Steep headwalls on both sides of Seven Falls have been the cause of a number of rescues and injuries in this area. Search and Rescue recommends you be prepared any time you head into unfamiliar territory.
Ray Ford

Six Chinese foreign exchange students who hiked up Mission Canyon to view the evening sunset ended up caught above Seven Falls after dark with only their cellphones to light their way back. With the power on their phones almost gone and unable to descend from the top of the steep, rocky point above the falls, the group decided it was best to stop and call for help.

Fortunately they were able to get through to 911 just before 7pm. They reported being cold, with one in their party reportedly becoming dehydrated, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team responded to the Seven Falls area. Just about the time that Search and Rescue personnel began hearing the cries of the stranded hikers from a viewpoint on the Tunnel Trail side of the canyon, they also spotted the lights of what turned out to be a group of four hikers coming down from Arlington Peak after they’d enjoy their own sunset views.

“This group coming down was well outfitted,” SAR team member Nelson Trichler noted, “ just the way you’d want to see those who are out in conditions like this: warm clothing, water, headlamps, the right stuff.” While two of them headed on the to trailhead, the other two headed up the canyon towards Seven Falls to see what could do to help and ended up guiding the six foreign exchange students down the steep off trail route to a point where they met up with Search and Rescue team members. From there they were escorted down to their cars where they were released to go home.

“This was very typical of the type of rescues we have on the front country trails,” Trichler noted. “Heading out too late in the day, not knowing the territory, not bringing sufficient water or warm clothing if something goes wrong, all of these can lead to an emergency situation.” Above all, a flashlight and well charged cellphone are absolute necessities if you are heading someplace you aren’t familiar with.

For tips about what you can do to prepare yourself before you go out check out the SAR team’s hiking tips on their website.


The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, is a trained, all-volunteer unit of the Sheriff’s Office that is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The team is looking to recruit new members who have an interest in helping others and have a love of the outdoors. No previous skills or training is necessary. Learn more by visiting or call (805) 962-5711.


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