Knapp’s Castle is a short hike that is perfect for children, and sunset as well. The trail is only a half mile in length and almost level. The silhouette of the chimneys forms one of the most dramatic sights to be found anywhere in these mountains and kids love playing around them. From the Castle you have 180-degree views of the entire backcountry.
Even if you only have a few minutes to stop on your drive over the crest, the short hike to visit the remains of Knapp’s Castle is well worth the time. The easy hike not only offers a glimpse back into a period of time when this was wild, rugged country and the people who inhabited it were truly pioneers, but the most spacious views of the Santa Ynez Valley and the backcountry available anywhere.
While the dirt road is open to the public, the last several hundred yards leading to the Castle and the ruins themselves, are on private property. Presently, the owners haven't minded visitors but this could change, especially if people are thoughtless.
Please take extreme care while you are there to help preserve this piece of Santa Barbara’s history in as pristine a condition as possible.
For a half-mile, the dirt road winds through the chaparral, with enjoyable views out over the valley, though nothing that you might not have been afforded anywhere along Camino Cielo. But then suddenly you make a turn to the right and the Castle comes into view, a series of chimneys, rock walls, and arches that almost take your breath away.
At the site the walls provide abundant places to rest, to marvel at the 180 degree views offered of Santa Barbara’s mountainous interior, and to begin to picture in your mind what the Castle might once have been like when the rich made their way here for one of Knapp’s famous social engagements. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the haunting melodies of Dion Kennedy’s pipe organ floating in the breeze.
Just before the Castle the road leading to the left, down and away from the ruins is the start of the Snyder Trail which winds its way for three miles to Paradise Road. For the first half of this length the trail continues as a jeep path, the original route taken by Knapp’s guests on their way down to the Bathhouse.
For a half mile the road curves around the base of a large knoll then turns east and cuts across its flank through a forest of oak and bay trees. After a mile it opens onto a series of large grassy knolls and passes under a prominent set of power lines. Just after this point the trail drops down and to the left, in the process narrowing to a path that is just a few feet wide. To find the place where the trail turns left you’ll need to look carefully as the road continues east towards Lewis Canyon. From this turnoff the trail winds for another 1.5 miles to Paradise Road, first steeply downhill through grass and chaparral, then a series of switchbacks which cut back and forth through forests of oak, eventually leading to a dirt road that services a water tank which supplies nearby Forest Service homes.