Romero Canyon Loop
This challenging hike is one of the most scenic and varied in the Santa Barbara foothills. With ocean and mountain views, thick oak woodlands and a seasonal stream and waterfall, it’s understandably popular with hikers, joggers, bikers (and dogs). The nearly six-mile route described here is a good workout but hikers who want more of a challenge can extend the trip even more while those short on time might enjoy doing just part of this loop.
From the parking area, head past the gate and up a steadily ascending fire road. Stay right at the first junction, cross the creek and arrive at another fork. This is the beginning of the loop and the direction you choose depends on whether you want a steeper but almost entirely shaded ascent or a longer and more moderate but exposed climb. “Day Hiking” suggests the former; that seems to be the more popular choice. However, if you’re off to an early start, consider heading right on the more gradually ascending fire road. Early in the day the sun will be partially blocked out by the ridges.
For the purposes of this post the route will be described counter-clockwise, assuming the slower ascent on the fire road. Follow it around the south side of a hill, taking in excellent views of Santa Cruz Island and the coastline. You may also see Santa Rosa and even San Miguel Islands if the air is clear. You also get some nice views of the Santa Ynez Mountains above.
The trail curves around and starts heading northwest, reaching a junction at about 2 miles from the beginning. Stay straight and cross a saddle where you will continue along a tributary of Romero Canyon. At this point you’ve already achieved most of the elevation gain and you can enjoy a more or less level stretch of about a mile, with more ocean views and an aerial perspective on the canyon below.
At about 3.3 miles, the trail bends east and climbs to the top of a tributary canyon before heading west again. You climb gradually to a four-way junction (4.1 miles) in the shade of some oaks, a nice place to stop. You can even sit on a makeshift bench that’s been fashioned out of a small log and two trees.
You can extend your hike on either the right or middle trails but if you’re ready to call it a day and want to close the loop, take the far left trail. You descend steadily through Romero Canyon under the shade of many large live oaks and a few sycamores. The trail is rocky in some places and crosses the creek several times; be careful of your footing. At about 4.8 miles, look for a small seasonal waterfall below the right side of the trail.
Shortly after you cross the creek again and continue your descent, reaching the junction at 5.5 miles. Turn right and retrace your steps back down the last 0.4 miles to the parking area.
Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.