Montecito, one of the California coast’s priciest residential areas, has a park that seems much in keeping with its neighborhood. At the San Ysidro Creek Preserve, you half expect a gated entry or valet parking.
The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County secured these 44 acres along San Ysidro Creek, a part of the former estate of polo player Elmer Boeseke. After the preserve was established in the late 1980s, the Montecito Trails Foundation constructed and marked paths but otherwise left the land as it was.
A few miles of paths explore oak woodland and meander among rows of olive trees and eucalyptus. The preserve is meant for nature study and quiet reflection rather than picnicking and playing.
After your hike, consider a walk around Montecito’s Upper Village--down a country lane lined with storybook cottages, past wonderful shops and toward a terrific picnic spot, all within a mile.
Directions to the trail head: From U.S. 101 in Montecito, exit on San Ysidro Road. Head north briefly and make a right on San Leandro Lane. Jog left onto Hixon Road, then right back onto the continuation of San Leandro Lane. Follow the road to a pump house, a white picket fence and San Ysidro Creek Preserve on the north side of the lane, where you should park.
The hike: From the white fence, wander 100 yards and cross a handsome stone bridge over San Ysidro Creek. After half a mile, the path emerges from the trees and joins paved Ennisbrook Drive for 100 yards. The trail resumes and drops back to the creek.
After a bit more woodsy walking, you’ll cross another stone bridge and reach a junction. Take the left fork, which leads to a cul-de-sac at the end of East Valley Lane. Walk north a short way to a signed junction with a footpath leading east.
Follow this path to another junction. If you go straight, the path crosses the creek, winds through a eucalyptus forest and dead-ends. The right fork heads south, and you soon will be retracing your steps back to the trail head.
To explore Montecito, return to East Valley Lane and follow it north to East Valley Road. Turn left (west) and walk half a mile to the village’s shops and restaurants. The road is busier than you might expect, and the shoulder is narrow in places, so be careful.
On your way into town, turn right onto Periwinkle Lane and stroll through a wonderland of eucalyptus and oak, morning glory vines and lovely gingerbread houses. This fairy-tale neighborhood was built in the ‘30s and ‘40s by architect Harriet Moody. Follow Periwinkle as it curves around to Hodges Lane; turn left onto Hodges, then right back onto East Valley Road and resume your walk west.
Near East Valley and San Ysidro roads, don’t miss Pierre Lafond market. Here you may buy treats for a sumptuous picnic. Head south down San Ysidro Road a few blocks to Manning Park. Spread out your picnic and savor the day.
For more of John McKinney’s tips, visit www.thetrailmaster.com.