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Rattlesnake Canyon Trail


Primarily on the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail, this is an intermediate-level, conditioning-oriented hike, through and then above Rattlesnake Canyon to Gibraltar Rock. The hike offers ample room to stretch your legs, elevation gain for fitness improvement, and terrific views up and down. (If the pace is too slow for you, there will be optional HIIT sessions on the flats and uphills.)

The hike’s distance and elevation change will depend on how far you follow the trail. The full roundtrip route is just under six miles, with a respectable 1800 feet of gain/loss and a total hiking time of roughly 3 hours. Since our route is out and back, and well-marked, you can turn back earlier if you become winded or are short on time.

On this route, the terrain is mostly single and double-track trail, with a bit of pavement along Gibraltar Road near the halfway point.

Please be sure to bring water, a snack, an extra layer of clothing, and a headlamp or flashlight.

Hike Type: Conditioning
Level: Intermediate
Route Type: Out & back
Distance: ~6 miles
Elevation gain/loss: ~1800 feet
Terrain: Footpath and paved road
Leashed dogs: Yes

Route summary:

This hike will take us up to 6 miles roundtrip, through and then above Rattlesnake Canyon, on the scenic and progressively athletic Rattlesnake Canyon Trail.

Our route begins at the Rattlesnake Canyon trailhead, by the stone bridge on Las Canoas Road. We start by proceeding north through the canyon for just under two miles, gradually ascending and crossing the year-round creek a couple of times, until we reach the junction to the Connector Trail.

At the junction, we turn right to stay on Rattlesnake Canyon Trail and proceed easterly and upward more steeply for about a mile, until we reach Gibraltar Road. Once we reach Gibraltar Road, we walk north for about a quarter-mile until we reach our turnaround point at Gibraltar Rock.

The route initially offers a great coastal canyon experience, with riparian forest and meadow, as we make our way through Rattlesnake Canyon to the trail junction. After the junction, the trail quickly becomes much steeper and provides steadily increasing and then panoramic views of the Santa Ynez range, Santa Barbara, and the Pacific and offshore islands.

Please note that Rattlesnake Canyon has some poison oak growing, though it is easily avoided in the sections of the trail we will be following on this hike. That said, you will need to walk attentively at some points on the trail and/or wear hiking pants, especially if you are highly allergic.

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

We will continue to our turnaround point, stop to enjoy the great late-day or early-evening views of the Pacific, offshore islands, and surrounding coastal peaks. After our stop, we will return to our starting point by the same route.


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 1 liter of water, on-trail snacks, extra layers of clothing in case you become cold, a charged cell phone, identification, a headlamp or flashlight, a waterproof shell if rain is forecast, and any medications or anything else you might need on the trail.


Please parrallel park in the parking areas to the side of Las Canoas Road near the trailhead, and please be considerate of the residents in this quiet neighborhood area.

Carpooling is 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 your favorite way to the corner of Mission Canyon Road and Foothill Drive (Highway 192), such as heading north from the Mission Street exit off the 101. Where Mission Canyon Road meets Foothill Drive, coming from the city, drive east for 1/4 mile on Foothill until you reach the Mission Canyon Road extension.

Once you reach the Mission Canyon Road extension on Foothill, head north for about 1/2 mile (do not turn left onto Tunnel Road) and take the very sharp right onto Las Canoas. Drive east for about a mile on Las Canoas, and then park at the trailhead. If you come to the Botanical Gardens, you have missed the sharp right onto Las Canoas.

Unfortunately, there is no public transportation close to this meetup location and the roads near the trailhead are not pedestrian-friendly.


Santa Barbara County Trails Council


1900 Las Canoas Road · Santa Barbara, CA
1900 Las Canoas Road · Santa Barbara, CA United States Get Directions

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