Mesa Creek, Douglas Family Preserve & Arroyo Burro County Beach, Santa Barbara CA

View of Arroyo Burro County Beach from Douglas Family Preserve, 3/5/11

Arroyo Burro Estuary (Mesa Creek mouth at Arroyo Burro County Beach)

This easy but scenic hike includes a naturally restored creek, an estuary, a beach, and a bluff top hiking trail on 70 acres of grassy fields and groves of Oak, Cypress and Eucalyptus trees along with stunning oceans views.  

At Arroyo County Beach there is a restaurant right on the sand.  This beach and preserve is dog friendly, has dog washing stations and off leash areas on the mesa top Douglas Family Preserve.  A Coastal Overlook viewing platform (work in progress) is on the side of the beach opposite the preserve but days/hours are limited until completion.   

The hike described on this page starts out at the estuary and beach, and picks up on the inland side of the parking lot at Mesa Creek restoration, then continues over the bridge and up the hill to the mesa and Douglas Family Preserve on the Oak Grove Trail, walking the loop and returning the same way.   

Click any picture on this page to enlarge.  For maps, directions and links to more information see the list at the end of this page.  Locally Arroyo Beach is also known as Hendry's Beach, the preserve is also called the Wilcox Property. 

Below, the beginning of the trail along Mesa Creek.  The area was restored to a coastal sage scrub and riparian habitat.  A bridge was included to provide trail access to the Douglas Family Preserve.

Near the trailhead to Douglas Family Preserve from Arroyo Beach parking lot

Approaching the bridge across Mesa Creek

Interpretive sign telling about the creek restoration, click to enlarge.

Below, Mesa Creek.  This creek restoration was completed in 2007.  Four years later what a difference.  Click here to see a before picture on the City of Santa Barbara website.  The restoration was designed to improve water quality on the beach and provide fish and wildlife habitat.

Mesa Creek seen from trail just before the bridge.

Creek seen from the bridge

Another view of restored Mesa Creek from the bridge

Below, continuing across the bridge and up the trail to the Douglas Family Preserve, named after actor Michael Douglas for his 600K donation to make the land acquisition possible.  The groups trying to preserve the land were short of cash for the purchase so Michael Douglas donated the remainder, dedicating the preserve to his father Kirk Douglas.  The land was a former plant nursery, slated for development. 

Crossing the bridge heading to Oak Grove Trail & Douglas Family Preserve

On Oak Grove Trail leading up to Douglas Family Preserve

Douglas Family Preserve, on the trails criss-crossing through the center of the preserve

Below, the trail loops along the mesa edge through groves of trees with great coastal views including Arroyo Burro County Beach and Channel Islands.  A number of other trails criss-cross through the center of the mesa connecting to the loop trail.

On the ocean side of the perimeter loop trail

View of the Channel Islands from the loop trail.

Ocean view from the loop trail on Douglas Family Preserve


View Larger Map

Douglas Family Preserve Trail Map, click to enlarge

External links:

County of Santa Barbara, Arroyo Beach page:

City of Santa Barbara, Mesa Creek Restoration page:,frameless.htm?NRMODE=Published

City of Santa Barbara, list of natural parks:

Santa Barbara Trails Council, Douglas Family Preserve Page:

Douglas Family Preserve page on Wikipedia:

More about Michael Douglas and his work in Santa Barbara: