Once a trail used by indigenous people to access water and the lush forest in the foothills east of town, then a route for Hispanic woodcutters and their burros, and for most of the 20th century a prosaic residential street with only a gas station and a general store, Canyon Road today is lined with nearly 100 mostly upscale art galleries along with a handful of shops and restaurants. The narrow road begins at the eastern curve of Paseo de Peralta and stretches for about 2 miles uphill at a moderate incline. Upper Canyon Road (past East Alameda) is narrow and residential, with access to hiking and biking trails along the way, and the Randall Davey Audubon Center at the far east end. Elsewhere on neighboring streets in the East Side, you’ll find a few bed-and-breakfasts as well as the beautifully situated campus of St. John’s College, but this part of town is mostly residential.
There are few places as festive as Canyon Road on Christmas Eve, when thousands of farolitos illuminate walkways, walls, roofs, and even trees. In May the scent of lilacs wafts over the adobe walls, and in August red hollyhocks enhance the surreal color of the blue sky on a dry summer day.