Two years after the mudslides of Montecito, Cold Spring Trail has been reopened. What was once a small creek trickling along the bottom of the valley where the trailhead is located was ravished by mud and boulders; after extensive restoration, the popular hiking trail has reopened.
On Jan. 9, 2018, people of Montecito were awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of mud and boulders flowing down from the Santa Ynez mountains into the valleys of
Montecito. Among the extensive damage, including 100 homes that were destroyed and over
300 more that were damaged, the mudslides wreaked havoc on the natural land itself. The main canyon trails that were affected included Romero Canyon, San Ysidro, Hot Spring Canyon, and Cold Spring Canyon. According to writer Ray Hawk of the Santa Barbara news outlet Noozhawk, each of these trails lost almost all of their vegetation 20-30 feet up the walls on either side and the creek bottom depths had been scoured out to as much as 10-15 feet deeper.
The majority of the trails were restored within a couple months of the mudslides, but Cold Spring Trail was not so quickly finished. One of the most tangible damage factors of Cold Spring Canyon was the destruction caused to East Mountain Drive, the road that leads from the freeway to the trailhead. Due to the devastation of the road, which is still not fully repaired today, the only way to get to the trail is up Cold Spring Road toward the overflow parking lot of the trail. As for the trail itself, what was once waterfalls and pools had turned into a muddy bed of rocks and loose soil. The mudslides had almost completely destroyed the trail and all of the remaining vegetation that survived the Thomas Fire, which ran alongside what used to be the creek bed. All that was left was a wasteland of boulders and broken branches.
In order to repair what was lost, many individuals spanning multiple organizations within
the Santa Barbara community stepped up and put in thousands of hours to complete the process of restoration. The main contributor towards the restoration of Cold Spring Trail was the
Montecito Trail Foundation.
Because of the donations they received, the Montecito Trail Foundation was
able to reconstruct the trail around the canyon floor that now runs alongside the much wider
creek bed. Among this restoration, the Montecito Trail Foundation designed and created a stone wall near the trailhead that holds the trail up a few feet above the creek.
A new bridge is being constructed as well so as to continue the restoration and reopen
East Mountain Road as soon as possible.
“As we continue to mourn the devastation of the Jan. 9 debris flow” said Montecito Trail Foundation supervisor Das Williams, “it’s also important to celebrate the accomplishments we’ve made in recovery.” The reopening of the Cold Spring Trail is one more step in the direction of the recovery that the people of Montecito desire and will not stop working towards.