Tangerine Falls takes some work to reach, and its flow is dependent upon seasonal conditions, but if you put in the effort to do this hike when the water is flowing, this 100-foot waterfall with views of the ocean and Channel Islands will treat you to a show unparalleled in the Santa Barbara area.
The hike begins at the Cold Springs Trailhead, and it joins and splits from several trails that make up a network in this area before requiring some off-trail scrambling and climbing for the final push to the falls. On a nice day you'll most likely see plenty of other people and may have to fight for parking; despite this, the falls themselves see much less hiker traffic and make a great place to rest your legs after the final climb.
Navigating the network of trails can be tricky.
About 0.25 miles from the trailhead, turn left and cross the creek to join the West Fork Trail. About 0.85 miles from the trailhead, take the right fork. At 0.95 miles, the main trail bends and a sign warns you that the route to Tangerine Falls is now off-trail. Follow the fork to the right and begin the rougher portion of the hike.
Though it may not be a trail, the herd path from past hikers is easy to follow. The cascading falls of the adjacent creek help make up for the boulders and dirt slopes that must be climbed and scrambled over as you make your way up nearly 500 feet in elevation gain over the final half mile.
Although there may be mud, and heavy rains may cause the creek to wash over the path altogether, it remains easy to trace your way up before converging with the falls along the Middle Fork of Cold Spring Creek.
Carefully make your way across the creek and the slick boulders to the grotto at the base of the falls. The pool is a safe distance from the slick edges. At over 100 feet, the falls cap off a hike that stands over 1,500 feet above sea level. It is possible to see Santa Cruz Island out in the ocean from here.
Return by following the path back down to the parking area.
There are no amenities at the trailhead. Dogs are allowed, but the final scramble to the falls may require carrying them up some slopes, and the slick rock at the falls requires extreme caution for both dogs and hikers. Be aware of the poison oak along the trails.