Distance – 0.5 to 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain – 300′ to Ortega Ridge Road
Difficulty – Easy to Moderate
Topo – Carpinteria
Provides access to the hills surrounding the Summerland area. You can follow the Summerland Trail across Ortega Ridge Road and extend your walk on the Valley Club and Ketcham Trails. It is possible to make this a long loop hike by returning on the Cynthia Wood connector.
From Santa Barbara, drive southbound on Highway 101 to Summerland and exit north on Padaro Lane. Cross over the freeway and turn left on Via Real. Follow this 0.5 miles to Greenwell Road. Turn right and continue .4 miles north to the Greenwell Preserve parking lot.
The Summerland Trail is part of a complex that was primarily created to provide horseback riders with a route extending from Toro Canyon on the east to the Montecito riding clubs on the west. However, these trails also provide hikers with several very nice routes leading from the Summerland area.
As you drive up Greenwell you will notice a large parking area near the preserve sign. The Summerland Trail leads directly out of the parking area, following an old dirt road up a small side canyon for a half mile to Ortega Ridge Road. A hundred yards along the way you will notice a trail on the right that crosses the creek through an opening in the willow thickets. Often, in the winter after it has rained the crossing is more of a bog and you are likely to get your shoes muddy making it across. The side trail leads up a half-mile long ridge to the Cynthia Wood Trail. This makes it possible to do a loop walk.
A few hundred yards past the side trail you will notice an old gravel pit just before the elevation begins to increase. Once you reach Ortega Ridge, the Valley Club Trail is just on the other side of the road. Following this to the left takes you along the west side of Ortega Ridge. The views are great and in the morning or evening this makes a wonderful out and back walk.
To create a loop hike, turn right on the Valley Club Trail and follow this a short distance to the Cynthia Wood Trail. Head downhill on it and bear right past the riding club to the East Valley/Ortega Ridge intersection. Cross Ortega Ridge Road and continue on the Cynthia Wood Trail. This will take you up a steep hill that is several hundred feet high. Near the top of the hill, the trail splits. The left fork drops down to the Summerland Trail and crosses the creek at the trail intersection that you saw on the way up. The right fork heads back to the west to Ortega Ridge Road near the top of the Summerland Trail. Take this route back to avoid any problems with the lower creek crossing.
From the Greenwell parking area, it is also possible to head towards Toro Canyon on the Polo Club Trail. The trail begins along the right side a private lane. There is a gate across the road, but there is an opening on the right side of it you can take. Follow the side of the road due east as it rises to a saddle. Directly in front of you is a large lemon orchard. From here on out the route finding is somewhat difficult.
Basically the trail skirts the boundary of the orchard and then cuts through the middle of a horse farm on the other side of the saddle. The route follows the orchard road to the left and then to the right once you’ve reached the top of the orchard. Bear to the left on the first dirt road and cross over the ridge. You’ll spot the huge riding stable almost immediately below you. The trail drops down from the ridge a short distance then turns immediately to the right at the bottom of the east side of the lemon orchard. Continue on this a hundred yards in a southerly direction until you spot the 8-foot wide trail corridor which leads through the stables to Lambert Road.
To reach Toro Canyon Road, head up Lambert across a small bridge and look for the trail on the right side of the road just beyond a beautiful old wooden house. The remainder of the route leads through a thick forest of oak and eucalyptus trees.