nightshade. There is also a very beautiful magenta flower, the Rock Rose, that is not native; but was planted in the mid-60’s because it is a fire retardant species.
There are many nearby places worth visiting, including:
Skofield Park, which is adjacent to the trail and managed by the City of Santa Barbara. It has reservable picnic and barbecue sites.
Jesusita Trail, which is described on this website, is a wonderful, nearby trail. Three other notable trails, among many, are Romero Canyon Trail, Montecito Peak Trail and Cold Spring Trail Loop. A complete list, with very good descriptions, of all of the major hikes on the south-facing slope of the Santa Ynez Mountains (also known as the Front County Hikes) can be found here.