Difficulty G Distance 0 to 2 miles General information: Cellular Service General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 1-3 Santa Barbara/Ventura Season: All year

Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and Seal Sanctuary


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Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara County, CA
Santa Ynez Mountains as seen from Carpinteria Bluffs
Carpinteria Bluffs Seal Sanctuary
Seals on the beach

Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and Seal Sanctuary

    • Location: Carpinteria. From Highway 101, take the Bailard Ave. exit (85). Head south (left if you are coming from Ventura; right if from Santa Barbara). The park entrance is a large lot that you will see almost immediately, across Carpinteria Avenue.
    • Agency: City of Carpinteria
    • Distance: 2 miles
    • Elevation gain: Level
    • Suggested time: 1 hour
    • Difficulty rating: G
    • Best season: Year round
    • USGS topo maps: White Ledge Peak, Carpinteria
    • More information: here and here; trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here
    • Rating: 3
Carpinteria Bluffs trail head
0:00 – Trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Panoramic ocean and mountain views, a convenient location and the chance to see basking seals make this little trail popular with locals. It’s dog friendly, although dogs and bikes aren’t allowed in the seal sanctuary. There are several possible routes to take here including the one described below, which also visits neighboring Tarpits Park.

Carpinteria Bluffs Seal sanctuary
0:15 – Seal sanctuary (times are approximate)

From the parking area, head southwest through a green field, soon reaching railroad tracks. The trail heads right (west) and parallels the tracks, passing through a grove of eucalyptus trees. You cross the tracks (they are used by Amtrak’s Surf Liner train, which comes several times per day) and continue along the bluffs, passing a short spur that heads down to the beach.

Carpinteria Bluffs Trail, Carpinteria, CA
0:18 – Trail merges with the bike path

At about half a mile from the start, you reach the seal sanctuary. Here, you can sit on a bench and enjoy the scenery or look over the railing and observe the seals lounging on the sand below. Past the sanctuary the trail skirts the edge of a private parking lot (giving Chevron employees access to the nearby facility). The trail merges with a bike trail and parallels the tracks for a short distance more before reaching the eastern end of Tarpits Park (0.7 mile from the start).

Tarpits Park, Carpinteria, CA
0:22 – Eastern end of Tarpits Park (start of the loop)

Here, you can extend your hike with short loop. Just before the first parking lot (one mile from the start) you can relax on a bench and enjoy the view. This is a good turnaround point, but if you want more you can continue west into Tarpits Park.

Tarpits Park, Carpinteria, CA
0:26 – Looking east from the benches (turnaround point)

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.


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