Franklin Trail, Carpinteria, CA

Franklin Trail to Duca Family Bench (Carpinteria)


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  • Location: Meadow Lane, Carpinteria. From Ventura and points south, take Highway 101 to Casitas Pass Road. Bear left onto Via Real, pass Casitas Pass Road and go another 0.2 mile to Vallecito Road. Turn right and go 0.1 mile to Ogan Road. Turn left and go 0.2 mile to Linden Avenue. Turn right and go 0.3 mile to Meadow Lane. Park where available near the end of the street, noting posted restrictions. From Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 to Linden Avenue (exit 86B). Turn left and follow Linden 0.4 mile to Meadow Lane. Turn left and park where available. The trail leaves from Franklin Park, at the west end of Meadow Lane.
  • Agency: Montecito Trails Foundation; Santa Barbara County Trails Council; Friends of Franklin Trail
  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days)
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • Recommended gear: Sun hat; sunblock
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 6

Updated September 2018

The Franklin Trail originally opened in 1913, providing ambitious hikers with a route from Carpinteria to the crest of the Santa Ynez Mountains. After enjoying decades as a popular hiking destination, the trail fell into disrepair in the 1970s and at the influence of local ranchers who feared that hikers and horses could spread avocado root rot, was shut down in the 1980s. However, thanks to the efforts of local volunteers and organizations, access to the trail has been restored. Currently, the first two phases of the trail (a 10.4 mile round trip with about 2,200 feet of elevation gain) When finished, the third phase will extend another 3 miles to the crest, making for a total round trip hike of about 16 miles with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

The destination of this write-up is the Duca Family Bench, a popular turnaround point for those who only have a few hours but still want a good workout. The first mile of the trail doesn’t feel like wilderness as, due to accessibility issues, you have to follow along various easements. The first 0.3 mile is along a bike path which brings you to Foothill Road. The trail picks up outside the Carpinteria High School parking lot and heads west along the campus boundary. An attractive grove of oaks are a highlight of this utilitarian stretch of trail. After weaving between the high school and a few private orchards, you leave the easement and begin the main part of the hike.

The trail switchbacks up the south slope of the Santa Ynez Mountains, picking up about 500 feet in the next 0.9 mile. Since the area was hit hard during the Thomas Fire, there is virtually no shade. Though power lines infringe on the views, there are still some impressive vistas to be enjoyed for your efforts.

At 1.9 miles from the start, the trail joins a dirt road. A resting spot known as “Frank’s Bench” allows hikers to catch their breath and enjoy some views. The fire road climbs 200 feet in the next 0.3 mile to another bench with views of the canyon below. (This spot was the end of Phase One of the trail reconstruction.)

From here, the trail descends into a pleasant, oak-shaded ravine. After leaving the shade, you begin an exposed climb of 400 feet in 0.6 mile with only scattered bits of shade (a swing has been built on the branches of one of the oaks). At three miles from the start, you reach a saddle with views of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north. Another 0.4 mile of climbing brings you to the Duca Family Bench. If you don’t mind the power lines to the west, you can enjoy views of the coast to the south and the mountains to the east and north.

Franklin Trail, Carpinteria, CA
Start of the Franklin Trail
Franklin Trail, Carpinteria, CA
Trail continues around the border of Carpinteria High
Franklin Trail, Carpinteria, CA
Start of the single track after the easement
Franklin Trail, Carpinteria, CA
View from a switchback on the lower Franklin Trail
Franklin Trail, Carpinteria, CA
Oaks on the Franklin Trail above Frank’s Bench
Franklin Trail, Carpinteria, CA
Swing on an oak near the saddle
Duca Family Bench, Franklin Trail
East view from the Duca Family Bench
Franklin Trail, Carpinteria, CA
Dusk near the bottom of the Franklin Trail

Text and photography copyright 2018 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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