The loop provides a wonderful opportunity to combine the scenery in the upper parts of San Ysidro Canyon with the beauty of Buena Vista Canyon and the nearby lookout point. Continuing down the canyon and across the Old Pueblo Trail completes the loop.
Driving up to the start of the Buena Vista Trail is a unique experience. The homes along the way are absolutely beautiful and once you reach the trailhead you will discover you can see all the way up into the canyon right from your car.
Halfway up to where the mountain wall shoots high up into the sky you can spot the narrows which makes Buena Vista Canyon so scenic. Bands of sandstone cut down across the canyon, creating a “V” which is like an entrance into another world.
My favorite way to reach the Buena Vista Trail is actually from the Wiman Trail. I like wandering through the backyards of the houses along the way and sampling the views out across the Montecito foothills. This provides a great warm-up before tackling the steeper mountain trails and allows me to loop back via the Buena Vista Catway if I feel like it later.
The first few hundred yards of the trail are steep. You are climbing up a series of sandstone ledges onto the shoulder of the foothills and there is a bit of effort involved. Once you near the “V” in the canyon the trail begins to level out and the hiking is much easier.
Geologically, you are moving through the Coldwater Sandstone and into the Cozy Dell Shale. The steeper hiking and the narrows take you through most of the Coldwater formation while the upper canyon is comprised mostly of the shales.
The sandstone canyon is filled with sycamore trees and provides spectacular colors in the fall and a lush green canopy in the spring and summer. Once you reach the narrows you will find yourself immersed in the forest of trees, cutting back and forth across the creek and winding in and out of a series of beautiful sandstone outcroppings. The upper canyon is like a hidden jewel: thick green grasses and the pastels of a myriad of wildflowers in the springtime. Several hundred yards of very enchanting walking brings you to the end of the canyon and a fork in the trail. This provides two possibilities.
The Buena Vista Trail turns to the right. Switchbacks take you up through the chaparral to the catway road. It is 500’ of climbing to reach the top but worth the effort. Not too far beyond the end of the trail and the beginning of the catway a small trail leads to a knoll which is marked on the Carpinteria topo with a small triangle and the elevation—1543’.
You will find a beautiful hand carved bench there to sit on and enjoy the sunset views. You can thank the Montecito Trails Foundation for providing this magnificent bench. If you have time you can also wander a half mile further on the catway to the Romero overlook before retracing your steps back to the Buena Vista trailhead.
The left fork trail will take you up to the Buena Vista Catway and then down into San Ysidro Canyon. The trail follows the Cozy Dell Shale up into a side canyon and then switches back and forth up to the power line towers. From there the catway drops quickly down into the upper end of San Ysidro Canyon. It is a bit less than a mile down the canyon to the San Ysidro trailhead.
For those who parked at the Buena Vista trailhead you can trace your way back to your car by taking the Old Pueblo Trail (Day Hike # 21). Look for the trail leading off to the left just after you climb a short hill and reach the large, well landscaped estate.