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McKinley Mountain


Location: Santa Barbara County, about 20 miles north of Goleta in the San Rafael Mountain Range, 135 miles from Los Angeles


Auto Club: Santa Barbara County
Forest Service: Los Padres National Forest: Mt Pinos, Ojai and Santa Barbara Ranger Districts
USGS Topo: San Rafael Mtn 7½, Figueroa Mtn 7½
HPS: Route(s), waypoints and explanation of usage

Nearby Peaks: Santa Cruz Peak, San Rafael Mountain

Printable version of this route


(USFS Adventure Pass required)
Distance: 18 miles round trip on road and firebreak
Gain: 3100'
Time: 10 hours round trip
Rating: Class 1, strenuous

Original: Howland Bailey, January 1968


  • Take US 101 to just west of Santa Barbara. Turn north on SR 154.
  • Continue north and then west about 22 miles past Lake Cachuma, to Armour Ranch Road on the right. Turn right, note your odometer and go as follows:
  • At 1.3 miles, fork with Happy Canyon Road on the right. Turn right.
  • At 12.9 miles, Cachuma Campground.
  • At 15.3 miles, Cachuma Saddle and a ranger station on the left. Park in the large parking lot south of the ranger station.

Sometimes Happy Canyon Road is closed by a slide. In this case, continue farther west on SR 154 to the town of Los Olivos and then go north on Figueroa Mountain Road, which joins Happy Canyon Road at Cachuma Saddle.


  • From the parking area (3100'), cross the highway and hike in on 28W01, a dirt road to the east, 7 1/2 miles to McKinley Spring at 5600'. The spring is below the road on the left. This is a good camping spot.
  • Hike 1/2 mile farther east on 28W01 to the saddle between McKinley and San Rafael. This is also the turnoff for Santa Cruz Peak and San Rafael Mountain.
  • Turn right (west) and go up a firebreak 1/2 mile to the summit.


McKinley Mountain, Santa Cruz Peak, and San Rafael Mountain are together known as "The Big Three". They are normally done as a two day backpack. Water is usually available at McKinley Spring though it should be treated.

This area experienced a major fire in 1994. The routes to McKinley and San Rafael were not affected. The fire dramatically changed the vegetation on Santa Cruz Peak. The last portion of the climbing route to this peak has been permanently changed.

History of Summit Signature

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Please report any corrections or changes to the Mountain Records Chair.

Hundred Peaks Section, Angeles Chapter, Sierra Club
Published 28-December-2005
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