Inspiration Point Santa Barbara (West approach)
- Location: Santa Barbara. From Highway 101, take the Las Positas/CA 225 exit (#100) and head north. Turn left if you’re coming from the west; right if from the east. Follow Las Positas for 1.9 miles, during which time it becomes San Roque Road. Park in the dirt lots on either side of the road.
- Agency: City of Santa Barbara
- Distance: 7 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance)
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo map: Santa Barbara
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; sunblock
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here
- Rating: 8
If you’ve already hiked to Santa Barbara’s Inspiration Point via the Tunnel Trail and eastern leg of the Jesuita Trail, don’t miss this more challenging – and more scenic – approach from the west. This great hike has a little bit of everything: shaded canyons, tall mountains and panoramic ocean views.
Begin by following the Jesuita Trail north, under the shade of oaks, past an intersection with a trail coming in on the left from Stevens Park. The Jesuita Trail continues north, dipping into a woodland of majestic oaks with a picnic table at 0.4 miles and reaching a junction with the Arroyo Burro trail at 0.6 miles. Turn right and climb out of the canyon. Stay left at an unsigned junction and cross a meadow, ignoring a few use trails that branch off, dipping back into San Roque Canyon. It parallels a private road which it eventually joins for a short segment (1.3 miles), passing a picnic area. Bear right at a Y-junction, passing by a few stables before breaking off from the road, back onto the single-track.
Now comes the steepest section of the trail, as it climbs through the oak and sycamore lined upper reaches of a San Roque Canyon tributary. After dovetailing against the private road and passing an intersection with two false trails, the Jesuita Trail climbs out of the canyon on some switchbacks and precariously clings to the side of the hill, offering dramatic ocean views.
At 2.9 miles, you reach a service road. Bear left and continue uphill, making an S-curve to meet the eastern segment of the Jesuita Trail. Shortly beyond, look for an obscure, unsigned use trail on the right. If you find yourself going downhill, you’ve come too far.
The use trail is overgrown but easy to follow. In 0.1 miles, you reach the high point of the ridge, marked by a pile of rocks. The trail continues a few dozen yards beyond to a jumble of boulders. Both spots offer excellent views of the Santa Barbara coastline, the mountains above and the canyons below. Santa Cruz Island’s elongated shape dominates the horizon. After enjoying the vista, retrace your steps back to the service road and the Jesuita Trail.
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.