5 Day Hikes in Santa Barbara Perfect for Kids & Families of All Ages

Looking for some fun hikes to get your kids outdoors? I've got you. Here is a beautiful guide with 5 of my favorite places to hike with kids of all ages in Santa Barbara! I hope to see you on the trails!

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If you're looking for a way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air with your kids, consider going on a family hike! Santa Barbara is home to some of the most beautiful trails in California! There's a trail for every skill level, but I'm going to share five hikes that are great for families. So lace up your boots, grab a snack and water bottle, and get ready for adventure!

Santa Barbara family-friendly trails are listed below in order of difficulty, the easiest being #1

SSSHHhhhh, there's a #6 hike (and it's NOT the hardest!) It's a little-known hidden gem of a trail at the end of this post!

1. Ellwood Mesa Bluffs

The Ellwood Mesa Open Space is home to several species of wildlife, including the Monarch Butterfly which makes its winter home in the Eucalyptus groves that span the interior boundaries of the Mesa.

This mostly-level bluff has lots to discover through winding pathways and secret coves! There's something for everyone and plenty of open space for the kids to run and play. Bring a hat! Click here for more details.

2. San Marcos Preserve

If you're looking for a quick hike that's perfect for the whole family, then head to the San Marcos Preserve. This beautiful open space is a favorite among photographers. The tall golden grasses, mountain and ocean views, along with epic oak trees are picturesque, to say the least!

Recently, the San Marcos Preserve was under threat of development and together we saved the preserve! $18.6 was raised over 90 days to fund the purchase of the 101-acre West Mesa of the San Marcos Foothills. The purchase helped create 300 acres of contiguous wildlife habitat, honor Chumash heritage, maintain open space, and provide environmental education opportunities.

From Foothill Road (Highway 192), head north on Via Chaparral. Turn right on Salvar Road and continue on the bridge over Highway 154. Park at the top of the hill. To see my favorite oak tree, start walking straight up the hill.

3. Parma Park

Parma Park is enormous and a fabulous open space, which makes it a popular place with hikers, bikers, and dog walkers. It's snuggled into the foothills, where you will find live oaks, sage, and peace & quiet! This is a very rustic park that has beautiful mountain views and a couple of picnic tables.

There are five entrances to Parma Park: Stanwood Drive West (main entrance), Stanwood Drive East, Mountain Drive North, Mountain Drive South, and El Cielito Drive. Click here for more details.

The acreage was originally owned by the Parma family. G.B. Parma (1850-1912) came to Santa Barbara in the 1800s, opened a grocery store on State Street, and soon bought land in the foothills. Parma planted an olive grove on the north side of the property and also raised goats there. Remnants of the original olive grove can still be seen. In 1973, Harold and Jack Parma, sons of G.B. Parma, gave the land to the city to establish a natural preserve.

4. Jesusita Trail

The Jesusita Trail can work for beginner hikers all the way to pros! Just stop when the kiddos start asking for a snack (there's a picnic table located 15 minutes from the start) and turn around if they're getting tired. If you do make it further, it's a great hike to take in all the stunning views across the mountain range immediately above Santa Barbara. The hike starts at the Jesusita Trailhead off San Roque Road. It takes you up through the San Roque Canyon and crosses over the creek multiple times as you follow the marked trail.

Once you hit the top of the ridge, the dirt track continues until you reach Inspiration Point, a popular lookout. Once you’ve taken in the beautiful views over the ocean and city below, the trail continues down the backside of the mountain until it meets up with the Tunnel Trail.

This is a point-to-point hike rather than a loop. You’ll need to either hike back the same way to your car or arrange a pick-up from Tunnel Road.

5. Tangerine Falls

Locally known as Tangerine Falls (but also known as West Fork Cold Springs Falls), this “Santa Barbara locals only” waterfall requires quite a bit of adventure and bouldering to reach, which is part of the fun! The water flow is best after a rainstorm.

The hike was not really that well signposted (at least for the waterfall) and you have to be willing to do some pretty rough scrambling, especially towards the end of the hike where the scrambling was nearly vertical. Click here for more details.

Happy Trails!

I hope this post inspires you to try out some new places! Not only are they beautiful and fun, but some of them also make great spots for a family photo session! If you are a fun and laid back family who wants a great experience and gorgeous views during your next family photos, I'd love to be your photographer!

6. (SSHHhhhhh, don't tell anyone about this one) Montecito Hot Springs

This is one of Santa Barbara's best-kept secrets. Also known as “Hot Springs Canyon,” the Montecito Hot Springs in Santa Barbara is a natural area with several soaking pools filled with hot mineral water. It used to be privately owned but now belongs to and is managed by The Land Trust For Santa Barbara County. If you look carefully, you might see ruins of what was once a resort in the 1800s.

The hike is less than 3 miles round trip and is always crowded with hikers. Start early in the morning for the best parking and soaking pool! Clothing is optional and you will see someone naked, I promise. Click here for parking and directions.

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