Parts of Europe are well known for massive medieval estates, but such extravagant homes are rare in the US. However, there is a place with old dilapidated remains of an abandoned mansion in the Santa Ynez mountains known as Knapp’s Castle.
The Back Story
In 1916, George Owen Knapp built a the elevated mansion and moved in with his family from Chicago. As a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist, Knapp had plenty of funds to make his ideal home on this 70 acre parcel in Montecito.
Sadly, it was destroyed by a forest fire in 1940. It is now a treasured local site that people visit daily for sensational views of the jagged backcountry that stretch on towards Lake Cachuma, which is nestled in the valley.
You Should Visit the Castle Early in the Morning
Dusk is a pleasant site from the castle, but sunrise is unbeatable. The mountains block most views of a fading sun, but in the morning, brilliant warm colors are as they rise above the mountains.
Where It’s At
If you can manage to get yourself up early enough to make the thirty-minute drive from Hotel Milo for dawn, do it. The drive takes you up the winding, oceanside of Highway 154, so you can see the first light of the sunrise on your way up.
Take the East Camino Cielo exit and continue to wind and weave up the hill until you come to an old rusty gate on the left.
Here are Google Map directions from Hotel Milo. If you are feeling like doing more of a full-day activity, there is also the option to hike from the bottom of the valley up Snyder trail. Find directions to the start here.
Lay of the Land
The main part of the ruins look like an old amphitheater with several rows of stone seating that face old, decrepit arches.Visitors like to scale up these structures and walk straight across them from higher ground in a tight-rope manner.
From here you can gaze out to Cachuma Lake, parts of Highway 154 that lead to it and the backcountry mountains that are a night and day difference from the urban Santa Barbara scenery.
If you feel like wandering around the grounds, there is an old rope swing down the northern side of the hill, slightly crumbling chimneys to scale up and several trails that wind down the mountainside. Many downhill mountain bikers will start at the base of the Knapp’s and take Snyder Trail down all the way to the valley floor.