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Franklin Trail Crest Hike


The first section is an intermediate-level hike from the Franklin Trail trailhead to the trail’s third (formerly second) lookout bench. This section covers about 6 miles roundtrip and has roughly 1500 feet of elevation gain, out and back combined.

The second section of the route is at an advanced-intermediate level, owing to its added distance and elevation gain. This section ascends from the trail’s third bench to the turnout to the crest ascent at mile 5.2 of the trail. This section adds an additional 4 miles and 1500 feet of gain, roundtrip, to the above totals.

The third section of the hike is still more advanced, due to the added distance and elevation gain, and because several points on this part of the trail require skill and experience. This final part of the route begins at the mile 5.2 turnout and ends at the trail crest at mile 7.9. It adds an additional 6 miles and 2000 feet of gain, roundtrip, to the above totals.

Since our route is out and back, and well-marked, you can and should feel free to turn around and return to our starting point whenever you would like.

The hike’s distance and elevation change will depend on how far you follow the trail. If you hike with us all the way to the Franklin Trail Crest, expect a roundtrip of about 16 miles and approximately 5000 feet of gain (roughly 4200 feet of gain on the way up and then an extra 800 feet on the way down, owing to the undulating lower and middle sections of the trail).

If you are planning to do the full hike, please be sure to bring at least 3 liters of water, on-trail snacks, a top-of the trail lunch, a sun hat, and extra layers of clothing. For the first section only, about 1 liter of water, some on-trail snacks, a sun hat, and one extra layer of clothing should suffice. If you are planning to do the first and second sections, add an additional liter of water and more trail snacks.

Details of the hike are provided below…hope to see you there!

  • Hike Type: Adventure
  • Level: Intermediate-Advanced
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: Up to ~16 miles
  • Elevation gain/loss: Up to ~5000 feet
  • Terrain: Mix of footpath and fire road
  • Leashed dogs: Yes

Route summary:

This hike will take us up to 16 miles roundtrip on the athletic and remarkably scenic Franklin Trail above Carpinteria. In general, we will walk in a northerly direction on our way in, and a southerly one on our way out.

After a relatively flat start over the first mile, as we make our way through the agricultural area immediately to the north of Carpinteria, the route quickly turns onto and then up a fairly challenging hillside trail, offering a window into the frequently undulating and periodically steep trail ahead.

Unlike other routes in the southern Santa Ynez range, the Franklin Trail has limited canyon and riparian sections, crosses them perpendicularly in four spots via fairly steep descents and ascents, and therefore is almost entirely hillside and ridgeline trail. Because of this, the trail offers almost immediate, steadily increasing, and often startling panoramic views of the southern Santa Ynez range – from Santa Barbara to Rincon Peak and eventually opening up to include the Oxnard Plain and western Santa Monica range – and of course the Pacific and offshore islands to the south, east, and west.

The full route is great training for more advanced area hikes, including the crest and peak hikes above Ojai, and the Mount Baldy/Bear Canyon ascent in the San Gabriel Mountains. In many ways, the route is comparable to, though longer and wilder than, the Mount Wilson Trail above Pasadena.

Our route begins at the Franklin Trail trailhead, which is located at the end of Meadow View Lane in Carpinteria (directions below). We initially move northward on flat trail, past the Carpinteria High School and then several agricultural operations. Most of this portion of the trail is a wide double track, and offers little indication of the athletic and often quite spectacular trail ahead.

At about the one mile mark, and after only limited elevation gain, we clear the agricultural areas and make our way onto a set of switchbacks that take us up roughly 500 feet, over about a half-mile of wide single-track trail, until we reach the second observation bench (aka Frank’s Bench). At this point, the trail turns onto wide fire road, which continues until it turns back onto single track trail at mile 5.2. We may stop by this bench briefly to enjoy one of what will be many great trail views, especially if the group has spread out over the early part of the trail.

From the second bench, we will proceed along the fire road to the third bench at mile 3.2 of the trail and approximately 1300 feet above sea level. This point marks the end of the first section of our route and is where we will have our first full rest stop. This latter part of the first section of our route covers about 1.5 miles and, owing to two (of four total) dips into riparian canyon areas, about 800 feet of elevation gain. Overall, the first section of the trail is scenic, well-traveled, and suited to people hiking at an intermediate level.

After our rest stop at the third bench, the second section of our hike begins. This section of the route is fairly short but periodically quite hilly. It will take us two miles on fire road to the turnout to the crest at mile 5.2 and approximately 1700 feet above sea level. Owing to our crossing two additional riparian canyon areas, elevation gain is approximately 1000 feet on the way up (and 500 feet on the return). This point ends the second section of our hike, and we will have a full stop to rest and gather group members that arrive in a roughly 15-minute timeframe.

 After our second rest stop, we begin the third, more advanced section of our hike. Here, the trail changes markedly in character. Our route becomes an often fairly narrow and challenging single track footpath, is primarily either hillside traverse or ridgeline passage, and requires skill and experience to navigate some of its more difficult parts. Though this section of the trail is generally not steep, there are a few spots that are exceptions. Overall, the section ascends steadily and quite athletically for nearly three miles and 2000 feet of gain to the trail crest at mile 7.9 and approximately 3600 feet above sea level.

For people pursuing the third section of the hike, expect a fairly demanding but extremely rewarding stretch of trail. The route itself and the views it offers are quite spectacular in parts, and worthwhile for any hiker at or near an advanced level. In this section of the trail, we will generally proceed on a self-paced basis and continue to the trail crest – which is reached by a series of switchbacks at the end, and ones reminiscent of those in the early part of the route.

At the trail crest, we will gather the group, and have a top-of-the-trail lunch either at the trail crest, at one of the nearby hills, or at the nearby vernal pond. In any case, we will stop for an extended time to rest and enjoy the stunning views. After our rest stop, we will return to our starting point on Meadow View Lane by the same route as our ascent. Given the route’s distance and elevation change, expect a total hiking time of 8-9 hours.

As summarized above, the initial section of our hike is developed and partly shaded, but the route steadily gives way to open hillside and chaparral. Since we begin in a relatively sheltered area and reach exposed areas above the Pacific, weather conditions can range from cool to hot and calm to windy.


Please wear – hiking or athletic pants or shorts, one or more wicking shirts appropriate to the temperature, comfortable hiking or running shoes, a hat and other needed sun protection, your favorite undergarments and accessories, and a light pack to hold your gear.

Please bring – at least 3 liters of water, trail snacks and a top-of-the-trail lunch, extra layers of clothing in case you become cold, a charged cell phone, identification, a headlamp, a waterproof shell if rain is forecast, and any medications or anything else you might need on the trail.


Please park on Meadow View Lane, and walk to the end of the road. Carpooling and public transportation are encouraged, both to lower our carbon footprint and to reduce the number of parking spaces we use at the trailhead. Please do not leave anything of value in your vehicle, at this or any trailhead.


By car, take the 101 or Carpinteria Avenue to Linden Avenue (via the Casitas Pass Road exit if you are traveling north on the 101). Go north (away from the ocean) on Linden for about a third of a mile and then turn left onto Meadow View Lane. The trailhead is at the end of the road.

Alternatively, take Foothill Drive (Route 192) to Linden Avenue. Go south (toward the ocean) on Linden for about 300 feet and then turn right onto Meadow View Lane. The trailhead is at the end of the road.

By public transportation, take the MTD #20 or #21X to Carpinteria and Elm, VCTC Coastal Express to Carpinteria and Maple or Mark, or Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to Carpinteria Station. Walk to Carpinteria and Linden, and then north on the west/left side of Linden for a half mile to Meadow View Lane. Turn left on Meadow View Lane. The trailhead is at the end of the road.


Santa Barbara County Trails Council


Meadow View Lane, Carpinteria, CA
Meadow View Lane, Carpinteria, CA United States Get Directions

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