Inspiration Point Santa Barbara (East approach)
- Location: Los Padres National Forest north of Santa Barbara. From highway 101, take the Mission St. exit and go east for a mile to the road’s end at Laguna Street. Head left, and take a right on Los Olivos (in front of the mission). Bear left on Mission Canyon, and in 0.8 miles, go right on Foothill Blvd. Then take a quick left onto the continuation of Mission Canyon, and take a left on Tunnel Road. Follow Tunnel a mile to its end and park on the street.
- Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Santa Barbara Ranger District
- Distance: 4 miles
- Elevation gain: 900 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: September – May
- USGS topo maps: “Santa Barbara”
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
- Recommended guidebook:
- More information: here
- Rating: 7
There are several areas in the California wild (probably in other states, too) called Inspiration Point, and even if the name tires quickly, most of these places live up to the name, including this one near Santa Barbara.
The beginning of the trail, however, isn’t all that inspirational, but as you work your way up the exposed paved continuation of Tunnel Road (access it by passing through a gate), you do get nice views of the Los Padres National Forest and the Pacific Ocean. After three quarters of a mile, cross a bridge and enter a wooded area. Here, look for the Jesuita Trail branching off to the left and heading downhill to Mission Creek.
After crossing Mission Creek (where there are several swimming holes when the water level is high) and begin switchbacking up to Inspiration Point. On the left is Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean; on the right are some sandstone outcrops. The hike climbs steeply to a service road. Turn left and almost immediately look for an obscure, unsigned use trail heading right (if you reach a fork in the road or find yourself going down hill, you’ve come too far.) The trail is overgrown but not too difficult to follow. In about 0.1 miles you reach a high point on the ridge with great ocean views; the trail a few dozen yards more to a jumble of boulders. Here you can climb up on the rocks and enjoy more views before heading back.
Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.