Parma Park (Santa Barbara)
- Location: Stanwood Drive, Santa Barbara. From the east, take Highway 101 to the Salinas St. exit (95). Head northwest on Salinas St. for 0.8 miles. At the rotary, take the second exit for Sycamore Canyon Road/Highway 144. Follow it 1.1 miles to its end at Stanwood St./Highway 192. Turn left and go 0.6 miles to the park entrance. Park on the left side of the road opposite the park entrance. From Highway 154, take the Cathedral Oaks/Foothill Road/Highway 192 exit (32) and head east for a total of 5.3 miles (Foothill becomes Stanwood Drive). Park on the right side of the road at a small turnout opposite the park entrance.
- Agency: City of Santa Barbara
- Distance: 2.3 miles
- Elevation gain: 600 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
- USGS topo map: Santa Barbara
- Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here
- Rating: 6
Parma Park is Santa Barbara’s largest city park at 200 acres. With five miles of trails, many different hikes are possible and indeed Parma is an enjoyable place to wander without a specific plan. Those who to follow a set agenda can try the loop described here offers a good workout, exploring canyons and meadows en route to a scenic overlook with panoramic coastal views.
From the main entrance on Stanwood Drive, follow a paved path briefly uphill to a picnic area from which several trails leave. By hiking clockwise, the ascent to Rowe’s Table, the highest point on the loop, is more gradual. The single-track on the right by the information board is your return route; the fire road leading straight ahead is an option for a shorter hike.
Head left into a shaded canyon. Almost immediately, the trail forks. Stay straight for this route, although you can add on additional miles by heading left, exploring the southwestern corner of the park. The trail heads up the canyon to another fork, where you will head right and climb a few switchbacks up to a ridge. At the top, head right (south). The left fork is another option for extending the hike; it climbs about half a mile to Mountain Road.
The trails soon split and rejoin. At the top of the ridge, you get some nice views to the east. You descend through a meadow to a junction with the fire road coming up from the picnic area (half a mile from the start). The trail heads straight into more oaks before beginning the long climb up the ridge. On the way up a bench beneath a large oak provides a nice spot to rest and enjoy some ocean views.
Past the bench, the trail makes a steep, exposed ascent, heading directly northeast to Rowe’s Table (one mile from the start), named for local resident and trail volunteer Rowe McMullen. Here, you are rewarded for your efforts with a 180-degree ocean view including Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands.
After enjoying the vista, descend via another steep and exposed trail that heads directly south. A few side trails branch off, soon rejoining the main route. At a saddle, the trail briefly climbs before dropping down a few switchbacks into the southeastern corner of the park (1.5 miles). Head right (west) along Rowe’s Trail which winds in and out of the folds of the hillside, paralleling Stanwood Drive. You pass an alternate trail head, duck briefly into woodlands and climb to a meadow before making your final descent back into the woods and returning to the picnic area.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.