Fremont Trail provides a short hike with great views of the Santa Ynez Valley and is easy enough that you can take small children on it. The ridge is sharp and after an immediate downhill, meanders over a series of knolls to a point where you can sit and look out on the backcountry and all of valley. It makes a nice evening hike, just before sunset
Stop at the point where the trail drops steeply down into the valley. Not too far down from here it goes onto private property.
The Fremont Trail is actually a bulldozed road which provides a lateral firebreak down the north side of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The road leads downhill for several hundred yards, making it appear as if this will be a strenuous hike, but shortly after this it levels off and meanders over soft, rolling hills for a mile before finally beginning to drop steeply downhill.
Though not a long hike, it is a very enjoyable one, especially in the spring, when the hills fill with green grass and colorful wildflowers. The feeling here is one of openness, the ridge rather sharp, offering views up and down the Santa Ynez Valley. To the east the sihlouette of Knapp’s Castle provides an interesting backdrop, while Lake Cachuma and Figueroa Mountain make for a breathtaking view to the west. This is a nice hike anytime but especially so near sunset or on a moonlit night.
My advice would be to turn around at the point where the Fremont Trail begins to drop down into the Santa Ynez Valley. After this point the trail is loose and steep, with private property further down that will eventually force you to turn back anyway.
For the adventurous, those who like the little niches that the mountain wall has hidden within and don’t mind the effort involved in finding them, a wonderful day’s exploration can be found in the canyon on the east side of the ridge. This is Paradise Canyon, a narrow, rocky creekbed filled with small waterfalls, pools and the quiet solitude of a wilderness setting. A small, rough trail leads down into the canyon a short distance after the initial drop from the paved road. Look for it just after the dirt road levels off. Beware though, poison oak will be found along this section.