Two hikers trekking amongst the wildflowers on the Aliso Trail.
Cara Peden

The Sierra Club’s 126-year-old motto to “Explore, enjoy, and protect the planet” is expressed in Santa Barbara and Ventura through the Los Padres Chapter, which annually sponsors dozens of free outings to all corners of our region while also advocating to protect these same wildlands. Founded in the 1950s, the Los Padres Chapter helped to established the Los Padres National Forest via the Wilderness Act of 1964 as well as the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in 1980, among many other victories.

But hitting the trails remains a primary function of the chapter, and for all different reasons. Once, when I noticed that a certain hiking leader had stopped his singles-focused hikes, I asked why. “I met my wife on one of my single outings,” he replied. A lame excuse, I thought, but it shows how strong relationships can come from walks in our woods. Typical summer outings include hikes to the Gaviota Hot Springs, Bates Beach, and the Backbone Trail as well as rock-hopping at The Playground above Goleta, a Santa Ynez River swim, and even the Riviera Urban Hike.


For those who want to go more “wild” but be prepared while doing so, the annual Wilderness Basics Course (Feb.-Mar.) assists all levels with tips and techniques, featuring numerous experts, gear to use, and tasty food. “You need to go and get lost in the wild to bring out the creative child in you,” advised graduate Shailaja Rao.


The club also sponsors three-day, three-island trips to Channel Islands National Park. This year’s trips are planned for July 15-17, August 19-21, September 23-25, and October 21-23. For details, email

As for the “protect” part of the club’s motto, the Los Padres Chapter has garnered national recognition thanks to volunteers, notably Jim Hines of Ventura and Katie Davis of Santa Barbara, who travel to Sacramento and Washington,D.C., to spread the message of renewable resources and ending fossil-fuel addiction. The strength of our 6,000 members is also leveraged through partnerships with organizations such as the Naples Coalition and, when legal action is needed, the Environmental Defense Center.

And for the first time in its half century of existence, the Los Padres Chapter is hiring an executive director. Jon Ullman is a 19-year veteran of the club, and his work starts in July. “With an ever-increasing workload of issues affecting the environment, we are really excited we have been able to fund a full-time chapter director,” said Hines. “This is a big step, but the time is right.”


“Condor” John Hankinsedits the Los Padres Chapter’s Condor Call newsletter.


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