Distance – 1.3 miles for the Sierra Club Loop
Elevation Gain – 300′ to the top of the knoll
The 236-acre park has baseball and soccer fields for the kids and plenty of places for a wonderful picnic at one of the many sites overlooking the city. From the developed part of the park you can hike up onto the top of the hills where you’ll have views in all directions. The Memorial Walk and Terrace of Remembrance honoring the county residents who have died in hostilities is very special. There is more rustic hiking on the south side of the park. From Cliff Drive you can hike up and watch the paragliders take off.
From Highway 101 in Santa Barbara exit on Las Positas. Drive 1.2 miles south towards the ocean to the entrance to Elings Park. Turn left and take the park road .4 miles to the parking area near the soccer fields. The rustic trail leads up from the ocean side of the road. To reach the paragliding area, continue on Las Positas to Cliff Drive. Turn left and then left again in .2 miles on a dirt turnoff which leads up to an open field where you can park your car.
SETTING THE SCENE
Elings Park is named after Dr. Virgil Elings and his family, who contributed $1.5 million in February, 1999 to help support the long-term financial stability of the park. Formerly the area was known as the Las Positas Friendship Park.
For most people, Elings Park serves as a destination for more traditional recreational activities such as soccer or softball. There is even a BMX track in the park for younger kids and plenty of places for a very nice weekend picnic. But there is also a number of opportunities for walks.
As you drive up the steep hill leading into the park you will pass the BMX track, the soccer and softball fields. Near the top of the park the road ends in a large saddle where you have a number of choices, all of them nice.
To reach the upper pavilions, the city overlooks and the Memorial Walk turn left and follow the narrow road leading to the upper parking area. You’ll spot the Memorial Walk on the left just before you reach the parking lot. My preference is to walk up the road from the saddle rather than driving up as this extends the walk and the views along the way are very nice.
Once you reach the turnoff to the Memorial Walk, follow the paved path around the west side of the knoll. This leads past plaques honoring those who died in Vietnam to the Terrace of Remembrance, where county residents are honored who died in hostilities dating all of the way back to the Civil War. This is a very powerful and moving walk. To reach the upper pavilions and the city overlooks continue on and loop back through them to the parking area.
For a more rustic hike, park near the soccer fields or in the saddle. The 1.3 mile long Sierra Club loop trail leads onto a knoll which has very nice views in all directions. The trailhead is almost directly across from the narrow road leading up to the Memorial Walk. The trail heads steeply up at first to a junction. My preference is to take the right fork and follow the switchbacks up to the top of the knoll. Once you are up on top, the trail turns east and follows the ridge top up to the stunning views. Continuing a bit further, you will find the trail turning left and back to the west where more switchbacks will take you down to your car.
Another option, though not really a formal hiking trail, will take you to the top of another knoll where you can watch the hang gliders and paragliders taking off. This area is known as South Park. The land here has just been acquired and is now part of Elings Park. There are plans to develop this area in the next few years.
It can be reached from a small side road just a few hundred yards up Cliff Drive from Las Positas Road. The side road is dirt and a bit bumpy but passable except after rain. Park in the open meadows and walk up the dirt road to the take-off area. The views looking across towards the Douglas Preserve are great and it is quite something watching the gliders soaring off the top of the hill.