Exploring the Santa Ynez Valley

By: Kevin Tangney + Save to a List

It is bone dry and beautiful in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Write one true sentence. 

"In Southern California, tis no fecking water there.” 

I manage a slight smile as the words of my father, accompanied by his Irish brogue, ring true in my head. Indeed, there has been no substantial rainfall here in the valley for quite some time. I’m on SR 154 also know as the Chumash Highway, the scenic alternative to U.S. Route 101, making the 30-mile drive east from Santa Barbara to the Santa Ynez Valley. 

It is bone dry and beautiful. Fires are common on this route, the passing scorched hills and drifting ash serve as an eerie reminder of the recent Thomas Fire which tore though sections deep in Los Padres National Forest, eventually becoming California's largest wildfire on record. 

It's a few days after Christmas. My body is slightly sluggish from last night’s holiday cheer but even more eager with anticipation to explore Happy Canyon and hike the surrounding Los Padres National Forest at first light. I make my way through the rustic scenery, enjoying the calm presence of grazing cattle, passing ranch-hands and grand horses as I careen through the twisty canyons.  

Sunrise in the Santa Ynez Valley

A private estate on Armour Ranch Rd.

Happy Canyon Farmhouse

Happy Canyon is renowned for breeding championship horses

Happy Canyon Road

Golden hills and twisting roads in Happy Valley

First light in Happy Canyon

First light in Happy CanyonBeautiful views of Happy Canyon Road

Kevin Tangney is a photographer and travel writer, follow him on Instagram @kevin_tangney. Please DM to collaborate!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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