This challenging trail will deliver stunning views of the Santa Barbara front country, downtown Santa Barbara, and the Channel Islands. Climbing the Dragons Back up to Arlington Peak is a rewarding scramble along an exposed boulder field ridgeline. The route is littered with options from slab climbing to short cave traversing and even a strange little unexpected forest. Be warned, however, this is not a trail for the faint of heart. Summiting the three peaks along the Cathedral Peak Trail (Arlington Peak, Cathedral Peak, and La Cumbre Peak) is both athletically challenging as well as navigationally challenging.
Directions: To get to the trailhead, the first 0.7 miles of Tunnel Trail
South is an old, unused paved road. At the top of that paved road, the surface turns to a rocky access road and there is a Y. Take the left road. Approximately 200 yards up the road, there will be a singletrack trail on the left; this is Jesusita Trail
. Nearly everyone on this trail will be heading to Inspiration Point.
After ~0.1 miles on this trail, you'll come to a creek bed. Go across the creek BUT instead of heading left out of the creek bed along the well-traveled trail to Inspiration Point; head right along the edge of the creek bed. In ~100 feet, the Cathedral Peak Trail will head steeply up a rocky slope to your left. Follow this trail up the Dragons Back ridge to Arlington Peak and continue along the deliciously sharp ridgeline to Cathedral Peak.
From Cathedral Peak, there are three options for trails down the steep slope to the saddle pass before your final push up La Cumbre Peak. Take the middle of the three options—you may want to use the Hiking Project mobile app
to make sure you are on the right track. This is not obvious. The first of the three options is right at the base of Cathedral Peak and is dangerously steep. I came very close to hurting myself on that option. Also, once down the steep cliff wall, the trail seems to disappear which led to an hour of crawling on my belly trying to get through the thick miniature forest. GO PAST Cathedral Peak along the rocky ridge for ~50 yards and another option down to the saddle will appear. This is the one you want. At that point, you have a fun downhill hike through a thick, short forest ahead of you. After passing the saddle, you'll face the final significant climb to La Cumbre Peak.