Hiking in the SYV

Aiden (my 11 year-old son) and I were picked up at 7:30am on Sunday morning by Greg, Brian, and Cary. We were now on our way from Buellton to hike the popular Gaviota Peak. The trail head is located near the Highway 1 intersection of 101. About a 10 minute drive. I’ve hiked this trail before but not since relocating to the Santa Ynez Valley, and this will be Aiden’s first time.

Gaviota Peak

It is 3.5 miles to the top with an elevation of 2,458 ft. A moderate to very steep hike on a wide and comfortable fire road. You can take it slow and steady or bust right up for a challenge. I seem to have found a hiking group, led by Cary Losson, which prefers to bust right up everything. The goal today is to reach the top in under an hour. You can also take the loop adding 15 minutes and come down (or up) Trespass trail which is narrow and more challenging.

Best California Hikes

Morning Fog on the Gaviota Ridge

Having grown up in Goleta, I have hiked the front of the Santa Ynez mountains most of my life. But hiking in the SYV is new and exciting. Here are some hikes I have been introduced to lately.

Refugio Road – about a 5 minute drive past the beautiful Sunstone Vineyards. There is a cement block in the road letting you know it’s time to park. This hike is just over 3 miles to the top. Not as steep as Gaviota, and also on a fire road.  It is a 1,700 ft. climb from start to finish. This can be taken slow with your family, or a good warm up by pushing for speed in prep for more serious hikes.

On my way to the top of Grass Mountain

On my way to the top of Grass Mountain

Grass Mountain – This is a serious hike. It is at the base of Figueroa Mountain and very steep. The hike itself is less than 3 miles to the top, but don’t let the distance fool you. The first mile you rise only 300 ft. But the last 1.5 miles you climb 2,100 ft. Leave early as there is no protection from the sun, and bring plenty of fluids. This is a hike you prep for, eat for, and sleep for. A great challenge.

Santa Barbara Hikes

Victory Shot at the top of Grass Mountain with Chris Chirgwin & Cary Losson

There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other SYV hikes I look forward to experiencing. Two good resources for hiking in our area and Santa Barbara County are:



How did the Gaviota Peak hike go? Well, we all slowed Aiden down. He made it to the top in 53 minutes without breaking sweat.

Santa Ynez Valley Hiking

Aiden makes it to the top!

I came in last at 1 hour 3 minutes. Still a respectable time (I’m told). We did the loop and took Trespass down. It was breathtaking with the clouds clearing.


Best Hikes Santa Barbara

Take a hike!

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