Experience the Great Outdoors in the Santa Ynez Valley

Experience the Great Outdoors – Santa Ynez Valley

Things to Do –

California’s Central Coast –

We’re all looking for a way to get out, without joining a crowd. The Santa Ynez Valley has never been an ordinary wine country destination, and its abundance of outdoor recreation and amenities are a key reason why. 

Set along California’s Central Coast, with the San Rafael Mountains to the north and the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south, rests a natural playground for hikers, bikers, horseback riders, outdoor adventurists, and more. And on a given weekday, those landscapes become all the more tranquil.

Entering the valley and catching the first glimpse of Cachuma Lake sparkling under the summer sun or of the region’s rolling hills, dotted with California live oaks and painted with acres of lush vineyards, offers a much-needed breath of fresh air. A quick excursion to the 80-foot waterfall at Nojoqui Falls Park or the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean from Gaviota Peak or Figueroa Mountain provides a breathtaking shot of energy.

Increasingly, the popularity of the valley’s natural outdoor assets has bolstered the region’s reputation as a world-class wine and culinary destination. Visitors want to explore the outdoors, appreciate a destination from a new or different perspective,  or experience something that they might not be able to at home, and the Santa Ynez Valley provides many opportunities to do just that.

Best ways to get outdoors 

Cachuma Lake:

A stroll along the shores of Cachuma Lake on the Tequepis Trail, is often greeted with native bald eagles, ospreys, and hawks soaring above. The lake is also popular for fishing, boating, and ample hiking and mountain bike paths.

A playground for hikers:

The Santa Ynez Valley offers hundreds of miles of trails to explore, from scenic vineyard-to-vineyard strolls, to more challenging hikes rewarded with fields of wildflowers or incredible sea-to-valley vistas. There are so many to choose from, but the easy hike to Nojoqui Falls is always popular for families. And more challenging hikes to Gaviota Peak or to the top of Grass Mountain offer incredible scenic payoffs.

Vineyards by horseback:

Exploring the vineyards is a quintessential Santa Ynez Valley experience. But with a vineyard horseback ride a connection between human and animal is made, creating a deeper and enriching moment. Estelle Ranch and Vineyards Ride & Wine tour from Vino Vaqueros or a KAP Land & Cattle tour of the vineyards of Fess Parker offers an enriching and rewarding experience.

Santa Ynez Valley by two wheels:

The rural country roads that connect the wineries and communities of the Santa Ynez Valley are also ideal for a two-wheel adventure. Whether you’re interested in doing an easy 5 miles with the family, 50 miles through rolling vineyards, or a multi-day tour of wine country, the Santa Ynez Valley and its less-trafficked roads make for a cyclist’s nirvana. Everything you need can be found at Dr. J’s Bicycle Shop, Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours, or Wheel Fun Rentals.

An electric experience:

There’s a new way to see Solvang USA in all its Danish glory, and that’s from the comfort of an open air vehicle. The eMoke is an all-electric vehicle that boasts zero emissions, chic styling, and a range of eye-catching colors. Trust us, it’s an Instagrammable ride. With its open-air body styling, the eMoke offers great sightseeing capabilities and is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after transport experiences available in Solvang.

Ohm away from home:

Vineyard Yoga SYV connects yoga enthusiasts with the natural world through its yoga classes that take place in the serenity and solitude of local vineyards, followed by wine tasting.

The outdoor wine tasting experience:

With more than 100 wineries, many with expansive grounds, outside seating, and room to roam, wine-tasting is an outdoor activity in the Santa Ynez Valley, too.

The Santa Ynez Valley’s healthy, outdoor lifestyle seems particularly fitting at a time when getting outside and into open space has never felt more important for our physical and mental wellbeing. There’s something calming, refreshing, and reinvigorating about seeing the Pacific Ocean from the top of Gaviota Peak, hiking a trail that passes by an endless field of California wildflowers, or just walking through a rolling vineyard, and this is the perfect place to do all of the above and more.

Start planning your outdoor adventure at visitsyv.com, where you can research events and attractions, book lodging and activities, and create a custom travel itinerary.


Mountain Peaks –

Aiden (my son) and I were picked up at 7:30am on Sunday morning by Greg, Brian, and Cary. We were now on our way from Buellton to hike the popular Gaviota Peak. The trail head is located near the Highway 1 intersection of 101. About a 10 minute drive. I’ve hiked this trail before but not since relocating to the Santa Ynez Valley, and this will be Aiden’s first time.

Gaviota Peak

It is 3.5 miles to the top with an elevation of 2,458 ft. A moderate to very steep hike on a wide and comfortable fire road. You can take it slow and steady or bust right up for a challenge. I seem to have found a hiking group, led by Cary Losson, which prefers to bust right up everything. The goal today is to reach the top in under an hour. You can also take the loop adding 15 minutes and come down (or up) Trespass trail which is narrow and more challenging.

Best California Hikes
Morning Fog on the Gaviota Ridge

Having grown up in Goleta, I have hiked the front of the Santa Ynez mountains most of my life. But hiking in the SYV is new and exciting. Here are some hikes I have been introduced to lately.

Hiking Roads and Trails

Refugio Road – about a 5 minute drive past the beautiful Sunstone Vineyards. There is a cement block in the road letting you know it’s time to park. This hike is just over 3 miles to the top. Not as steep as Gaviota, and also on a fire road.  It is a 1,700 ft. climb from start to finish. This can be taken slow with your family, or a good warm up by pushing for speed in prep for more serious hikes.

On my way to the top of Grass Mountain
On my way to the top of Grass Mountain

Grass Mountain

This is a serious hike. It is at the base of Figueroa Mountain and very steep. The hike itself is less than 3 miles to the top, but don’t let the distance fool you. The first mile you rise only 300 ft. But the last 1.5 miles you climb 2,100 ft. Leave early as there is no protection from the sun, and bring plenty of fluids. This is a hike you prep for, eat for, and sleep for. A great challenge.

Santa Barbara Hikes
Victory Shot at the top of Grass Mountain with Chris Chirgwin & Cary Losson

There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other SYV hikes I look forward to experiencing. Two good resources for hiking in our area and Santa Barbara County are:



How did the Gaviota Peak hike go? Well, we all slowed Aiden down. He made it to the top in 53 minutes without breaking sweat.

I came in last at 1 hour 3 minutes. Still a respectable time (I’m told). We did the loop and took Trespass down. It was breathtaking with the clouds clearing.

Ballard | Buellton | Los Alamos | Los Olivos | Santa Ynez | Solvang

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Santa Ynez Valley EventsAbout VisitSYV.com: Visit Santa Ynez Valley provides listings of the best Santa Ynez wineries, best places to eat in Solvang, Santa Ynez hotels and inns, and things to do in Santa Ynez Valley. Visit the website at www.VisitSYV.com for complete travel and visitor services. “Like” the Facebook page for ideas on planning Santa Ynez vacations. Email info@VisitSYV.com for help planning your next vacation in the Santa Ynez Valley.