When you think of California, a castle probably doesn’t come to mind. Tucked away in the mountains above Santa Barbara, you’ll find magical castle ruins that look like something out of a travel book. Knapp’s Castle Trail is an easy walk that leads you to some amazing views.

You’re gonna want to add this one to your bucket list. From the castle walls on the hilltop, you’ll see gorgeous views of the mountains and Santa Barbara below. There’s even a tree swing where you can soar above the city!

Knapp’s Castle ruins date back to 1916 when it was the posh estate of a chemical tycoon. This mansion was so secluded that the owner built a private road just to come and go from his home. He sold the house in 1940 and just a few weeks later, a fire raged through and burned almost all of the mansion to the ground. 

Fortunately, the castle walls still stand. You can explore and see amazing bird's eye views of the city. The trail is only 0.8 miles roundtrip.

While the land technically remains under private ownership, the county landmarked it to prevent development on site. You can visit the ruins at any time of the year and no permit is needed. 

As you walk along the trail, you’ll see beautiful greenery, mountains, and Santa Barbara down below. Since the trail is short, you’ll see the castle almost immediately. Take a look at those breathtaking surroundings!

We recommend packing a picnic. What’s better than snacking and sipping cider from a castle wall with amazing city views? Grab your friends and bring your camera. Pictures are a must. This is one hidden gem you don’t want to miss. 

Knapp’s Castle Trail

Directions: Take the US 101 in Santa Barbara to Highway 154. After driving north for 10.5 miles, turn right onto East Camino Cielo. Follow the ride for 2.9 miles until you reach a parking pull to the right. From the unmarked gate, it is a 0.4-mile walk to the castle ruins. 

Price: Free

Why You Should Go: You can explore old castle ruins overlooking Santa Barbara and the mountains. There’s also a tree swing where you can soar over the city.

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Editor’s Note: Please obey any posted signage.


We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.

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