Santa Barbara has all the reasons we love California: mountains, beaches, vineyards, a cultured urban center with a strong running community… and great weather. This coastal city just 2 hours north of Los Angeles (reachable by train!), also known as the “American Riviera,” offers spectacular scenery. Our guide to running in Santa Barbara includes beach runs, bike paths, central routes through downtown and the UC Santa Barbara campus, and hilly roads through farm fields and vineyards. We also have several routes north on the central coast, between Santa Barbara and Big Sur.
Running highlights include extensive paths along the waterfront from Shoreline Park to East Beach, ocean/beach-centric routes to the north around the UC Santa Barbara Campus and the Goleta area, as well as to the south in Carpinteria. For hill lovers, there are great trail running options in Gould Park, Rattlesnake Canyon, and Romero Canyon. For great homes, run in the windy, hilly streets of the Hope Ranch neighborhood. Note that although the waterfront area is flat, it’s very hilly just east of the city.
With an excellent, all-electric bus fleet, Santa Barbara is an easy city to navigate car-free (see santabarbaracarfree.com), though trail runners should know that some trailheads are significantly outside the city and are not accessible by public transportation. Otherwise, stick close to town and enjoy access to Santa Barbara’s historic sites, shopping centers, wineries, and of course — fish tacos.