Running in Santa Barbara is a big part of the local culture. With summer series like Night Moves, Santa Barbara running is something not to be missed. Long considered Los Angeles’ sleepy neighbor, this beach town is home to many celebrities, executives, and athletic locals. The variety of great restaurants and year-round nice weather makes Santa Barbara the ideal destination for wellness travel. When visiting, be sure to bring your running shoes to explore these Santa Barbara running routes.

Where to Run in Santa Barbara

Uniquely situated between the Figueroa Mountain range and pristine coastline, there is endless opportunity for amazing runs. The five Santa Barbara coastal towns are (in order from South to North):

  • Carpenteria
  • Summerland
  • Montecito
  • Santa Barbara
  • Goleta

Each town offers its own special running experience and a unique perspective of the area. Depending on where you start from, there are plenty of out-and-back trails as well as fun running lopes.

Best Santa Barbara Runs

Best Out-and-Back Run in Santa Barbara

The Stearns Wharf to Shoreline Park out-and-back is the most popular running route in Santa Barbara. A ocean front 3.70 mile run, the route starts at the bottom of State Street at Stearns Wharf and has a mild elevation gain of about 100′ on the climb up to The Mesa.

Santa Barbara Run – Wharf to Mesa 3.7miles

The park stretches along Cabrillo Boulevard, running east toward Stearns Wharf, offering incredible views of the harbor and Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of places to stop and take in the sights, including an observation deck just before reaching the wharf itself. Beginners may want to start at Shoreline Park and turn back once they reach Stearns Wharf; seasoned runners can continue on beyond the wharf to add some extra distance to their route.

Along the way, runners will be able to spot some of Santa Barbara’s wildlife like dolphins in the ocean waters or seagulls perched atop light poles. If you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a glimpse of a whale breaching off in the distance!

The mostly-paved pathway also provides access to several public beaches, giving runners a chance to cool off after their run with a dip in the ocean. No matter your fitness level or ambition, running along Santa Barbara’s Shoreline Park is an enjoyable experience that shouldn’t be missed!

Where to eat after Running Shoreline Park

After the run, treat yourself to a lobster roll from Santa Barbara Shell Fish Company. The lobsters are caught locally and brought in to the Santa Barbara Harbor. During the lobster season, you can buy freshly caught lobsters – or “bugs” as the fisherman call them – directly from the fish market at the harbor.

SB Shell Fish Company

Best Running Loop in Santa Barbara

More Mesa is one of a few ocean front nature preserves that has a fun network of dirt trails. Santa Barbara’s More Mesa Nature Preserve is an excellent running destination for those looking to experience the city’s natural beauty. Spanning over 482 acres, the preserve offers a variety of terrains, from sandy beaches and rolling grassy hills to wooded canyons and rocky bluffs.

The preserve is home to a wide range of wildlife, including California quail, bobcats, deer, coyotes, hawks and owls. Runners will be able to spot some of the area’s inhabitants as they make their way through the trails or along the beach. On clear days, runners will also be able to take in sweeping views over Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

The best time to visit the More Mesa Nature Preserve is during late summer and early fall when wildflowers are blooming among the grasslands. The preserve is well-equipped with trails suited to all levels of runners; easy paths meander along beaches while more difficult routes lead up steep slopes with incredible vistas at the top.

For a unique running experience that takes you away from city life and into nature, head to Santa Barbara’s More Mesa Nature Preserve! Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll or an exciting adventure, you’ll find plenty of options in this stunning location.

More Mesa Ocean Front Trail Run: 3.20 Miles

Nature Preserve Running Routes in Santa Barbara

The Nature Preserve trails in Santa Barbara make the city a paradise for runners. Below are the top four nature preserves for running in Santa Barbara. Each coastal preserve offers something a little different while providing amazing maintained dirt trails.

Douglas Preserve

Named after Michael Douglas who donated the money to save the preserve from the fate of becoming a resort, the Douglas Family Preserve is a local favorite. The perimeter trail is roughly 1.70 miles which can be lengthen through zig-zagging different trails.

Douglas Family Preserve – 1.20 mile loop

Coronado Butterfly Preserve – Ellwood Mesa Running Trails

A monarch butterfly preserve, Ellwood Mesa is the largest of the coastal preserves in Santa Barbara. The perimeter running trail is roughly four miles with multiple criss-crossing routes. A unique variety of eucalyptus forest and open grasslands along the coastal cliff side make for the most scenic running trail in Santa Barbara.

Ellwood Mesa – 4.01 Mile Loop

More Mesa Trail Runs

Bordering the exclusive neighborhood of Hope Ranch, More Mesa is a convenient ocean-front dirt running trail. There are multiple access points from the roads which makes for a fun variety of starting points.

More Mesa Ocean Front Trail Run: 3.20 Miles

Running Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve

The roughly 2 miles long preserve sits at the southern end of Carpinteria. The loop shown below is 2.97 miles and can be easily shortened or lengthened. Stop by downtown Carpinteria post run for meal at one of the many great restaurants in town.

Running Stores in Santa Barbara

The best running store in Santa Barbara is the Santa Barbara Running Company which is located on Coast Village Road in Montecito. Featuring everything you need to hit the running trails, the Santa Barbara Running Company has been the only independent running store in the area since 2003. The Santa Barbara Running Company carries the following running shoe brands:

  • Altra
  • Brooks
  • New Balance
  • On
  • Saucony

Along with running shoes, the store features its own line of running clothing “rabbit” as well as all the hydration and supplements you need.

1046 Coast Village Road, Montecito, CA 93108

Night Moves Running Group

Night Moves Santa Barbara running group is a great way for runners of all levels to explore Santa Barbara in a fun and active setting.

No matter what your fitness level or experience, Night Moves will be sure to have something for you – with different pace groups covering routes around downtown, as well as along the beach and up into the nearby hills. The friendly atmosphere and relaxed pace make this an ideal way for casual joggers and serious runners alike to enjoy the city’s natural beauty together.

Night Moves also offers plenty of socializing opportunities at the end of each run, so members can get to know one another while enjoying some refreshments provided by the group. This helps foster a sense of community amongst its participants, which encourages more people to take part in outdoor activities and stay connected with nature.

Santa Barbara is known for its spectacular sunsets, so it’s no surprise that Night Moves has become one of the area’s most popular running groups. With stunning views over the ocean, runners can enjoy incredible views with each step – making these sessions truly memorable experiences!

When and Where to Meet for Night Moves:

Event details and schedule:
Registrations Opens at 5 p.m on site every Wednesday, Ocean swim waves begin at 6:25, Running events begin at 6:35.