Despite being first and foremost a nature preserve...

the San Marcos Foothills Preserve provides excellent opportunities for low-impact recreation for people while preserving habitat for wildlife. Because sensitive animal and plant species occur on the Preserve, recreation is limited to on-trail, pedestrian-powered activities that limit the disturbance of wildlife.

The 200-acre San Marcos Foothills Preserve property was donated by the Trust for Public Land to the County of Santa Barbara in 2007. The intent of the donation, and the reason the Trust chose the County to be the land’s long-term steward, is to ensure that that the Preserve property will be protected as open space for its biological, scenic, and archaeological resources.

Per the County of Santa Barbara's ruling, the following recreational activities are permitted on the Preserve:

Hiking and Trail Running

Hiking and jogging on the Preserve is enjoyable most anytime of the year. There is a well maintained, 2.6 mile trail that runs between the Preserve western entrance at Via Gaitero Road and the Preserve Eastern entrance at Antone Road. A side trail runs a short distance to the north in the middle of the Preserve and leads to a lookout that provides panoramic views of Santa Barbara and Goleta plus the Santa Ynez Mountains, Pacific Ocean, and the Channel Islands. Also, many species of wildflowers are visible during the late winter and spring season. Follow the links at left to view a trail map and for a list of plants that grow on the Preserve.

Dog walking, on leash

With nearly 200 acres of open space connected by miles of trails - the area is a great place to walk your dog! Please remember though that to ensure that the San Marcos Foothills remains a pristine nature preserve, all dogs must be on a leash. Please see our page on Dog Walking for more information.

Wildlife Viewing

As a nature preserve with an ever-increasing amount of native habitat, watching for wildlife - especially birding is a popular activity on the Preserve. At least 128 species of birds have been seen on the Preserve and many species of mammals and reptiles can be seen there. Follow the Animals link to learn more.