Ray Ford

Inspiration Point

Great Views and the Perfect Power Walk

Distance-0.75 miles to the bridge; 1.25 miles to the creek crossing; 2 miles to Inspiration Point
Elevation Gain-800 feet
Difficulty-moderately strenuous
Topo- Santa Barbara

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Map by Ray Ford

For those who want to combine a two-hour workout, great views and access to cool spots such as Seven Falls as part of the trip up to the top, Inspiration Point is one of the best local hikes. You can reach the point from the Tunnel Road trailhead or the San Roque area, and with a shuttle make it a point-to-point trip that will test your muscles.

From the Santa Barbara Mission drive up Mission Canyon Road to Foothill and turn right, then turn left several hundred yards later (by the fire station). Continue up Mission Canyon to the Tunnel Road turnoff, a half mile before the Botanic Garden. Continue several miles to the end. Park properly. The police frequently ticket illegally parked cars. The trail begins about three-quarters mile beyond the locked gate.

As you continue past the turnoff to Tunnel Trail, though there are no trail signs marking its beginning, you are just about to start up the eastern end of the Jesusita Trail. Look for the turnoff on the left that officially marks the trail’s beginning.

Father and daughter work their way through the chaparral covering on a spring day.
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Ray Ford

Father and daughter work their way through the chaparral covering on a spring day.

A short section of trail leads down and across the west fork of Mission Canyon. Along the way you get quick peeks up the canyon of Cathedral Peak and, if you look closely, the canyon walls that form Seven Falls.

Many hikers head up toward Inspiration Point in the later afternoon, both because of the lighting, which turns golden in the later part of the day, and the cool shade. Much of the 600-foot climb to the top of the ridge is in the shade by then.

Most of the hiking is relatively easy, with plenty of switchbacks to help you gain elevation without gaining too much horizontal distance. For most of the way you’ll find yourself immersed in the chaparral, although the occasional view back across Mission Canyon and up toward Tunnel Trail provide relief from the canopy of chaparral overhead.

Pools along the middle of the hike make a great place to spot in either direction.
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Ray Ford

Pools along the middle of the hike make a great place to spot in either direction.

Then, at what seems like it might be the high point, you cross a small saddle that provides a hint of what the views up on top will be like. Ahead of you are the power lines, and just beyond, the high point. Suddenly you come out of the chaparral and onto a wide dirt road. Across the road you will see the continuation of the Jesusita Trail. Fifty yards will take you to one of Santa Barbara’s nicest viewpoints. Exclamations of delight, the feeling of joy at being here, and many moments of quiet contemplation are sure to greet you here.

Views from the top of Inspiration Point provide a 180 degree view of the coast.
Click to enlarge photo

Ray Ford

Views from the top of Inspiration Point provide a 180 degree view of the coast.

Though you might think you’ve made it to Inspiration Point, you haven’t actually gotten there quite yet. Head back down the trail to the road, turn right (toward Santa Barbara) and look for a narrow trail leading off into the chaparral. It looks more like a game trail but actually it is quite nice. A hundred yards of meandering, at times with head ducked to avoid the overhanging ceanothus, will bring you to a series of boulder fields where you will find the actual point. You will know you are there if you find the carved initials that have been grooved into the sandstone.

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