15 March 2013

Hot Springs Canyon

Santa Barbara front country


Locate the trail head.

Hot Springs Canyon has been a private parcel of land where we were not, strictly speaking, allowed to visit. The land has hosted a hotel and clubs that utilized the supposedly healing waters that well up hot and stinky from the ground. However, late last March, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County picked it up with the intention of passing it on to the Los Padres National Forest which surrounds it. Now the public may access the land under all the usual rules for parks in the front country while the details of the transfer are still being worked out. I chose an approach to the canyon starting off at nearby San Ysidro although it does have its own trail head. This route offers a nice loop and a couple extra little hikes at the end if I'm feeling I haven't hiked far enough yet. I found a parking spot and started up the well marked trail along the property lines.

trail along the edge of Park Lane
Traveling along the side of Park Lane to get to the mountains. The dirt gets quite narrow here, but there is no need to hit pavement at any point along this trail.

old Pueblo Trail
The first of possible diversions along this trail is the Old Pueblo Trail.


I got to the McMenemy Trail, a thing that seems to always have kids playing in the stream crossing and "doesn't go anywhere", or so I tend to think since it is an east-west route. I turned down it and crossed the creek where two young boys were playing, supervised by a dad talking about the composting of tangerine peel as he ate one. The trail here is heavily shaded by eucalyptus trees, but this does not last long. Small trails break off from it, often with a sign indicating they are not trail. It starts climbing beside an old driveway to break into fierce sunlight and views.

eucalyptus trees along McMenemy Trail
Tall eucalyptus trees of all ages keep the first part of the trail shaded.

blue dicks
A few flowers can be found in the sparse undergrowth below the eucalyptus trees.

the view of Montecito is obscured by fog
Below is the lot the old driveway ends at. Here, there is plenty of sun, but not much view today due to the fog.

the views of the mountains are unencumbered by any clouds
The ridges and mountains behind are clear. Two hawks were riding the thermals around this ridge.

Lizards and flowers abound although some of the flowers may be getting a little old.

deep blue flowers with deeper colored stripes that sit with their petals bent back
A mysterious flower on the hillside.

large moth polinating the hummingbird sage
A moth the size of a small hummingbird having a sip from the hummingbird sage.

The trail meanders a bit near the top of the grade, eventually coming to a bench dedicated to Colonel Logan T. McMenemy and the junction with the Girard Trail. From there, it dips a little past a water tower and through a very small drainage before climbing up to the Saddle Rock Trail junction.

a small drainage above Montecito
The upper McMenemy Trail as it makes its exposed way along the foothills.

bush monkey flowers
Some bright and throaty bush monkey flowers.

morning glories with insect
A morning glory (or vine weed) along the side of the trail.

Coming up under a big tree, I could see a trail headed north. Around the other side of it, a sign pointed along the trail saying Saddle Rock. I turned to follow it to meet with the Edison Catway, which does make the last stretch to Hot Springs Canyon a spur where it could have been a loop, but I was feeling like going that way for the views in spit of the fog that was determined to hang around all day obscuring those views. The trail up to Saddle Rock is steep and eroded but not all that long.

rocks in a heart
Today's message at the top of Saddle Rock is one of love for Kiki.

From the top, the trail is unclear. One route wrapped around the hillside to the left while another went off to the right past a big rock. I chose the one on the left which had a little shade. The other trail came down to meet it before too long. None of it looks sanctioned, but in very little time it meets the Catway where it is marked by another sign.

Hot Springs Canyon with road
Hot Springs Canyon below with its fire road up to the Catway.

At the Edison Catway, I turned left to wander down to the ruins of the Montecito Hot Springs Club. It is generally downhill, meandering past hillsides white with ceanothus. Some large non-natives start popping up near the old resort. A spur with palm trees along it marks one entrance to the club while the road up marks a second. I went in and started poking around.

entry point to the old resort
Some of the ruins at the former Montecito Hot Springs Club. Presumably this was the foundation for the hotel.

burned timbers from the old building
Some burned timbers from the destroyed building.

hot water oozing out of the rocks
Hot water oozes out of the rocks in a number of locations. Below it, colorful algae and white mineral deposits from the acid can be found.

I started up a trail behind one of springs. It had plenty of cuts on the trees, but was not actually built. It got up to another trail that proceeded less steeply and did show some signs of being built. Being unsure of where it went and pretty sure I was low on water, I went down again hoping it connected with a second trail I'd seen. It dwindled instead, so I turned back and went back the way I'd come up to poke around the old foundation some more.

upper sections of Hot Springs Canyon
Hot Springs Canyon above the hot springs seems to be very steep and rocky.

palm trees along the road to the foundation
Palm trees up by the old foundation. Other non-natives flower all around them.

spiders covering the stream with web
A couple of spiders on the same web. Many others were holding down other webs very nearby covering over the top of the stream.

After poking around down by the stream and finding none of the old tubs, I followed the road beside the palm trees back to the road. I turned back to the east and took the Edison Catway back down to San Ysidro past the other end of the Girard Trail.  This route seemed more direct about getting over and then down than the trail route.  Just before crossing the creek, I passed another bench dedicated to three more people.

grasses going to seed
Little space ships.

San Ysidro Canyon
San Ysidro Canyon from a spur off to some towers. It is still a bit foggy.

San Ysidro Creek looked to be flowing nicely and the trail up to the waterfall is another little diversion offered along this route. Since it turned out I really was low on water, I skipped both it and the Old Pueblo Trail and simply returned to the car.




©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 16 Mar 2013

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