The Santa Ynez mountains above Santa Barbara mean several different things to people. They stand for wealth, for the massive homes that peer over our fair city and out to the ocean. They stand as a constant reminder of danger, a direct result of the fires that habitually ravage the hillside, coloring our lives with shades of orange and leaving ash everywhere. Last but not least, these hills also hold untold riches. A collection of trails, waterfalls, hot springs and swimming holes dot the hillside, and beckon to the citizens of Isla Vista and Santa Barbara.

At the suggestion of one of my readers, I chose the trail commonly known as Seven Falls, though it is truly a combination of several different routes. Along with me for the trip was my buddy Andrew, up from UCSD for the weekend, who provided both colorful commentary and another perspective from someone much more in shape than I am.

Seven Falls is one of the more commonly known hikes in the Santa Barbara area. Even I, a non-hiking, fairly oblivious person had heard rumors of a trail that culminated in swimming holes and waterfalls. As someone who could never get into hiking as a Boy Scout because there wasn’t ever “anything to do,” I need my gimmicks to get motivated to walk for fun. Fortunately, the Seven Falls (and Three Pools) trail promised such gimmicks. The Web site I found that described the trail promised an afternoon of sloshing up a creek bed, climbing up rocks and going for a dip in the pools at the end of the hike.

The car ride from I.V. took us on a route through the hilly part of Santa Barbara, passing by the mission and culminating in the best parking space score of my life: the closest one at the trail head. I was super stoked until Andrew reminded me that I had driven there for the purpose of walking, and that I was celebrating laziness.

The trail itself is not particularly challenging and comes in at about three miles round-trip. The walk up the road to the trailhead was steeper than any part of the hike itself. The majority of the hike is on a maintenance road used by Edison utility company and eventually devolves into dirt. The rest of the trail was a little hard to figure out, as it is not marked by “Seven Falls” but by other names of trails that diverge from it. Despite this we were able to stay on track by following the flow of people down the hill.

The best part of the hike by far is the last bit where the dirt meets the creek. Initially I was bummed to see that it was dry; however, after deciding to climb the rest of the trail through the creek bed, I began to appreciate how much more difficult it would have been with water rushing by.

The culmination of the trip was like hitting a wall, literally. You are presented with a rock that, if climbed, leads to one of several swimming holes, although on this day it was full of festering algae. Despite the greenish tint of the water, you can still clamber onto the rock that sits in the middle of the pool, document the view, and head back down just in time for dinner.

This Week’s Escape:
Distance from I.V.: 13.2 miles/22 minutes