** Use at Your Own Risk **
See the Retired Peak Guides in the Archives for Microsoft Word and other versions of this peak guide.
Location: Santa Barbara County, about 18 miles north of Goleta, 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
explanation of usage
Nearby Peaks: McKinley Mountain, San Rafael Mountain
Printable version of this route
(USFS Adventure Pass required)
- Distance: 27 miles round trip on dirt road and cross-country
- Gain: 7100' total, 4800' out plus 2300' on return
- Time: 16-18 hours round trip
- Rating: Class 2 near summit, very strenuous
- Navigation: Difficult
- Leader Rating: "I", normal conditions
- Route: Dense brush near summit
Original: Howland Bailey, February 1968
DRIVING ROUTE 1
- 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
- At 1.3 miles, fork with Happy Canyon Road (paved) on the right. Turn
- 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.
If Happy Canyon Road is closed, proceed 7.2 miles beyond the Armour
Ranch Road on SR 154 to the town of Los Olivos and a junction with
Figueroa Mtn Road (paved). Turn right (north) for 19 miles to Cachuma
Saddle, adding 11 miles to the standard driving route. Call USFS at (805)
967-3481 for road conditions.
HIKING ROUTE 1
- From the parking area (3100'), cross the highway and take a short left
(north) to the gate marking the beginning of 8N08. Pass the gate and
twist easterly up the dirt road for 7 1/2 miles to a good camping spot
and water source at 5600', easily visible down the slope on the left about
100 yards past a pair of roadside water tanks. (The tanks mark McKinley
Spring, named Cold Spring on the USGS topo map.)
- Hike 1/2 mile farther
east on 8N08 to McKinley Saddle (5800'-)
Mountain and San Rafael Mountain, the
turnoffs for side trips to these two peaks.
- To continue straight for
Santa Cruz Peak, locate the unmaintained jeep road on the east side of
this broad saddle, just south of a sign that marks the boundary of the San
Rafael Wilderness and the beginning of Mission Pine Trail 21W08.
south on this poor road (in places little more than a track and
occasionally washed out) which drops 600' as it gradually
the southwest side of San Rafael Mountain and then
up to the main north-south ridge (5800'+), some 1 1/2 miles from
- Take the right (south) road fork at the main ridge.
Proceed south over a number of bumps. The track eventually takes aim at
bump 5484' and becomes obliterated in spots by excess brush. Persevere
through this zone, gaining 200' to the foot of the steep northern
bump 5484', where the road becomes more obvious as it contours left around
- Leave the road here on a use trail that contours around the right
(west) side of bump 5484' to the saddle on the east flank of Santa Cruz
From this saddle, continue up hill for about 15 meters.
You will see a ridge on your left (south) and trees.
There is a use trail that goes up through the trees following the ridge
on its north side for about 100 meters.
- The use trail then turns to your
right and traverses the slope until you reach some rocks.
- Follow the
rocks back up to the ridge and follow the ridge over one false summit to
Year-round water is usually available from the large pipe-fed container
at the camp (avoid using water from the horse trough) but should be
treated because the water is obtained from storage. Bears frequent the
area, so bear-proofing food and other perishables is also advisable.
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, camping
overnight at McKinley Spring.
8N08 is well graded and maintained as far as McKinley Saddle. These 8
road miles are suitable for mountain biking.
Round trip excursions from McKinley Saddle:
- Santa Cruz Peak is 11 miles, 1800' gain, plus 2000' gain on the return (7-9 hours).
- McKinley Mountain is 1 mile, 400' gain (1 hour).
- San Rafael Mountain is 5 miles, 1100' gain (2 hours).
- Add 1 mile, 200'
gain if the trip begins from camp. Round trip for the Big Three as a day
hike is 33 miles, 8600' gain. Camping is recommended.
NATURAL HISTORY NOTE
This area experienced a major fire in 1994. The natural recovery process
has led to very dense stands of brush in the vicinity of Santa Cruz Peak,
a condition far different from the relatively open slopes that used to be
Please report any corrections or changes to the
Mountain Records Chair.
Hundred Peaks Section, Angeles Chapter, Sierra Club
© 1998-2003 - All Rights Reserved