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Santa Barbara: Cold Spring Canyon

Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, follow on Facebook.

Cold Spring Trail: From Mountain Drive to Montecito Overlook is 3.4 miles round trip with 900-foot gain; return via Hot Springs Canyon is a 5.5-mile loop; to Montecito Peak is 7.5 miles round trip with 2,500-foot gain; to Camino Cielo is 9 miles round trip with 2,700-foot gain

Cold Spring Canyon’s near-wilderness nature is all the more surprising when considering its location—scarcely a mile as the orange-crowned warbler flies from the villas of the rich and famous, and just two miles from Montecito’s boutiques and bistros.

“Our favorite route to the main ridge was by a way called the Cold Spring Trail,” wrote Stewart Edward in his 1906 classic, The Mountains. “We used to enjoy taking visitors up it, mainly because you come on the top suddenly, without warning. Then we collected remarks. Everybody, even the most stolid, said something.”

Cold Spring Trail begins by the alder-shaded, year-round creek, then rises out of the canyon for fine coastal views. Options abound.

From Highway 101 in Montecito, a few miles south of Santa Barbara, exit on Hot Springs Road and proceed toward the foothills for 2.5 miles to Mountain Drive. Turn left. A mile’s travel on Mountain Drive brings you to the Cold Springs trailhead, which begins just east of the creek.

hike-SB-ColdSprnTHE HIKE
The path rises briefly through oak woodland, then returns to the creek. On your left, 0.25 mile from the trailhead, is a junction with West Fork Trail. (See hike description) East Fork Trail rises up the canyon wall and rejoins the creek 0.5 mile later. Look for a fine swimming hole below you to the right. The trail then switchbacks moderately out of the canyon to Montecito Overlook. Enjoy the view of the Santa Barbara coastline and the Channel Islands.

If you’d like to loop back to the trailhead via Hot Springs Canyon, you have two options. Easiest way is to take the Edison fire road and make a steep one-mile descent into that canyon. A more challenging route is to ascend Cold Springs Trail another 0.25 mile or so and look for an unsigned connector trail on the right. This path leads down to the ruins of the old Hot Springs Hotel (see Hot Springs Canyon description). Once at the bottom of the canyon, you’ll descend a fire road to a vehicle gate, then follow a footpath 0.5 mile around and through a residen¬tial area down to Mountain Drive. A mile’s walk returns you to the Cold Spring trailhead.

From the junction with the Hot Springs connector trail, Cold Spring Trail switchbacks up-canyon and offers fine coastal views. A one-mile climb brings you to two eucalyptus trees (about the only shade en route!) and another 0.75 mile of travel takes you to the unsigned junction with a side trail leading to Montecito Peak (3,214 feet). Enjoy the view!

Cold Spring Trail continues a last mile to Camino Cielo. From the Sky Road, many trails lead into the far reaches of the Santa Barbara backcountry.

Interested in more hikes in Santa Barbara? Check out my guide: HIKE Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara: Cachuma Lake

Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, follow on Facebook.

Sweetwater Trail: From Harvey Cove to Vista Point is 5 miles round trip

Cachuma Lake, besides storing an important part of Santa Barbara’s water supply, is a popular weekend destination for Southland anglers, campers, bird watchers and hikers.

The Trailmaster recommends that after you hit the trail, you board a boat. Cachuma Lake’s naturalist-led cruises explore the lake’s waterfowl and wildlife. Join a tour in winter and you’ll likely sight the migrating bald eagles that take up temporary residence at the lake.

While touring and hiking, you’ll be delighted by the great multitude of birds—the flocks of geese taking flight or the clouds of canvasbacks traveling in long, V-shaped formations. You’re almost certain to see the canvasback, a diving duck with a white back, rust-red head and long black bill. Likewise the bufflehead, one of the smallest diving ducks, a chubby white fellow with a black back that buzzes more like a fly than a bird.

The lake’s longest-legged resident is the great blue heron. Its long neck, regal bearing, great size and its habit of standing motionless for long periods on one leg makes it an easy photo target.

LakeCachumaEastEndCachuma Lake’s trail system is not extensive but does offer a unique perspective on the lake and its many species of waterfowl. Those bird watchers who hit the trail will glimpse numerous perching birds in the park’s oak woodland: acorn woodpeckers, Western bluebirds, goldfinches, juncos and lots of sparrows.

The lake’s Nature Center, headquartered in a 1930s ranch house, has displays about the ecology and history of the Santa Ynez Valley. Exhibits highlight birds, fish, local flora, and the native Chumash who once lived where the lake is today.

The park’s best trail is the Sweetwater, which meanders lakeside through an oak woodland to a vista point for a commanding panorama of Cachuma. Oak Canyon Trail, a nature trail, extends 0.75 mile from the Nature Center to the Sweetwater Trail.

From Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, exit on Highway 154 and drive 20 miles to the lake. Past the entry kiosk, turn left and follow the signs a half mile to Harvey Cove, where you’ll find parking for a dozen cars and signed Sweetwater Trail.

hike-SB-Cachuma-LakeTHE HIKE
The first one hundred yards of trail is a paved wheelchair-access route that leads to an oak-shaded picnic area and the Harvey Cove dock. From here, a dirt path follows the far side of the cove for 0.25 mile before angling left into a handsome oak woodland.

A bit more than a mile’s hike brings you to Sweetwater Cove, a tiny picnic area perched above the lake. The path joins a dirt road then, as it approaches Highway 154, resumes as a foot¬path that yo-yos up and down through oak forest before delivering you to Vista Point.

Enjoy the commanding view of Cachuma Lake, bordered on the south by the Santa Ynez Mountains, the north by the San Rafael range, then return the way you came. (click to enlarge map)

Interested in more hikes in Santa Barbara? Check out my guide: HIKE Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara’s More Mesa Offers Hiking and More

Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, follow on Facebook.

More Mesa offers more: a defacto nature preserve, great bird-watching, a network of walking-hiking trails and access to Santa Barbara’s most isolated beach. I’ve been hiking More Mesa for more than 30 years, and it’s been my great pleasure to share this hike in my guidebooks for nearly that long.

The More Mesa Preservation Coalition held a symposium recently to remind locals and conservationists statewide about the wonders of nature the mesa holds and the perils of development it could face.

220px-White-Tailed_KiteMore Mesa has a diversity of habitats and attracts an abundance of bird life. It’s known for its bird life, including 16 different species of raptors. The white-tailed s kite, marsh hawk and other raptors, are quite active over the mesa in their pursuit of prey. Rare birds include the northern harrier and short-eared owl.

This land has been threatened by development for decades. And it still is, though any development scheme faces vociferous opposition. Prominent Saudi developer Sheikh Khalid S. Al-Shobily purchased More Mesa in 2012, but has not announced any development plans.

The mesa was once part of Thomas More’s Rancho La Goleta, who bought it in 1857 and grazed cattle here. More noticed natural tar seeping from mesa cliffs, gathered it up and sold it to the city of San Francisco, where the asphaltum was used to pave city streets.

A mile-long walk up a residential street, across the bluffs, and down the cliffs on a combo stairs-pathway leads to a clean, mellow and sandy beach. More Mesa is a great walk without going down to the beach. The property is honeycombed with trails.

John-on-More-Mesa-coastal-bluffsI like hiking a 2.5-mile loop around mesa. If you’re new to More Mesa, I suggest taking a counter-clockwise route. Head for the stairs to the beach, then take the path extending up-coast along the oceanside edge of More Mesa. Choose from a narrow footpath at the very edge of the bluffs or a wider one paralleling and enjoy views of the Channel Islanda and of the UCSB campus a few miles to the west

The Trailmaster likes to walk the full length of the bluffs before turning inland near a line of homes and commercial nursery. (You can also follow the bluff trail to intersect other trails on your right that lead north toward the mountains and dip into oak-filled ravines.) Turn back east, along the inland edge of the mesa, continuing past a profusion of trails to close the loop and rejoin the main trail near the trailhead.

Directions to More Mesa: From upper State Street at its junction with Highway 154, continue west along State as it becomes Hollister 1.2 miles to Puente Drive. Turn left (south). Puente Drive bends west, undergoes a name change to Vieja Drive, and passes Mockingbird Lane on your left 0.7 mile from Hollister. Public parking is not permitted along Mockingbird Lane; you must park along Puente Drive/Vieja Drive and walk up the lane past gated residential streets to the gated entrance to More Mesa. (Or exit Highway 101 on Turnpike. Head south to Hollister and turn left. Drive a few blocks to Puente Drive and follow above directions.)
Interested in more hikes in Santa Barbara? Check out my guide: HIKE Santa Barbara

Satwiwa: Hike In the Steps of the Chumash

Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, follow on Facebook.
Satwiwa offers a chance to explore a place where Chumash walked for thousands of years before Europeans arrived on the scene. I hiked this little spread in the western Santa Monica Mountains recently just after reading “TIQSLO’W: The Making of a Modern Day Chief” (Amethyst Moon Publishing) by Mary Louise Contini Gordon.

It’s an “ethnographic biography” of a Native American Chief, better known as Charlie Cooke (1935-2013) and tells the story of an unassuming truck driver who devoted his life to preserving his Chumash heritage and sharing it with others. The author presents a lively and detailed account of Cooke’s activism and successful efforts to create a living museum, Satwiwa, to celebrate Native American Indian culture. Especially intriguing is the story of how Cooke, with limited schooling, acquired a deep knowledge of the history and ways of his people and shared it with others.

I remember taking Cooke’s guided walks at Satwiwa. Cooke showed how the Chumash ate the delectable purple pears from the prickly pear cactus without getting a mouth full of thorns. He explained how acorns were gathered, leached, ground into mush and prepared for cooking.

Rancho-SV-Satwiwa-lodgeHe pointed out the seeds, roots, bulbs, berries and black walnuts that made up the Chumash diet. Birds, deer and squirrels were caught year round. Fish and shellfish from Mugu Lagoon and from the Santa Barbara Channel also provided a major food source.

It was this abundant food supply that helped the Chumash become the largest Indian tribal group in California at the time of Cabrillo’s arrival in 1542. Chumash territory ranged from Topanga Canyon near the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains, all the way up the coast to San Luis Obispo, and out to the Channel Islands.

“A lot of visitors are really surprised to learn of the extent of Chumash settlement,” Cooke told me on a hike through Satwiwa. “And they’re even more surprised to meet a living Chumash.”

A visitor center and guest speakers help moderns learn the habits of birds and animals, the changes the seasons bring, and gain insight into the ceremonies that kept—and still keep—the Chumash bonded to the earth.

The name of this park site, Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa reflects its history as both a longtime (1870s-1970s) horse and cattle ranch and ancestral land of the Chumash. Satwiwa means “The Bluffs” and was the name of a Chumash settlement located at this end of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Rancho-SV-satwiwa-centerThe National Park Service prefers to call Satwiwa a culture center rather than a museum in order to keep the emphasis on living Native Americans. Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center is open Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is staffed by a Native American guest host or ranger ready to answer questions about culture, history or the nearby trail system.

The park service decided not to interpret the loop trail through Satwiwa with plant ID plaques and brochures; instead of the usual natural history lessons, it’s hoped that hikers will come away with a more spiritual experience of the land.

From the parking lot, Satwiwa Loop Trail is about 2 miles round trip with 200-foot elevation gain. If you’d like to extend the hike, I recommend hitting the trail to Big Sycamore Waterfall, 5.6 miles round trip or continuing along the From parking area, add 0.5 mile round trip to all hikes.

Directions: From Highway 101 in Newbury Park, exit on Wendy Drive and head south a short mile to Borchard Road. Turn right and travel 0.5 mile to Reino Road. Turn left and proceed 1.2 miles to Lynn Road, turn right and continue another 1.2 miles to the park entrance road (Via Goleta) on the south side of the road opposite the Dos Vienta housing development. The paved park road passes an equestrian parking area on the right and a small day use parking lot on the left before dead-ending at a large parking lot 0.7 miles from Lynn Road.

Photo Captions: Hike in the footsteps of the Chumash at Rancho Sierra Vista / Satwiwa in the Santa Monica Mountains. Satwiwa, the ancestral land of the Chumash, in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Learn about the Chumash and other tribes at the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center.

Hiking Business

Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, (site and store here)

Like many of you, hiking is my passion. Probably unlike you, though, hiking is also my business.

JM-Montecito-BankI thought about the hiking business, most particularly my hiking business when my local bank called up to remind us that The Trailmaster Inc. was the “Business of the Month” for February. Would we please come over to the main branch of Montecito Bank & Trust on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara and set up a display about our business?

So off I went with Cheri, Mrs. Trailmaster, who, quick as you can say “Hike on,” threw a hiking-themed cloth over a table in the lobby, arranged an attractive display of our books, and popped up a poster that features hiking scenes, the Trailmaster logo and a tag line: “Publishing books that celebrate America’s most popular form of outdoor recreation—hiking!”

Books are a major part of The Trailmaster’s hiking business, which also includes public speaking, making videos and leading the occasional tour.

The Trailmaster has been banking with Montecito Bank & Trust for 20 years and it’s the kind of friendly, small town bank we like with friendly tellers and all the latest electronic banking methods. Of course anyone in the hiking business has just got to love the bank’s motto: “Pathways to Prosperity.”

The Trailmaster has definitely walked and written about a lot of pathways, though I’m still looking for the one that leads to Prosperity with a capital “P.” It’s difficult to have a conversation about the hiking business because almost no one believes me that I make a living telling people to “Take a hike!”

“So John, what do you do?”

“I’m a hiker.”

“Seriously, what’s your real job?”

If I had a pound of trail mix for every time I’ve been asked that question, I’d have a ton of the stuff by now.

The fact is, being a hiker is my job—and has been for more than three decades.

They say, “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

Uh, not always, but I still feel blessed to be able to share my passion with countless hikers and would-be hikers. I wouldn’t trade hiking for all the money in the world.

Answering “I’m a hiker” to one of society’s most fundamental questions provokes some interesting responses.

Some questioners suspect they’re being trifled with and stare right through me. Others figure I’m unemployed and my last employer told me to take a hike and I must have taken this edict literally.

I admit I sometimes choose to avoid this line of conversation and answer the what-do-you-do question with the gig of the moment: “I’m writing a book about hiking in California’s State Parks.” Or “I’m working with the County Fire Department to make a series of hiker safety videos.”

“I’m a hiker” is my most frequent response though, and the most honest one.

I am a hiker. By temperament. By orientation. By choice.

Hiking is my business.

And a whole lot more.

The Many Blessings of Saint Barbara

Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, (site and store here)

Saint-Barbara-iconSt. Barbara’s Day, December 4, is as good a day as any to give thanks for the many blessings of Saint Barbara and for the wonderful city on the California coast named for the martyred saint. I’ve been truly blessed to call Santa Barbara home for more than 30 years.

I moved here after grad school in 1981 and wrote my first hiking book. Not surprisingly, the cover picture of “Day Hiker’s Guide to Southern California” showed a trail on Figueroa Mountain in the Santa Barbara backcountry with two hikers—John McKinney (not yet The Trailmaster) and my cute friend Callie.

I’ve hiked all over the country since then, but there’s not place like home—especially if your home is in Santa Barbara. My home mountains, the Santa Ynez Mountains beckon with wonderful canyon trails and I try to take at least one or two of them a week at the very least. My home shores offer some wonderful beach walks, bluff-top rambles and coastal hikes.

It’s been a great pleasure walking about and writing about Santa Barbara coast and mountains, and taking hikes with friends and family. I particularly treasure the times my children, Sophia and Daniel, explored the local footpaths with their dad.

But I digress and let’s return to how Santa Barbara got its name. It seems when explorer Sebastian Vizcaino’s crewmen found their tiny ship tossed about by a nasty storm on the eve of Saint Barbara’s Day in 1602, they prayed for her to intervene and save them from a cruel death at sea. When the day dawned, and the ship found safe harbor, the grateful men named this coastal refuge for the saint.

Saint Barbara, whose father beheaded her after she embraced Christianity in defiance of his beliefs, symbolizes courage, faith and virtue to Christians all over the world. Mission Santa Barbara was consecrated on its present site on December 4, 1786, coinciding with the feast day of the martyred Saint Barbara. She’s particularly popular to this day worldwide with artillery divisions of the military and those who work with explosives from the Greek Army to the British Royal Artillery to the U.S. Marine Corps.

My church, Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, located in the Santa Barbara foothills on San Antonio Road, holds a special service and celebration on the saint’s name day. After the service and the luncheon I like to continue the celebration with a little hike.

Thank you Saint Barbara, for the protection against thunder and lightning you’ve offered me when I’ve been caught by storms on trails far from home, and for watching over the city I call home.

Hike the Santa Ynez Valley

Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, (site and store here)

Hike the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country and enjoy a couple of short trails that lead from tasting room to tasting room. Located near the little town of Los Olivos, the “Foxen Canyon Wine Trail” offers a tour from winery to winery along Foxen Canyon Road. The tour is for motorists (and some cyclists) but I’m happy to report there’s also a hiking trail to take in Foxen Canyon.

Unwind, uncork, and take a hike in the Santa Barbara wine country.
Unwind, uncork, and take a hike in the Santa Barbara wine country.

Perched atop a commanding mesa overlooking Zaca Canyon, the Santa Ynez Valley and the wilderness beyond, Firestone Vineyard is the oldest (established in 1972) estate winery in Santa Barbara County. The large (by valley standards) winery produces acclaimed Merlots, Chardonnays and Rieslings. And it boasts the first and only hiking trail, too,

During the 1990s, winery founder Brooks Firestone represented the county in the State Assembly for a few terms, before returning to expand the family business. From the earliest days of wine touring in the Santa Ynez Valley, Firestone Vineyard has been a major player and must-stop.

Hikers were pleased when Firestone constructed “Brooks’ Trail” around the vineyard. The pleasant pathway connects Firestone Vineyard with the former Curtis Winery tasting room, recently taken over by Andrew Murray Vineyards.

Andrew Murray wines are much admired, particularly for fine Rhône varieties, and it’s probably a safe bet that The Trailmaster is the one and only person who associates Andrew Murray wines with hiking. Let me explain:

Mountain and (Santa Ynez) Valley vistas are highlights of Brooks’ Trail.

A decade ago, when I was leading hiking tours of Santa Barbara for an upscale walking vacation company, Andrew Murray Vineyards was quite hospitable to our hiking groups. Andrew’s Mom (Fran Murray) was active with a wonderful group, the Santa Ynez Valley Women Hikers, and she and Andrew gave us permission to walk their property and then arranged a post-hike wine tasting. A couple times, Andrew himself did the pour and proudly explained where he wanted to go with the family business. For some of the hikers on my tour, it was the highlight of the week!

So here’s a toast to the Murrays, winemakers and hikers.

If you have a designated driver (always a good idea if you’re on a tasting tour), you can make this an even easier 1.2 mile one-way hike (mostly downhill) from Firestone to Curtis.

Plan your hike for a time when Firestone Vineyard’s tasting room is open, usually 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. daily. The main gain is open a little before and after these hours.

For a little more wine country hiking, pay a visit to Zaca Mesa Winery, which occupies a scenic plateau overlooking Foxen Canyon. The winery offers tastings and two short trails, which look a bit neglected these days. Windmill Trail (0.25 mile) climbs to a picnic area then up to a little overlook. Z Trail (0.25 mile) also climbs to an overlook (a popular promontory for exchanging wedding vows). The path winds among the region’s two kinds of oaks—coastal live and valley—helpfully identified by signs en route.

It’s uphill back to Firestone Winery but it’s an easy ascent, even after a bit of wine-tasting.
It’s uphill back to Firestone Winery but it’s an easy ascent, even after a bit of wine-tasting.

If you’re fantasizing about hiking across the valley from winery to winery and stopping at each tasting room along the trail, you’re going to be disappointed. Sauntering through vineyards in the valley is just not possible or encouraged like it is in Provence and Tuscany. We hikers are grateful to Firestone and Andrew Murray for this small sampling of Santa Ynez Valley wine-country trails, but the valley is so beautiful and enticing, we’re left thirsting for more.

The signed path begins by the picnic area, located just below the Firestone tasting room. Valley vistas are superb from the start of the trail. The trail descends to the vineyard, skirts rows and rows of grapes, and soon crosses the vineyard’s paved entry road.

Brooks Trail climbs a bit, then contours along oak-dotted slopes. Enjoy grand views of Foxen Canyon and the greater wine country. The sights and sounds of cars traveling Foxen Canyon and the rise and dip of active oil rigs amidst the rows of grape are also part of the valley scene. The path descends to Andrew Murray Winery and Visitor Center, where there are grassy picnic grounds under the shade of ancient oaks.

Directions: From Highway 101, some 45 miles north of Santa Barbara, exit on State Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass Rd.) and head east 2.5 miles to Foxen Canyon Road. Turn left and follow the winding road 4.4 miles to a junction with Zaca Station Road. Firestone Vineyard is located 0.7 mile south on Zaca Station Road. Curtis Winery is just west on the continuation of Foxen Canyon Road.

The most direct route to Firestone Vineyard is to exit Highway 101 on Zaca Station Road and proceed 2.5 miles northeast.

San Rafael Wilderness, America’s First

By John McKinney, Outdoor Editor. Follow the Trailmaster on Facebook.

The Wilderness Act celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 3, 2014, and my first thoughts are with the first Wilderness set aside by this amazing piece of legislation: the San Rafael Wilderness.

Interpretive sign near Manzana Creek describes the 25th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Time to celebrate the 50th anniversary with a new sign!
Interpretive sign near Manzana Creek describes the 25th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Time to celebrate the 50th anniversary with a new sign!

The San Rafael Wilderness also happens to be the one closest to my home. It’s about 16 miles as the condor flies from downtown Santa Barbara to the southern boundary of the San Rafael and about 25 miles to NIRA Campground, a popular trailhead for hikes into the wilderness. The Wilderness Act first protected some 9 million acres of America’s wild lands as official Wilderness. Many more wondrous wild lands have been added to the national wilderness system, and today about 110 million acres of mountains, desert, forest and seashore are part of the nation’s natural heritage.

The 197,380-acre wilderness includes two parallel mountain ranges, the San Rafael Mountains and Sierra Madre Mountains and two major waterways, the Sisquoc River and Manzana Creek, which eventually merge and flow into the ocean near Santa Maria.

Hit the trail into the San Rafael Wilderness (one of America’s first designated wilderness areas), located in Los Padres National Forest about 25 miles as the condor flies from Santa Barbara, California.
Hit the trail into the San Rafael Wilderness (one of America’s first designated wilderness areas), located in Los Padres National Forest about 25 miles as the condor flies from Santa Barbara, California.

The hiking along Manazana Creek is pretty mellow—a good day hike or fine family weekend backpack adventure. For something more challenging, hike along Hurricane Deck, a rugged 15-mile long sandstone ridge that divides the drainages of Manzana Creek and the Siquoc River.

“San Rafael is rocky, rugged, wooded and lonely,” President Lyndon B. Johnson remarked when he signed the San Rafael Wilderness bill on March 21, 1968. “I believe it will enrich the spirit of America.”

Certainly Santa Barbarans—at least those who’ve explored the Los Padres National Forest backcountry—have been enriched by our nearby wilderness.

Fortunate is he or she who has camped along the Manzana River, hiked the awesome and austere Hurricane Deck and sighted a condor soaring high over the oak-dotted potreros and chaparral.

It is altogether fitting that we give thanks for wilderness, refuges for Nature primeval and places that uplift the human spirit.

Coast Walks in Santa Barbara

Coast-Walks-SB-coverSanta Barbara View’s outdoor editor John McKinney, aka the Trailmaster, has released a new book in time for the holidays titled, COAST WALKS: Santa Barbara; Best Beach Walks and Coastal Hikes.

“These are my home shores and I’m delighted to share my favorite beach walks, bluff-top rambles and coastal hikes,” says John in his blog about the new book. “COAST WALKS: Santa Barbara is a collection of time-tested classic walks long enjoyed by my family, friends and fellow Santa Barbarans, as well as newer adventures worthy of your time and attention.

Santa Barbara County offers miles of pleasant sand beach with the ocean and islands on one side and the mountains on the other. Many of the county’s beaches are lined by narrow coastal terraces that have the effect of protecting them from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Continue reading…

National Lands: Twelve Kinds of Public Land You Can Hike (Except when the U.S.Government Shuts Down)

By John McKinney, Outdoor Editor. Follow the Trailmaster on Facebook.

Everyone knows of the nation’s crown jewels—America’s national parks. And it’s the national parks and the disappointment of people from across the nation and around the world who can’t visit them because of the government shut-down that’s made the news.

Few of us–hikers or not–realize that America boasts a dozen more national lands, some under the stewardship of the National Park Service and others under the jurisdiction of other federal land use agencies. Here’s a quick reference guide for the hiker.

National Conservation Area: Similar to National Monument status; applies solely to BLM lands. Granted only by Congress. Individual site determines allowable recreational activities.

National Forest or Grassland Land managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and may allow a wide variety of activities including logging, mining, and oil and gas drilling, as well as trail activities, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, and OHV use.

Juan Bautista De Anza Historic Trail helps visitors follow in the footsteps of California’s early explorers and settlers.
Juan Bautista De Anza Historic Trail helps visitors follow in the footsteps of California’s early explorers and settlers.

National Historic Trail (NHT) Federally designated extended trails, which closely follow original routes of nationally significant travel (explorers, emigrants, traders, military, etc.). NHTs do not have to be continuous, can be less than 100 miles in length, and can include land and water segments. The Iditarod, the Lewis and Clark, the Mormon Pioneer, and the Oregon trails were the first to be designated as NHTs in 1978.

National Monument Federal areas of unique ecological, geological, historic, prehistoric, cultural, or scientific interest. Traditionally used for historic structures or landmarks on government land; more recently used to grant national park-like status to tracts of western land. Designated by Congress or the president. Individual site determines allowable recreational activities.

National Park Managed by the National Park Service primarily to protect resources and recreation opportunities. Some allow grazing, but do not allow hunting, mining, or other extractive uses. Continue reading…