Sweetwater Trail at Cachuma Lake
Cachuma Lake is a visible reminder of California’s severe drought with drastically lower levels than in previous years. But it’s still a wonderful place to hike, camp, fish, and boat (no swimming allowed though).
Sweetwater Trail is the main hiking trail at the lake, stretching from the southwest corner of the recreation area to the Bradbury Dam Vista Point, about 2.5 miles away.
The trail is well-marked, but thanks to the recent diminishing water levels, doesn’t get as close to the lake shore as it once did. There are little spur trails that take you down to the edge, but the lake patrol is very stringent on the no-swimming policy (the lake is the water supply for Santa Barbara, so no people or pets are allowed to enter it). The trail leads hikers up and down short hills, into wooded areas and through grassy meadows.
Dogs are allowed, and this is a good hike for kids, although some younger ones may not want to go the full five-mile round trip. There’s a general store in the park not far from the trailhead for a post-hike snack.
Coon Creek Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park
Coon Creek Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park is an in-and-out path that starts near the east of the Bluff Trail and follows a canyon with the namesake creek for about 2.5 miles before coming to an end in a grove of cypress trees. With only 250 feet of elevation gain, it’s not a steep trail, but on hot days, you can work up a sweat.
There are two trail junctions (Rattlesnake Flats is the first and Oats Peak Trail at the end point) that lead to even more challenging hikes in the park. Or you can simply hike in and out, as I did.
There are still burned trees and other traces from a fire that scorched the area in 2012. March was a good time to walk this one as thousands of butterflies darted around the trail. But hikers should be careful as there are dangerous critters throughout the area. I saw the back end of a rattlesnake stretched across part of the trail at about the halfway point, and I also had a dig a tick out of my leg after finishing. Good eyes and long pants and sleeves should take care of these problems.