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Santa Barbara, California

Picture the Italian Riviera – narrow roads haphazardly winding up steep hillsides, through houses draped in red tile and white stucco and plots of agricultural land, climbing to a crescendo of sun-drenched panoramas and the sparkle of the Mediterranean Sea lapping into the horizon. Now replace the Mediterranean Sea with the Pacific Ocean and you are in Santa Barbara – the last vestige of picturesque, relatively uncrowded, coastal Southern California. Seated at the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains (4,864 feet) on California’s surf-rich Highway 101, Santa Barbara has a vibrant outdoor community with access to boot. It faces due south, which keeps it in prime sun year round, and just 24 nautical miles off the coast, the 160-mile long stretch of the Channel Islands protects Santa Barbara from the full force of the Pacific.

The islands are part of the Channel Islands National Park, which features almost 250,000 acres of wild, diverse, and vibrant flora and fauna as well as a rich marine ecosystem in the surrounding National Marine Sanctuary. The sea kayaking and sea cave exploring around the Channel Islands is the best in California. Park visitors also can take advantage of backpacking, camping, scuba diving, hiking, surfing, and fishing.

But, Santa Barbara will keep you plenty busy even if you don’t cross the channel with its close and abundant mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking (the surprisingly remote Los Padres National Forest is just beyond the Santa Ynez Mountains), cycling, surfing, kayaking, and beaches.

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Featured Mountains in Santa Barbara

Mountain Approx. Elevation
Snowball Mountain 1,683 ft (513 m)
Noon Peak 3,976 ft (1,212 m)
Montecito Peak 3,173 ft (967 m)
Little Pine Mountain 4,488 ft (1,368 m)
La Cumbre Peak 3,970 ft (1,210 m)
Gaviota Peak 2,451 ft (747 m)
Divide Peak 4,541 ft (1,384 m)
Cathedral Peak 3,028 ft (923 m)
Camuesa Peak 3,156 ft (962 m)
Santa Ynez Mountains 3,970 ft (1,210 m)