03 March 2015

San Marcos Foothills Preserve

Santa Barbara County Park




The county has some nice open spaces and parks, but the San Marcos Foothills Preserve may well be the most beautiful of them all. It sits among grassy hills studded with oak and pepper trees with views of the mountains and the ocean. We pass a small encampment of painters, two pointed at the land and one pointed at the sea, just before coming to the preserve parking. Light breezes and warm sunshine give no memory of yesterday's rain, but a few muddy spots do.

panorama at the start
Some of the ocean views before even starting off into the preserve.

lizard on a fencepost
A lizard sits on a fence at the end of the road.


There is a large map showing a network of trails and property boundaries around the edges. It shows no contours, so is largely just flat green and not particularly useful. There is a main trail extending eastward and we take this. It curves around the hills, staying rather flat and giving a lot of length. Smaller trails head off of it in a couple places.

pepper tree
One of many pepper trees on the preserve. Pepper trees were introduced by early European settlers.

trail through the grass
The big trail out on the preserve.

180 on the mountain side
From trail one way to trail the other way across the grass sea.

After a while, the trail drops down into a valley and up the other side, where it splits and wanders a little more. Another trail comes up from an entrance in the bottom of the valley. We start down into the valley, then turn up it instead. The valley itself is full of flowers and has a bee hive to service them. The hive is sufficiently far from the trail that most hikers probably do not even notice, although there is a bit of buzzing that can be heard from the trail.

very green valley
A little valley with a lot of green. Okay, some of the trails are more like roads.

rock rose blooming
Some blooming rock roses.

hummingbird sage
One level of blooms on some hummingbird sage.

bee on lupine
One of the bees heavy with pollen and getting more on a lupine.

After a little climb, we end up backtracking on the trail up the valley to take a much smaller trail and a bigger climb. The trail climbs all the way to the edge of private property where a fence keeps the public away from avocado trees. It cuts across to a road and more small trail climbs upward along the property line to another road.

looking down the valley
Climbing a small trail out of the valley. There is steadily more ocean to be seen from here with each step.

1912 monument
The property line was marked by F. F. Flournoy in 1912.

Getting to the top of this last hill brings Goleta into view as well. I would not have thought such expansive views could be had so low down the mountains.

fence and road and Goleta
Looking down along the fence, the pass is not so far away.

From here, it is a straight short back down to the parking lot, but I decide to take a detour along some more trails to the east, then pick this one up again further down. It turns out it is the trail that goes directly through a fence at the bottom. By the map with no landmarks except the road and trails, it is part of the park, so it is difficult to say why there is the fence.

panorama from Goleta to Santa Barbara
Goleta on one side, Santa Barbara on the other, and a trail through the grass down the middle.

Arroyo Burro in the distance
Looking down Arroyo Burro.

lots of clouds over the mountains
Mom is getting tired and took the less hilly route along the road rather than up more small trail.

Back at the start, the artists have already left and there are only a couple cars. Not many seem to come up here.




©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 4 March 2015

1 comment:

Margaret LaFon said...

Well worth another trip