Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Location: 1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara. From the south, take Highway 101 to exit 95 (Salinas St.) Follow Salinas St. for 0.8 miles to a traffic circle, where you will continue onto Alameda Padre Serra. Follow Alameda Padre Serra for 2.3 miles to East Los Olivos. Turn right and follow Los Olivos for 0.6 miles (it becomes Mission Canyon Road on the way). Turn right onto Foothill Road. and go 0.2 miles to Mission Canyon Road. Turn left and follow the road 0.7 miles to the signed garden entrance, on the left. From points west, take Highway 154 to the Foothill Road/Highway 192 exit. Head east on Foothill Road for 3.2 miles to Mission Canyon Road. Turn left and follow Mission Canyon Road 0.7 miles to the gardens. As of this writing admission is $10 for adults, $8 for teenagers, seniors, college students and active military and $6 for children ages 2-12; check the website link below for the most up to date information.
- Agency: Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Distance: 1.2 miles (shorter or longer routes possible)
- Elevation gain: 150 feet
- Suggested time: 45 minutes
- Difficulty rating: G
- Best season: Year round (Open 9am-5pm November through February; 9am-6pm March-October)
- USGS topo map: Santa Barbara
- More information: Yelp page here; Trip Advisor page here; video about the garden here
- Rating: 5
The 65-acre Santa Barbara Botanic Garden features a wide variety of California native trees and plants, ocean views, shaded canyons and a historic dam. The dog and kid friendly site provides many possible opportunities for exploration, whether one is looking for a short stroll or a longer hike through the canyon, offering a taste of wilderness. The route described here follows the mile-long loop suggested in the park map, with a short addition on the Easton-Aqueduct Trail, although this is a place where one can certainly have an enjoyable ramble without sticking to a set agenda.
From the entryway, turn right and head east through the desert section where plants displayed include cacti and chuparosa; you’ll also enjoy views of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The trail splits at the meadow section, rejoining at the east end of the gardens in an impressive grove of redwoods. Double back through the redwoods to the Mission Dam, built in 1806-7 and cross seasonal Mission Creek. Here, you can continue along the main route or add about half a mile on the Pritchett Trail which climbs the west side of the canyon.
After passing the Campbell Bridge which heads back to the visitors center, continue south to the Easton-Aqueduct Trail. It loops around the western corner of the park before descending back to the creek. On the opposite side, you have two choices: a right fork leads to a Japanese-style tea house while the left fork climbs stairs through the Manzanita section of the garden. The two trails join each other at a display of a cross-section of a Sequoia that fell in 2000. The tree, estimated to have sprouted in the year 1150, was moved to the gardens in 1926. Just beyond the tree you will return to the visitors’ center.
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.