** Use at Your Own Risk **
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
- Topo: San Rafael Mtn 7½, Figueroa Mtn 7½
Nearby Peaks: McKinley Mountain, San Rafael Mountain
- Distance: 27 miles round trip on dirt road and cross-country
- Gain: 4,800' plus 2,300'on the return
- Time: 16-18 hours r.t.
- Rating: Class 1; Extremely Strenuous
- Navigation: Difficult
Original: Howland Bailey - Feb 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 FR 8N08. Pass the gate and
twist easterly up the dirt road for 7½ miles to a good camping spot
and water source at 5600 feet, easily visible down 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 1½ mile farther
east on FR 8N08 to McKinley Saddle (5800'-) between McKinley
Mountain and San Rafael Mountain, the
take-off point 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. Turn
south on this poor road (in places little more than a track and
occasionally washed out) which drops 600' as it gradually contours around
the southwest side of San Rafael Mountain and then
up to the main north-south ridge (5800'+), some 1½ miles from
McKinley Saddle. 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 slope of
bump 5484', where the road becomes more obvious as it contours left around
the bump. Follow the poor road until it meets the ridge line east of bump
5484', at a point where the road ahead drops steeply for several hundred
feet. Make an up-ridge right turn here, following a second poor road to
the top of bump 5484'. Immediately beyond this local summit, drop north
down to yet another overgrown road. Follow this road southwest to the
large saddle marking the east flank of Santa Cruz Peak. The "road"
followed to this saddle continues west around the north slopes of Santa
Cruz. It must be found and followed, but it does not meet the ridgeline
straight ahead. In that direction lies impenetrable brush. To find the "road"
veer slightly to the right immediately upon reaching the saddle low point,
continue slowly uphill, and scrutinize right-hand brush lanes for any
trace of a roadbed. Follow the "road" on its gradual climb
around to the west side of Santa Cruz Peak. If a level or ascending
roadbed is visible ahead, no matter how brushy, it is not yet time to head
uphill. A gigantic brush tangle without a hint of a roadbed is the turning
point. Exit the roadbed onto the steep, brushy slopes to the left and
then proceed uphill to the high point, which is the southwestern of the
two summit rock piles.
McKinley Mountain, Santa Cruz Peak, &
San Rafael Mountain are together known as "The
Big Three". They are normally done as a two-day backpack, camping
overnight at McKinley Spring.
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.
FR 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
HPS Mountain Records Chair.
Hundred Peaks Section, Angeles Chapter, Sierra Club
© 2001 - All Rights Reserved
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