Wiman/Old Pueblo/Buena Vista Loop
Like the near by McMenemy Loop, this loop offers a nice sampling of the Los Padres front country: ocean and mountain views, lush canyons and in particular interesting geology. Though some parts of it are steep and exposed, Montecito’s mild year-round climate makes this hike a good one to keep in mind on hot summer days; even San Fernando Valley residents can probably make the drive in just over an hour on a weekend morning. Two caveats: bugs can be annoying and there’s quite a bit of poison oak on the route, although it never encroaches the trail too seriously.
The Wiman Trail starts from an unassuming trail head at the corner of Park Lane and East Mountain Road. Like many trails in the Montecito foothills, it threads its way between private properties and ascends through a canyon shaded with oaks, sycamores, ferns and wild palms. The trail leaves the canyon and begins an exposed ascent to a junction (0.3 miles.) This is the start of the loop.
If you’re off to an early start, consider hiking clockwise, as described here; this allows you to knock out the steep ascents earlier and enjoy a scenic descent on the Buena Vista Trail. Make a hard left on the unsigned Old Pueblo Trail which winds northwest along the slope. Just before reaching a junction with Park Hill Lane, a private road, keep an eye out for a large sandstone cave on the right.
Across Park Hill Lane, the trail ascends to a saddle with a nice view of the ocean, San Ysidro Canyon and the hills. You drop down into the canyon, reaching a junction with the San Ysidro Trail at 0.9 miles. Turn right and head uphill, passing a junction with the east end of the McMenemy Trail. At 1.3 miles, make a hairpin right turn onto the unsigned Buena Vista Connector Trail, a fire road.
Now comes the most trying part of the hike: a steep and exposed ascent, gaining 500 feet in just over half a mile. The silver lining is the view: the ocean on the right and mountains on the left. At 1.9 miles, you reach a saddle where the trail becomes a single-track and begins its descent into Buena Vista Canyon. This scenic stretch is a nice payoff, depositing you back into the shade with some nice views along the way.
At the floor of Buena Vista Canyon (2.3 miles), the trail continues downhill to the right. As an option, you can turn left and make a steep climb (500 feet in half a mile) to an overlook.
The Buena Vista Trail takes on a jungle-like quality as it makes its way through thick vegetation, although the route is easy to follow. You pass by several sandstone caves and cross the stream twice before reaching Park Lane. Turn right and follow the street a short distance to the signed Old Pueblo Trail (2.8 miles from the start). Follow it briefly uphill as it parallels a private road and continue back to the junction with the Wiman Trail, completing the loop. Retrace your steps down the Wiman Trail back to Park Lane.
Text and photography copyright 2015 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.