Santa Barbara - Hike to Inspiration Point and Seven Falls


What? :

The hike to Inspiration Point is about 3.4-mile out-and-back trail in the mountains north of Santa Barbara. The hike considered to be moderately challenging with an elevation gain of nearly 1,000 feet.

When reaching your destination at the top of a mid-range mountain, 1,800-feet above the Santa Barbara Coast, you will be reworded by the stunning views of the ocean, Santa Barbara coastline, Channel Islands (25 miles away into the ocean), and the surrounding mountains.

Plan for two to three hours to complete.

You can add to this trail a side hike to Seven Falls.

This hike will lead you to a side canyon where you can find several waterfalls (when the water are running).

This challenging side trail will add one or one and a half mile out and back hike, depending how long you want to go into the side canyon. This short but challenging hike, climb up and back down, can add one hour to your Inspiration Point hiking time.



Where? :

Located at the mountains north of Santa Barbara.

From the Santa Barbara Mission drive up to Foothill Road, turn right and when you see the fire station on your right turn left into Mission Canyon. Drive up and take the left fork into Tunnel Road. Continue to the end of the rod and the lock gate.

You can’t park here, and you need to find a legal parking spot along Tunnel Road.

When driving up and you see you are getting closer by the cars that are parking on the right side of the road. S you are getting closer, and you see vacant parking spot get into it. There is no parking lot at the trailhead.

Google Map Link



When? :

Year-round hike.

When raining the trail can get slippery and muddy in sections but not something you can’t overcome.



Nearby Destinations Blogs:

Due note 1: This is a very popular hike, especially at weekends and holidays. The main problem is that there is no parking lot. You need to find legal to park spots along Tunnel Road. Park properly outside the road and without blocking any local entrance. The police frequently ticket illegally parked cars. We had to park half a mile down the road, this add 1 mile to our overall hike.



Due note 2: This trailhead is also the beginning of several much longer hikes leading up into the mountains.


Due note 3: Dogs are allowed but they must be on a leash.


Due note 4: The dirt road trails are mountain bike friendly, but im not sure if you can ride up to Inspiration Point. According Alltrails map it show it is OK to drive this single-track trail.


Due note 5: There is little shade along the trail, so ware hat, put sunscreen and bring plenty of water. If you can plan to start your hike earlier in the day, it will also help to avoid the crowd and easier to find parking spot.


Due note 6: It is best to hike here on a clear day so you can enjoy the amazing views from the top.


Due note 7: There is very little reception along the hike so download the map before you drive up.


Due note 8: There are no restrooms or water in the trailhead.


Due note 9: No fee or permit is necessary to hike here.



My thoughts:

We really enjoy this fun hike to a nice viewing point, the view from inspiration point is impressive. Although the trail climb almost 1,000 ft in 1.7 miles it is not so challenging, and you can make it with many stops along the way.

The side trail into seven falls is short but may be challenging and does not fit everyone.

The waterfalls are nice, but you need to come during winter months for running water.



The Hike:

The official hike start at the gate at the end of the road.

It start on a wide path road called Tunnel Trail that follow up the west side of Mission Canyon. The trail gain elevation and you will have nice view of the town below you as you climb up.

This section, although climbing up is moderate and difficult.

On your way you will cross over to Mission Creek by a road bridge, here you can see below you some operational structures, flood control dam, and a small bridge.

Keep walking and after about 0.8 mile, you’ll reach the Mission Canyon Trailhead junction. You can’t miss it, here you will see a large map and instruction board.

In this trail junction you can connect to several other hiking and mountain biking trails.


Take the road left and after a short climb take left into the narrow semi-marked but clear trail, Jesusita Trail, that leads to Inspiration Point.

The trail go down to Mission Creek crossing, this will be exactly 1 mile from the starting point.

During most times of the year, the creek water level is low, so you shouldn’t have an issue with dry crossing, hoping from rock to rock. We hiked here mid-February 2024 after a several days with a lot of rains, and we manage to cross it without getting wet.


At this location there is the trail that fork right and up into the canyon, leading to Seven Falls.

I recommend taking this side trail on your way back, after visiting first Inspiration Point.


From the creek crossing, the trail turns left and climb the other side going up. This section starts to get steeper, but you can take resting stop and you have occasional shade.

If you will look up the mountain you can see the high-voltage power lines, this is you direction. It looks intimidating but it is not so difficult or very long.


Near the top the trail cross under the power lines and soon after you will reach another a dirt road, left to right. Cross it and “surprisingly” after the tall bushes you will reach your destination and see the view below you.

This will be 1.7 miles from the trail starting point.


Find a place to seat and enjoy the stunning views in all directions.

To the south and far below you can see Santa Barbara coastline, Stearns Wharf, and the large Main Harbor. 

On a good visibility day, you can see the large Channel Islands that are located 25 miles into the ocean.

 On the back side (north) you can see the high Santa Ynez Mountains ridge towering above you.


After resting, eating, and drinking you will start your hike back the same way you came here.



Seven Falls Hike:

On your way back you will cross again Mission Creek, here you can take the side hike to Seven Falls.


Although short (a mile in and out) it is challenging hike that involved with unmaintained trail, very steep climbing up the trail in its first section.


From the creek crossing you have 3 options:

1.      Walk in the creek – this is not an actual trail and it involved with bushwalking and overcome boulders and rocks.

2.      Up right – this trail is start by following the canyon but soon climb sharply over rocks and large “steps”. This trail connect to the left one at some point on the ridgeline.

3.      Up left – this is the recommended trail, still climbing up sharply but it the most “maintained” out of the 3 options.


Start hiking the left trail (#3). The trail is narrow and steep and gaining elevation quickly.

At some point you will find yourself out of the canyon, keep hiking on this “ridgeline” and soon you will see the “up right” trail connecting.

After additional short hike you will reach a trail junction, turn right.

A short walk and you will see the “trail” leading down the steep cliff into the canyon.

Walk down slowly and you will see the rope that will help you to overcome the cliff steep with loose dirt section. Be careful not to slip in this section, using the rope and holding rocks.


After short walk you will reach the creek, the waterfalls will be on your left.


From below you will see the tallest fall, about 20 feet tall, cascading over the rock into the small pool below.


You can climb the waterfall on it left side, over the rock crack, find footholds in the rock and climb to the waterfall level.

Once you are in the upper waterfall level you will have the view of series of small falls, only few feet tall, one after the other.

There are large pools between the falls, and you can’t progress from here without completely getting wet.

On hot summer day you can enjoy the pools for swimming and refreshing.

When you are done you need to climb the strenuous climb back to the upper trail, using the rope.


Now you can keep walking on the upper trail up the canyon and soon you will see another trail going down into the canyon.

Take this trail and slowly climb down, there is no rope here.


Once reaching back to the creek level head left and walk over the boulders. Soon you will see another nice waterfall. You can access the waterfall on the right side of the creek.

Here the swimming option has less water.


After finishing your stay here, you need to walk back up the cliff to the above trail, turn left and hike back all the way down to the main inspiration point trail.





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