Walks around Santa Barbara

This post is queued as I'm currently gallivanting in Los Angeles

I'll be straight with you: I'm a city kid.  I am not outdoorsy by nature.  We would never pack up our walking boots and anoraks and head out into the country in my family, day trips generally meant museums or stately homes.  I'd even try and avoid walking the dog if I could possibly get someone else to do it.  It wasn't until I moved to California that I started to develop a real appreciation for nature, which isn't difficult when you live 10 minutes from the beach.  An easy walk that will take up an afternoon is to stroll through the nature reserve at the top of Del Playa, which leads through a gorgeous area like you'll see above until you reach the Goleta Monarch Butterfly Grove.  It's a wooded area filled with the fluttering insects, much bigger than butterflies I'd seen at home.  They absolutely cover the trees, and during mating season you'd have to be careful where you stood as they were copulating all over the ground.  The mass migration (I think late February) is also a great thing to watch.

Isla Vista and Santa Barbara stand at the foot of the Santa Ynez Mountains, and these are an excellent place to get panoramic views of the county, out to the ocean and even the Channel Islands on a clear day.  My first hiking experience was with the Excursion Club at UCSB (left), where we headed to a spot known as the Playgrounds due to the large boulders that you can climb and leap from one to the other.  We sat and watched the sunset, which was beautiful, but you have to be sure that your guide knows the area well since there is no artificial light in the area and it can get dangerous getting back to the car.  My friend Megan and I made the trip again later in the year and it doesn't disappoint, unlike Tangerine Falls (right).

Alright, in all honesty we didn't make it to Tangerine Falls.  We ended up on a different trail, which was lovely, but not the one we'd intended.  If anybody does make it to Tangerine Falls let me know how it was!  I heard good things, but our wander through the woods was lovely anyway.  Another thing to do is head to Inspiration Point near downtown SB, a lovely craggy valley like this above which eventually leads you to the aptly named outlook.  This is one I did on my last visit in April, when my intense sunburn necessitated long sleeves and leggings - sweaty to say the least.  And naturally you are overtaken by incredibly fit older Californians who take these hikes like afternoon strolls, often with a dog in tow.

Do some research into the different levels of difficulty for each hike you're interested in, because locals will say "oh it's easy" or call mountains "hills" and if you're not used to intensive walking that can be quite a challenge.  But don't let that deter you, there is something for everyone.  And if you or someone you are travelling with is physically handicapped there are many trails through nature reserves that are paved, or roads like the Chumash Highway that can lead you to some breathtaking views.  Santa Barbara County is the loveliest in Southern California so definitely get out there and explore.

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