Inspiration Point

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Distance—.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

Inspiration Point is formed by the extension of the ridgeline leading off the southeast side of Cathedral Peak. Near the bottom the ridgeline flattens out, forming a promontory from which you can enjoy excellent views out over the city. The vista across the western flank of the Santa Ynez Mountains is particularly enchanting.

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 which officially marks the trail's beginning.
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 which form Seven Falls.

Many hikers head up towards 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 towards Tunnel Trail provide relief from the canopy of chaparral overhead.

Then at what seems like it might be the high point you cross a small saddle which 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.

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 (towards 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 which have been grooved into the sandstone.



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