Arroyo Burro - River -

On the Trail


Difficulty: Easy • Mileage: 3.75
Location: Lower Santa Ynez River
Features: Out & Back, Loop Trip, Viewpoint
User Type: Hiking, Equestrian Trail, Mountain Biking, Dog Walking, Trail Running , Picnicking


This is a delightful trail that leads up through a narrow canyon and because it isn’t traveled too often, is a nice hike for those who want a bit of solitude. The narrow, rocky canyon is shaded and is filled with lush riparian vegetation and a cool creek that runs year round except in extremely dry years.

The Basics

  • Season : All year.
  • Canine : Ok for dogs off leash.
  • Admin : Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara District

Things to Look For

  • Points of Interest : Out & Back,Loop Trip,Viewpoint

Find Other Similar Trails

Difficulty: Easy
Points of Interests: Out & BackLoop TripViewpoint
User Types: HikersEquestriansMountain BikersDog WalkerTrail RunnersPicnicker
Locations: Lower Santa Ynez River

Links & Resources


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Hike Details

  • Season : All year.
  • Canine : Ok for dogs off leash.
  • Admin : Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara District

Access / Getting There

  1. Follow Highway 154 over San Marcos Pass to Paradise Road.
  2. Turn right on Paradise and follow it for 5 miles to the first Santa Ynez River crossing. You will need to have an Adventure Pass or purchase one there to park anywhere inside the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area.
  3. After crossing the river continue 3/4 mile past Lower Oso and look for the White Oaks turnoff, which cuts down and across the river.
  4. You will need to park here and then hike down and across the river to access the lower end of Arroyo Burro Jeep Road.
  5. Arroyo Burro Trail is located a mile up the jeep road and is marked by a side road leading off to the right. 
  6. This road loops back to the main jeep road and part way along it the lower trailhead for Arroyo Burro leads across the creek and then up the canyon.

From Lower Oso drive .8 miles east on Paradise Road to the White Oaks turnoff. Turn right on it and drop down and across the river to the start of Arroyo Burro Road. Continue up the Arroyo Burro Road for a mile. The trailhead is just beyond a gate which is located in an open area to the right of the road.


Things to Know


Trip Log

On The Trail

Arroyo Burro Trail is Santa Barbara’s most historic trail, probably built by the Chumash who used it as a trading route to interior villages. Sadly today, the portion of it on the coastal side of the mountains is almost never used since its lower half runs through private property and is off limits. 

The trailhead is located almost opposite what was once Rancho Oso and is now operated as a large motor home park. Despite the proximity to these huge homes-away-from-homes, the canyon itself is both picturesque and pristine. Because Rancho Oso once was famous for its horseback riding, you’ll find a number of side trails in the lower canyon, especially on the west side of the creek but shortly above they merge into one, the main route to the top. The trail alternates between steeper rockier sections and ones that are fairly level and the hike is a bit like climbing a large natural staircase. 

The first half of the trail is the nicest. The canyon feeling is enjoyable and this section has a lush feeling about it, while the upper half of the trail leaves the canyon and passes primarily through chaparral. A loop hike can be made by continuing to the top of the trail and following the dirt road back down.

On The Bike

On The Run

On The Walk

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Last Updated: Monday, July 27, 2015