Montecito, Land of Many Hills
Though located just east of Santa Barbara, Montecito reeks of old money and early California history. The estates are large and plentiful, often the drive in to them measured in hundreds of yards and well hidden for the most part from us unwashed masses.
That said, the rolling, oak-covered hills and narrow, winding streets (more lanes than roads) create an ambiance that is as beautiful as it gets. The road riding is spectacular and the hiking even nicer. In typical Montecito fashion, the trailheads are barely noticeable: the signs small and the parking areas equally so. But with a good map — like those we've created here — you'll soon be off on one of a handful of very nice walk abouts.
I suppose you can't really call the Montecito trails town strolls, as they are both on dirt and involve some amount of uphill effort but they are all reasonably easy walks and family friendly. Best of all, many of them offer great views out over the Montecito Valley and loop opportunities that are a lot more fun that out and back walks.
Best hike of all is the quiet stroll though a part of the Ennisbrook Estates, now set aside as a preserve thanks to the efforts of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Thgough well hidden you may catch a glimpse here and there of Oprah's fabulous estate which is located along the west edge of Ennisbrook. You'll also find great hiking on the Valley Club and Coffin trails, both of which will connect you to the Summerland trails network if you're interested in a longer hike.
For more info check out Walker Tompkins' A History of Montecito. Below is a brief glimpse of the area's colorful history:
The site of present-day Montecito, along with the entire south coast of Santa Barbara County, was inhabited for over 10,000 years by the Chumash Indians. The Spanish arrived in the 18th century, but left the region largely unsettled while they built the Presidio and Mission Santa Barbara farther west.
In the middle of the 19th century the area was known as a haven for bandits and highway robbers, who hid in the oak groves and canyons, preying on traffic on the coastal route between the towns that developed around the missions. By the end of the 1860s the bandit gangs were gone, and Italian settlers arrived. Finding an area reminiscent of Italy, they built farms and gardens similar to those they had left behind in Italy. Around the end of the 19th century, wealthy tourists from the eastern and mid-western United States began to buy land in the area. It was near enough to Santa Barbara for essential services while still being secluded. Desirable weather and several nearby hot springs offered the promise of comfortable, healthy living, in addition to the availability of affordable land.
The Montecito Hot Springs Hotel was built near the largest of the springs, in a canyon north of the town center and directly south of Montecito Peak, in Hot Springs Canyon. The hotel burned down in 1920; it was replaced a few years later by the smaller Hot Springs Club. The architect George Washington Smith is noted particularly for his residences around Montecito, and for popularizing the Spanish Colonial Revival style in early 20th century America, as is Lutah Maria Riggs, who started as a draftsman in Smith’s firm, rose to partner, and later started her own firm.
Montecito’s scenery and climate lured such established families as the DuPonts, Rockefellers, Carnegies and McCormicks to create palatial mansions which occupied hilltops overlooking Montecito’s beautiful oak woodlands.
Excerpt, Historical Archives