Arroyo Hondo Preserve

Land Trust for Santa Barbara County

Map link.

Over a month ago, I asked my mom if she wanted to go to Arroyo Hondo and she said she'd been wanting to. It then took two months to get sorted because Arroyo Hondo is not as easy to visit as most of the Land Trust's holdings. Reservations are needed during open days on the first and third weekend of the month. (Click here for information on visiting.) When trying to make reservations for the upcoming weekend, we were told we were too late to get them and there was a function during next open weekend. Our own schedules conflicted after that, but we finally found a day. So I find myself traveling "north" on the 101 until just the right moment when I take a hard right off the highway at one of the smaller roads along the side, one that doesn't even have a right turn lane or a crossing point to head back the other way. A little sign says "Arroyo Hondo Preserve" and another by the gate informs of the required reservations. I cross a bridge and park by a big "parking" sign, but it would have been okay to park by the barn. We are greeted as we check out the informative sign by the barn and told that we are the only visitors for today but there are a few who were camping for the weekend up at the meadow and that the creek is dry.

wooden gate along a fence
One trail heads off through a gate and out onto the grassy Rincon Shale.

We pass a gate to the West Ridge Trail and head up along the creek on the road. Oaks, bays, and sycamores line the creek. A utility road and another route up to the Western Ridge turn off unmarked to the left. A sign informs us we are passing into Vaqueros Sandstone as grasses turn to chaparral. A couple flowers remain among the thick, dry vegetation around the sign. There's a few ripe blackberries along the way, too, although somehow fewer just after I pass. A trail goes of to the right and crosses the creek just before the road crosses the creek at a deep puddle.

road passing grasslands on one side and tree lined creek on the other
The road follows the trees that follow the creek.

old oak with holes down the middle
An old oak tree standing beside the dry creek bed.

water pooling on the road
A pool of water as the road crosses shows the creek is not so dry after all. Wooden walkways like the one on the left are provided over many of the crossings.

The campers are packing up as we approach. We've already moved back in time into another named layer of rock: the Sespe Formation. We decide to go on the little Hideout Trail. This takes us to a pleasant little picnic area and gives a touch of view, although there are many trees blocking it. A discovery of low batteries prompts a quick trip back to the car, which I do by way of the Bear Trail scaring a turkey vulture from taking a sip up into a nearby tree.

the hideout in the oaks with a little glimpse of what this side of the canyon looks like
Hiking up to the hideout in the oaks, we get to see a little bit of the eastern side of the canyon.

turkey vulture in a bay tree
The turkey vulture is still there as I return along the Bear Trail.

We head down the rest of the Hideout Trail to Hollister Meadow and the road. A few old adobe bricks show where there was once a mill. Plaques are nailed to a nearby tree. The meadow is large and flat and currently occupied by the last of the campers. Numerous tables below it would support the dinner habits of a much larger group.

the remains of adobe bricks
Left uncared for for many years, this is the remnant of an adobe building. The tiles are new, from the construction of a roof that takes sheltering duties from the nearby oak.

Above the meadow, trail splits off from the road again. We take the Lower Outlaw Loop Trail up to another picnic table and a much better view, but no shade. Mom decides against continuing much further up the Upper Outlaw Trail, but I climb it for even better views down to the ocean and across to the western side. They turn out to be a packaged deal with views of the city dump on the other side of the ridge.

rock face on the opposite side of the canyon
It doesn't take much climbing above Hollister Meadow, the flat in the lower left, to start to see out over a great area.

canyon wall with a zig-zagging up the side of it
Across the canyon, the Western Ridge Trail zig-zags up in the chaparral and returns to the creek over the grasslands.

terraced and dirt covered eyesore
On the other side of the ridge, the city dump. I'm happy to abide by the sign.

Coming to a split in the trail with a small sign with a double headed arrow, I turn to the left. The climb was sun drenched, but here there is welcome shade from a couple large oak trees. Soon, I come to another split without even the minimal sign found before. Spotting something to be curious about, I investigate and find a rain gauge with an antenna and solar panel. I then continue along the right spur the gauge was near, but this suddenly ends in view of more trail. I have accidentally taken a short cut and missed some nice rocks that the correct trail travels along. It is quickly clear that I have passed over Alegria Sandstone and into Gaviota Sandstone.

oak limb hanging over the trail by large sandstone rocks
The trail twists around rocks and oaks near the top of the ridge.

highway, old highway, and train bridges crossing Arroyo Hondo
A look down the canyon and back to the highway crossing the canyon. The old bridge, lower than the new fill traverse, is just visible. The train bridge is easy to pick out behind both.

slabs of sandstone baking in the sun
Across the canyon, the sandstone sticks out is striking fashion.

a look up canyon to the older sandstones
Looking up the canyon, there's more sandstone appearing from the chaparral and there are a few dark holes of the characteristic caves of Gaviota Sandstone.

I finish the loop and head down again. Mom is still resting in the shade and we continue down the rest of the lower loop. We are quickly under big trees as we progress around a small tributary. Crossing a bridge that seems to have had a lot of effort put into its looks and not so much into its supports, we find a few massive grape vines climbing through the trees. Further down, there are giant ferns and I almost step on a newt. Water oozes from the rocks and the creek is flowing here. We cross it to the Brandy's West Creek Trail.

wooden bridge across the tributary
A wooden bridge that looks more like a work of art than a functional thing, but it didn't wiggle a bit.

giant ferns in the canyon
Giant ferns below the trail.

a sandy and red California newt
A newt on the trail.

We start up the last bit of trail in the canyon, immediately crossing back over the creek. There are Humboldt lilies here, but they have finished their show. We cross the creek again into a slab of rock full of fossils and with a small stream running out of it. One more crossing, and we've come to the end of the trail.

the seed pods of the Humboldt lily, showing a little pink on the edges
Still showing a little color in some pink on the seed pods, the Humboldt lilies are done being showy.

squiggly lines in the rock from clam shells beside a fern
A fern takes advantage of a spring coming from under a layer thick with ancient clam shells.

cliff wall by a turn in the creek
Just past the end of the trail, a cliff face towers over a turn in the creek. The water below it is stagnant and clay filled.

Having hit the end of the trail, we turn around and follow our route back to the last junction. From here, we continue along the west side of the creek back to the adobe and barn. Once finished hiking, we look inside the adobe, the first two rooms of which are open and contain the gallery and a bit of history. We also look into the barn, which contains all kinds of natural history.

lizard on a bit of concrete by a tiller
A lizard relaxes next to an old tiller in the garden by the adobe.

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 21 August 2013

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  1. Great newt pic! AM hikes with a bit of hill so I can go further next time.

  2. Nice picture show Valerie, glad you finally Gordon to see this unique place aside from the city dump. You sure know your geology, botany and zoology.

  3. Ah, well, the city dump is a good reminder of what else goes away when we throw something away. Cañada de la Pila, though smaller, would have looked very similar and was probably once loved by someone just as much as Arroyo Hondo is today, but is now the Tajiguas Landfill.

    I have plenty of help with identifications. The geology is extensively illustrated on a couple signs, one by the barn and one by the picnic table on the Outlaw Trail. I often consult the Santa Barbara Trail Guide for wildflowers, although they do seem to be missing many. Sometimes a commenter points out such things as that all manner of interesting flowers are milkweeds. California Herps has an extensive website on all things reptilian and amphibian, but the California newt is the usual suspect.


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