Located in the Santa Ynez Mountains, 1,800-feet above Santa Barbara, Inspiration Point provides panoramic views over The American Riviera. It is a moderate 7.55 to 7.95-mile round trip trek from San Roque Road up Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point, gradually checking off 1,400 feet of elevation gain. Those who prefer a shorter alternative, can hike from Tunnel Road and take a 3.75-mile round trip hike up Tunnel Trail and Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point. If you’ve got a hankering for ocean views from an overlook high above Santa Barbara, don’t hesitate to hike Jesusita Trail!
Jesusita Trail starts from San Roque Road just above Foothill Boulevard west of downtown Santa Barbara. Find the trailhead next to the William B. Cater Filtration Plant and begin hiking down into the San Roque Canyon. Jesusita Trail takes many forms on its way to Inspiration Point. It starts as a dirt single-track, briefly overlaps a paved road, transitions to a wide dirt road, back to a narrow single track and back to a dirt road again. Despite these changes in character, Jesusita Trail is well marked until the final spur to the overlook at Inspiration Point, when the fantastic views will draw you to the finish.
Enjoy intermittent shade over the first 2.5 miles of Jesusita Trail as it follows the riparian banks of San Roque Creek. After 3/4 of a mile, turn right at a marked junction with Arroyo Borro Trail. Leave the oak woodland and cross a field with broad views of the mountain range ahead, including the rocky face of Cathedral Peak. The trail appears to split when you reach the field. Stick with the worn path on the left to stay on course.
Jesusita Trail returns to the creek and runs parallel with a paved private drive. After three creek crossings, the trail merges with the paved road. Walk 0.05 miles up the road to a bend and turn right up a bit more pavement to a gate at the entrance of Moreno Ranch, which grants access to hikers on Jesusita Trail. The trail passes through the ranch gate, where there is a canopied picnic table and a drinking fountain. Walk toward a green barn, quickly reaching a split in the dirt road. Turn right and descend back toward the creek. On the far bank of the creek, follow the sign and turn left up Jesusita Trail. The trail leaves the ranch road and resumes its original nature as a single track bordering a fork of San Roque Creek.
Hike along the creek for another 0.9 miles to the back of the canyon. The trail climbs out of the oaks and sycamores and begins up a sunny mountainside covered in manzanitas, chamise, and other chaparral. The ocean views begin, 2.5 miles from the start. There is another 500 feet of elevation gain over the next 1.25 miles of lovely trail leading up to Inspiration Point.
The crescent-shaped trail bends east, climbing higher into the Santa Ynez Mountains to deliver expanding views of the Pacific. When the single track meets a dirt service road, 3.25 miles from the start, turn left and continue east up the road beneath a row of power lines. Sharp sandstone peaks rise above the trail, adding a new sense of rugged grandeur. The road climbs a rise on the mountainside through two long curves shaped like a backward S.
Just as the road starts to level and turn downhill, after 3.75 miles of hiking, you will come to an important unmarked junction. The trail to the right leads to Inspiration Point. The trail to the left is the other end of Jesusita Trail, which descends into Mission Canyon and can be used for the shorter hike to Inspiration Point. Straight ahead, the wide dirt road heads down into the canyon and dead ends by electrical towers. There is a path off this road that can be used to reach Historic Inspiration Point (described below). To reach Inspiration Point, turn right at the junction and walk a hundred feet out to a worn dirt landing where the memorable vista awaits.
Inspiration Point provides a clear view over the coast of Santa Barbara and across the Pacific Ocean toward the Channel Islands. Inspiration Point also looks west down miles and miles of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the dramatic backdrop behind Santa Barbara. Inspiration Point is only about halfway up the mountain range in terms of elevation, so there are tall sandstone summits like Arlington Peak, Cathedral Peak, and the Mission Crags jutting skyward high above Inspiration Point to the north.
For additional views, trek down a footpath to a bluff a tenth of a mile (and 75 feet) below Inspiration Point. This worn path goes past several charred trees in an area recovering from the 2009 Jesusita Fire.
If you need extra inspiration, you can take a path to Historic Inspiration Point, which offers expanded views to the southeast along with privacy that can be fleeting at Inspiration Point. To reach Historic Inspiration Point, head back to the junction at the top of Jesusuta Trail and go east along the road for just 150 feet. At the bottom of a shallow dip, a hard-to-spot path breaks off to the right and heads out to the crown at the end of the ridge. Take this path out to a clusters of sandstone boulders that you can sit down on or stand up on and enjoy sweeping views over Santa Barbara. Look up the coast to the west or down the coast to the east toward Ventura. There are also views to the northeast up Mission Canyon toward the tops of the Santa Ynez Mountains and a jumbled cluster of sandstone called the Rock Garden. This extension to Historic Inspiration Point adds about 0.4 miles round trip to the hike to Inspiration Point.
When you have had all the inspiration you can handle, simply return the way you came. The hike is 7.75 miles round trip to Inspiration Point and back, or 7.95 miles if you add a visit to Historic Inspiration Point. There is no fee or permit required to hike Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point. Dogs and mountain bikes are welcome, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, take exit 100 and turn north up Las Positas Road (Route 225). After 0.8 miles, cross State Street where Las Positas Road becomes San Roque Road. Continue another 1.3 miles to the trailhead, which will be on the left just past the William B. Cater Filtration Plant. There is additional parking on the right side of the road.
Trailhead address: 1150 San Roque Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Trailhead coordinates: 34.45432, -119.72875 (34° 27′ 15.55″N 119° 43′ 43.50″W)
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