Five Must-See Santa Barbara Nature Spots for Gauchos Who Love the Outdoors



Image cr. Visit Santa Barbara


Looking to get your nature fix while going to UCSB? You have certainly come to the right place! Santa Barbara, commonly known as the American Riviera, is home to a wide range of scenic landscapes to explore including beaches, mountains, foothills, rivers, and more. Factor in its amazing weather, and Santa Barbara has all of the nature spots you need to destress, hang with friends, or have a thrilling adventure.


However, it can be overwhelming to decide exactly where to go, especially if you have a specific experience in mind or limited transportation options. So here are five must-see Santa Barbara nature spots ranked from most accessible to most adventurous for any type of Gaucho who loves the outdoors.


If you’re looking for a relaxing day…


  1. Campus Point



Image cr. California Beaches


Accessibility: Accessible by foot and by car, parking with a paid permit

Level of Adventure: Mild


Situated across from the Anacapa Residence Hall and Bren School of Environmental

Science, Campus Point is the perfect getaway five minutes from the heart of campus.

While the entrance is a bit rocky, most of the beach is smooth sand with many spots to sit

and relax in after hours of studying. Campus Point is also a great spot for water

recreation, including boogie boarding, surfing, paddleboarding, and kayaking.

Beachgoers can even rent gear like kayaks and surfboards from UCSB

Adventure Programs right on the beach.


  1. Tucker’s Grove Park


Image cr. County of Santa Barbara

Accessibility: Accessible by car, free parking

Level of Adventure: Mild


Tucker’s Grove is a Santa Barbara County park located off Turnpike Road in Goleta. Just

six miles from UCSB, Tucker’s Grove Park is a short and easy drive with a great payoff.

This spot has sprawling green fields, beautiful woods, and large communal areas for

barbecues and parties. In case you’re in the mood for a little more adventure, Tucker’s

Grove is also home to hiking, equestrian, and biking trails that span sixteen acres.

However, keep in mind that if you want to host an event in a common area of the park,

reservations must be booked and paid for ahead of time.


If you’re looking for a little challenge…


  1. Parma Park


Image cr. The Santa Barbara Independent

Accessibility: Accessible by car, free parking, five entry points at Stanwood Drive West

(main entrance), El Cielito Drive, Mountain Drive South, Mountain Drive North, and

Stanwood Drive East.

Level of Adventure: Medium


Parma Park is the largest open space park in Santa Barbara. Spanning 200 acres along

the Sycamore and Coyote Creeks in Montecito, Parma Park features five miles of hiking

Trails including Plateau Trail, Creek Trail, Stanwood Trail, and Ridge Creek, the last of

which leads to a beautiful view of the Channel Islands. This spot is for those who are a

bit more adventurous, so make sure to bring your hiking boots and plenty of water as you

traverse rocky inclines and grassy hills. Also, beware of poison oak along the trails, a

three-leaf, shiny vine plant that can leave a nasty skin rash.


  1. Santa Ynez River



Image cr. Flickr


Accessibility: Accessible by car, free parking, all-terrain road

Level of Adventure: Medium


The Santa Ynez River is one of the largest rivers on the Central Coast and we have access

to it in our own backyards. If you’re looking for a outing a little farther away from

campus, you can take an approximately thirty-minute drive on Highway 154 to Paradise

Road where you can find the Santa Ynez Recreation Area. With waters waistdeep, the

Santa Ynez River is perfect for swimming and other fun recreation. Surrounded by forest

trails and shallow creeks, the area also provides a scenic place to hike during the colder

months. However, make sure you bring sturdy shoes to avoid slipping on the muddy

banks or stumbling on the rocky river bed!


If you’re looking for an adventure…


  1. Lizard’s Mouth Rock


Image cr. AllTrails


Accessibility: Accessible by car, free parking, remote, one-lane road

Level of Adventure: Medium-High


Lizard’s Mouth is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places for adventurous Gauchos

to explore, featuring breathtaking views of the foothills, the coast, and the Channel

Islands. Located off Highway 154 and West Camino Cielo in Los Padres National Forest,

Lizard’s Mouth is home to sprawling clusters of sandstone rocks and brush that form an

outcropping that looks like a frog or lizard’s mouth. You’ll definitely need your hiking

boots, water bottle, and climbing gear for this outing, as the area has many caves,

ledges, and boulders, often on an incline. This area is quite popular with college students,

so beware of glass and other trash that might be harmful; Lizard’s Mouth is also located

adjacent to a gun range, so don’t be afraid if you hear gunshots in the distance as the spot

is completely safe for visitors.


In Santa Barbara, there are nature spots for anyone looking to spend time outdoors, regardless of accessibility or level of experience. Whether it is walking on the shores of our very own Campus Point beach or hiking to the precipice of Lizard’s Mouth Rock, Gauchos are sure to find a fulfilling adventure whenever they need a break from their studies.