Two years after the Montecito debris flow tore through Cold Spring Creek, hikers, runners and mountain bikers can finally enjoy one of Santa Barbara’s favorite outdoor settings after the Cold Spring Trail officially reopened Sunday morning.
Since the debris flow on Jan 9, 2018, hikers were greeted with a closed sign at the trailhead as the Montecito Trails Foundation worked to remove boulders, fallen trees and overgrowth, and to install massive safety nets along the trail. At 9 a.m. Sunday there were no signs to be seen as 1st District Supervisor Das Williams and the Montecito Trails Foundation held a ceremony celebrating the opening of the trail.
“The trail is now reconstituted really well,” said 60-year-old Christopher Haskell, who went on a nine-mile hike Sunday.
Mr. Haskell goes on a long trek every year, and said he likes training on the Cold Spring Trail because you can do at least 3,000 vertical feet. Last summer he hiked Mount Killiminjaro, and is going to fly down to Argentina to hike Mount Aconcagua in two weeks.
“It’s a great trail! I’m glad it’s open,” Mr. Haskell told the News-Press. “I really appreciate what the Montecito Trail Foundation has done.”
In addition to anti-erosion measures and clearing debris, the Montecito Trail Foundation has widened much of the trail, Mr. Haskell said.
“It’s a boulevard all the way up, pretty much,” he said.
The one negative Mr. Haskell saw was graffiti and glass near Gibraltar, and he hopes it will be removed quickly.
“A lot of us come up here to kind of get away from the urban environment and my heart just sinks when I see graffiti,” said Mr. Haskill.
Enjoying the beautiful day alongside the hikers Sunday were plenty of dogs.
Ian Jay brought his massive Italian mastiff Ndume, who has been hiking with his owner since he was a puppy, out for a 45-minute trek. The experience was different from a few years ago due to a lot of the tree cover being gone at the lower end of the trail, although there is still plenty of shade, he said.
“I think once it grows back in it will be a completely different experience. It will be wonderful. Big boulders for kids to play on, watering holes and things like that. Mother nature changes and it adapts and becomes something different. I’ll have to bring my kids up,” Mr. Jay said.
While many were returning to a well-loved trail, some of the hikers, like Danny Gomez, Christian Mendoza,and Yesenia Gomez, got to hike Cold Spring for the first time.
“My girlfriend tried to bring us up here a few months ago but it was still closed because of the floods. I’m sure she’s going to get pretty jealous when I tell her that we came,” Mr. Gomez said.
Mr. Gomez and his friends are avid hikers and have walked such Santa Barbara favorites as Gaviotta, Inspiration Point and Hot Springs. Mr. Gomez has only been in the area for 2½ years, so he hasn’t done them all, but their first journey up Cold Spring has been a hit.
“I like trails where there’s water because I’ll get in the water, so this is probably my favorite one so far,” said Mr. Gomez. “Next time we’ll be more prepared and go even further.”
The restoration work for Cold Spring Trail was supported by the Montecito Trail Foundation, volunteers and donations.
East Mountain Drive is still closed at Cold Springs Creek while a new bridge is being built, but the trailhead is accessible to pedestrians.