Nojoqui Falls in Santa Barbara County
The Nojoqui Falls – Near Solvang and Buellton and not far off Highway 101, presents a short and easy walk up the trail to this magical waterfall. Come in the wet season for full flow; but a visit in the summer offers rewards as well.
The Nojoqui Falls – near Buellton in Santa Barbara County
Waterfalls are one of a group of natural phenomenon that tend to draw us to themselves and hold us in rapt wonderment.
Like fire, the surf, and a sunset – waterfalls are always a refreshment and joy to behold.
Nojoqui (pronounced no-HO-wee) Falls is easily accessed from Highway 101 just south of Buellton. (Google Map for the Falls at Nojoqui)
Nojoqui Falls Quick Facts:
GPS coordinates: 34.5344, -120.1776 (main entrance to the park); 3200 Alisal Road
Hours: 8AM to Sunset
Phone: (805) 568-2460
Dogs: Allowed on leash
Organization: Santa Barbara County Parks
Update: The trail to the falls is presently closed (May 2015). There was a rock-slide in December 2014 which has blocked the trail near the waterfall and access is prohibited for now. Check the County Parks link above to see if the way to the falls is open.
How to find Nojoqui Falls Park
The drive from Solvang along Alisal Road is beautiful. It winds easily through oak trees hanging with moss. The filtered light is lovely most any time of day.
The park is part of the Santa Barbara County Park system and there are ball fields, picnic areas, restrooms and playgrounds available. Dogs are allowed if on leash.
The Highway 101 northbound exit sign
The Highway 101 southbound exit sign
The northbound turnoff from Highway 101 is about 5.25 miles north of the Gaviota Pass rest area.
The southbound turnoff is about 4.75 miles south of the Highway 246 exit at Buellton.
As you can see from the street views above, the signs point to “Nojoqui Park”.
The playground and one of the picnic areas at Nojoqui Park
The park and surrounding area is located on the northern side of the Santa Ynez Mountains and is thickly wooded with oaks and sycamore.
We sometimes have to travel out of Central California to the Santa Barbara or Ventura areas. When we do, we like to pick up some wonderful sandwiches at Danny’s Deli (highly recommended – the best pastrami and corned beef this side of NYC!) and drive an hour up the road here to Nojoqui Park. Anytime during the week you’ll likely have the place to yourselves.
The trail to Nojoqui Falls
The falls are accessible by a well graded walking path about 1/4 mile long. There are additional picnic tables a few hundred feet up the trail if you wish to take your lunch deeper in the woods. The trailhead sign explains most of the rules as well as warning you about mountain lions.
The main rule concerning mountain lions: DON’T RUN AWAY! Scream, holler, open your jacket, stand up and look as big and menacing as you can. Throw something if you can. When you run, you only look more like prey to them. Present yourself as a possible threat to THEM.
As you progress up the pathway, you will cross over the creek flowing down from the falls several times. Be sure to watch out for tree roots and a walking stick is always a good idea on most any hike.
You’ll also begin to get an idea of just how steep the sides of this little canyon really are.
The lovely woodland view on the way to Nojoqui Falls
Realize also that this is California, and we get the bulk of our rain in the winter. So, if you are visiting toward the end of summer or even early autumn (or most anytime during our drought), there will be very little water coming over the falls and down the creek. It will just be a trickle which comes from the springs above.
It is still a lovely hike and the falls are fascinating with just that trickle.
The Nojoqui Falls
Since you can’t get to the falls right now (May 2015) and even if you could, there might not be that much water, I’ve added a lovely short video taken by Anita Ritenour, the photographer of the photo at the top of the page. It was taken in 2010, the last really wet year. Enjoy…
The falls aren’t grand; they are about 80 feet high (though some sites list them being 100 feet high). They don’t even fall straight down; rather they cascade down an incline of their own creation that has been built up by calcium deposits from the spring water at the source.
The water over the course of centuries has carved out a funnel of rock at the head of the canyon.
The Nojoqui Falls are very refreshing. If you are just coming into Central California from the south, the Falls are a good stop. They’re not far off the highway, and not a long walk. It can be a very good tonic to rid yourself of some of the “Southern California manic disorder” and ease into the quieter nature of Central California.
If you are leaving Central California, a stop at the falls will give you a final taste of the slower-paced life that is available here on the Central Coast. And that little refresher might make all the difference in getting you through to your next dose of the quieter life here.
If you are interested in further exploring waterfalls and waterfall photography, I can recommend an excellent site – The World of Waterfalls by Johnny T. Cheng. He and his wife have traveled the world to see waterfalls wherever they may occur. You’ll enjoy the trip…the page I’ve linked to is about the best ways to photograph waterfalls. He has some great tips such as keeping your camera dry and how to have a great time.