Douglas Family Preserve

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Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara, CA
View of the ocean and Santa Cruz Island from the Douglas Family Preserve
Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Ynez Mountains as seen from the Douglas Family Preserve

Douglas Family Preserve

    • Location: Coastal Santa Barbara. The preserve has several entrances. The route described here uses the entrance off of Cliff Drive, next to Arroyo Burro Beach. From Highway 101, take the Las Positas/Highway 225 exit (#100) and head south for 1.8 miles. Turn right on Cliff Drive and go 0.2 miles. The entrance to both the preserve and the beach is on the left. Pass the beach parking lot and park in the lot next to the dog washing station.
    • Agency: City of Santa Barbara
    • Distance: 1.5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 150 feet
    • Suggested time: 1 hour
    • Difficulty rating: G
    • Best season: Year round
    • USGS topo map: Santa Barbara
    • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes Around Santa Barbara
    • More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Bring Fido page here; Tripadvisor page here; Yelp page here
    • Rating: 6

This is one of the better short hikes in the area, with excellent ocean and mountain views, plus an impressive collection of coastal live oaks, cypresses and eucalyptuses. Locals love it and out-of-towners who don’t feel like overspending on State Street might find this to be a nice excursion. While it might not merit a trip as a destination, it’s easy to add to other Santa Barbara hikes such as Rattlesnake Canyon for hikers coming up from Los Angeles for the day.

Access trail to the Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara, CA
0:00 – Start of the hike from the parking lot on Cliff Drive (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

With multiple access points and various trails lacing the mesa, there are many possible routes. By starting at Cliff Drive and climbing up to the mesa from sea level, you can add some elevation gain to an otherwise flat walk. Begin by following the trail at the east end of the parking lot, crossing over the mouth of Arroyo Burro Creek and briefly paralleling Cliff Drive before reaching a junction. Turn right, cross a footbridge and begin a shaded ascent, soon reaching the top of the mesa.

Footbridge into the Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara, CA
0:02 – Crossing the footbridge (times are approximate)

Make a hard right and follow a wide path toward a junction. From here, you can make a loop around the mesa, starting in either direction. You will soon reach the south edge of the mesa, with excellent views of Santa Cruz Island. From the southwest corner, you’ll get an aerial perspective of Arroyo Burro Beach and to the north, the Santa Ynez Mountains are visible. Tree stumps and logs make for nice places to sit; there’s also a water pump where dogs can drink, located at the southeastern corner of the loop. After strolling across the mesa, retrace your steps back downhill.

In case you were wondering the Douglas Family Preserve was named after Michael Douglas, whose donations helped save the land from commercial development in 1996. Locals sometimes still refer to the land by its former name, the Wilcox Property.

Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara, CA
0:10 – Junction at the top of the mesa

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.

Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara, CA
0:20 – Ocean view from the southwestern corner of the Douglas Family Preserve

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