Distance – 1 mile
Elevation Gain – Almost level
Difficulty – Easy
One of the most beautiful strolls through an oak woodland environment. Almost entirely level. The oak forests are deep in the heart of Montecito and provide a glimpse of why this area received its name which means “little forest” or “little woods” in Spanish.
From Santa Barbara, drive southbound on Highway 101 and exit on San Ysidro Road in Montecito. Turn left, cross Highway 101, and continue one block to San Leandro Lane. Turn right on San Leandro and drive 0.7 miles to the parking area near the white picket fence (1710 San Leandro Lane). Along the way, San Leandro is slightly offset, forcing you to turn left and then back to the right to stay on it.
When you start the hike it almost feels like you are walking onto private property; the 44 acre preserve is surrounded by large estates. However, as soon as you begin your walk through the beautiful forests you will feel as if you had stepped into another world. San Ysidro Creek flows through it, adding an even more enchanting feeling.
You can start on either the east or west side of the creek but I prefer beginning on the west side by the small white picket fence. Immediately you will find yourself under a canopy of oaks with the huge trees providing a filtered light that is very pretty. In a hundred yards you will reach a very charming stone bridge. The trail crosses it and meanders along the right side of the creek for a bit.
In a half mile the trail comes out of the trees and parallels Ennisbrook Drive for a hundred yards before dropping back down into the forest. After a few hundred yards of more creekside walking you will come to a second stone bridge, equally as pretty as the first. The trail crosses the bridge then wanders through more forested area. Beyond this point there are several trail junctions. A left turn on any of them will take you to a cul-de-sac on East Valley Lane.
My preference is to turn right at the first junction. This takes you across a small tributary of San Ysidro Creek through even more lush forests. At the second trail junction, turning right leads through a very pretty eucalyptus creek but dead ends on private property.
By turning left you can make a short loop out of this upper section of the preserve. The trail re-crosses the tributary and joins East Valley Lane. You can then follow this back to the cul-de-sac and then on a short connector until you re-join the main trail. From here re-trace your steps back to the car.