Cathedral Peak Trail is a 4.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Santa Barbara, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
Well established use trail climbs from Mission Creek to La Cumbre Peak via Cathedral Peak. The scramble up along the rocky ridge includes some class 2 rock climbing. The route from the Tunnel Trailhead to the top is 4 miles that are often quite steep. The hike usually begins at Tunnel Trailhead, then follows the road up for a mile. Turn onto Jesusita (toward Inspiration Point) for a short time to the bottom of Mission Creek. Here, find the trail traveling steeply up the west side of the canyon north of Jesusita. The Three Pools portion of the 7 Falls and 3 Pools trail will break off to the right soon in the climb. The people thin out substantially after 2.5 miles at Arlington Peak. This trail can become brutally hot, even in winter, and combined with the steep aspect, requires more water than similar miles on other trails. Search and Rescue is called here too often for the underprepared.
A wonderful and burly hike/scramble in the front country on what feels like a very sierra like ridge. If you are interested in desert rockaneering this is a great practice route. Very steep, feet and hand terrain, route finding skills required. If you want to follow a foot only trail go elsewhere. This is excellent to link up with La Cumbre connecting Arlington, Cathedral, and La Cumbre peak. I got a lift home at the summit from my girlfriend as my doctor didn't want me doing too much down hill hiking yet due to a broken ankle last spring. I guess you can go down the tunnel trail, I'm looking forward to coming back and doing that. I wore climbing approach shoes and was grateful, my hiking poles however were a total pain because you need your hands often and because you are in tight chaparral between Cathedral and La Cumbre and they get hung up on branches when strapped to the pack. My time up to La Cumbre was 3 hrs 15min , I saw a guy literally running this with his small dog, it was impressive. I'll guess he took about 3 hours to do the whole thing, maybe less.
There is someone in the reviews saying that this is not a difficult trail, which is a lie if you are not an avid hiker. 3-4 hours, don't bring your dog, bring 2+ liters of water and a protein bar, a hat and sunscreen are highly recommended.
All that being said, this is one of the most satisfying hikes in Santa Barbara. The view is unparalleled, the rock hoping is very fun, and the climb is exhilarating.
I enjoyed this trail it's a nice elevation gain so it's a good work out for a short trail, and the views were great at the peak witch was a nice reward. not a lot of shade so be careful bringing your dog don't forget even if it's not that hot the ground is. I would definitely recommend this hike it's really not that hard BTW.
Third time doing this trail. Fantastic views the entire way. Many parts are a scramble and less of a hike (up to Arlington peak at least). It is best to do with someone who has done it before (as there are many side/parallel, but trickier trails, likely from lost climbers). There is a complete loop where you continue past Cathedral peak, dip down into the saddle, and continue up to La Cumbre, east on Camino Cielo, and down the tunnel trail... but this is a large ordeal that takes most of the day. After Cathedral, the trail gets quite tricky and it's really a good idea to do this part with someone who has done it (especially since the trail isn't official).
The hike is amazing, but there are many caveats. 1stly, it is completely unmarked and debatably undoable without inside knowledge of trail route and/or GPS help. It is extremely difficult, with the brunt of the hike being a route rather than a trail up the spine of Arlington Peak. This is the hardest part. Bring more water than you think you will need. Cool cave at base of Cathedral peak. Look for sketchy trail coming off the left on your ascent up Cathedral Peak-- 20 minute detour out and back and worth the trip. 4 1/2 hour round trip for us.
Really fun, takes a long time. Just as a warning, this is more of a scramble than a hike. It's a class 2 peak with a really well defined route.
Steep but worth it
Good trail. Very steep in parts and often hard to navigate. I hiked it in the fog, which made it difficult as I couldn't see the sun or any landmarks to keep my bearings. Fortunately I had my gps and tracked my ascent so I knew when I was veering. Come with plenty of water if you are doing this in the sun. It's quite a workout but very rewarding!