Cathedral Peak Trail

HARD 50 reviews
#19 of 170 trails in

Cathedral Peak Trail is a 4.5 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.

4.5 miles
2,293 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips




wild flowers




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.

16 days ago

HOLY HECK this was a tactical trail. If you have bad knees, this is not the trail for you. Don’t let the 4.5 mileage fool you. I’m in great shape and it took me over 4 hours to do the out and back. Bring gloves if you have them. My hands were bleeding from the rocks.

27 days ago

The Dragon's Back scramble route to Arlington Peak is a full-body workout with fun and challenging route finding and gorgeous scenery both at your feet and out over the Pacific.
Recommend going with someone who knows the route. Many big and awkward moves make for frequent joint injuries, especially ankle and knee, so go with a friend and place your hands and feet carefully.

1 month ago

This is the holy grail for me of trails in Santa Barbara. Rock scrambling up a ridge with beautiful views of Santa Barbara and Mission Canyon. I recommend continuing on up to La Cumbre Peak and circling back down via tunnel trail. Beautiful hiking.

3 months ago

This was no joke, by far the hardest trail I’ve ever done. Very difficult to find as well, but the views are so worth it. Bring lots of water and fuel to replenish your energy. It was only about 80 the day I did it, but it’s like you’re baking between all the rocks.

4 months ago

Great hike. Started around 7am with my group but it was just so hot already, we only made it to Arlington peak. You are pretty much exposed to the sun the whole time, definitely plan to do the hike on a cooler day.

6 months ago

It’s hard . Take a lot of water , good shoes and protect your hands. The map little confuse but you will figure out . I would like to hike there again! It worst it .

6 months ago

Fun hike

rock climbing
6 months ago

My favorite hike of all time. Very challenging but VERY fun, I have yet to find another like it.

7 months ago

There is another reviewer, Olek K., that is 100% correct in warning you about the difficulty of this trail.

This is the hardest hike in SB, but also the most rewarding.

Bring 2+ liters of water, sunscreen for before and at the top of the trail, a hat, clothes that you are alright with sweating through completely, and good hiking shoes.

Start out on the trail by 9:00 AM in the Summer or risk getting fatigued by the heat. Or start out at 4:30 PM in June/July and get a bit of natural shade on the way up.

Don't bring your dog, unless your dog's a goat.

10 months ago

5 stars, good hike with some fun rocks, lots of people on the first parts of the trail and too hard to find parking

lost the trail a couple times, gps is helpful if you dont know the trails

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

I’ll second everything Olek wrote beneath my review.

The hiking part of this trail ends where the river bed begins and then becomes a full on scramble/boulder hopping/mild rock climbing slog.

The trail is hard to pick up from the stream bed. I found google maps worked better for me than the AllTrails map...

If you find yourself walking more than 100 yards up the stream you’re going the wrong way. You have to go back and cross the stream bed and head through the bush. It can get confusing because (as others have written) there are many side trails.

Near the top of Arlington the trail becomes kinda elusive... you could just boulder your way to the top or find a place to hang and eat lunch.

This would be a hot hike in warm weather so if you’re out there in 80 degrees + bring a ton of water/Gatorade/snacks.

With all that said it’s a great “hike” with great views.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Monkey climbing all the way up and down. You have to negotiate different angles on the rocks and need to be careful. Definitely gives you an upper body workout.

I’m giving it 4 stars because it’s easy to get lost and most of all as a tall guy (6’7), I was ducking through brush the whole time. Other than that it’s a great sweat and maybe the best view of Santa Barbara you’ll find.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Some of the other reviewers for this trial are confused and seem to be reviewing the incorrect trail. You cannot be "picked up" half way through, unless by helicopter. You most definitely cannot "run this trail with a small dog." To call this an easy trail is deceptive to the average hiker, and quite frankly dangerous.

That being said, this trail is a fun challenge for a hiker with moderate experience. Expect lots of bouldering and very steady uphill. The trail is not always readily visible, and many points have multiple routes (some easier than others). Bring 2 liters of water per person, minimum, and food/snack.

On the way down, be aware of an unmarked trail that links up with the 7 falls trail instead of taking you back to the inspiration point fork directly. This skips some of the bouldering on the way down and may be preferable depending on your interests, but is quite steep. If you take this route, do not attempt to follow the creek bed back to the inspiration trail fork. The creek bed is not the 7 falls trail, which runs parallel to the creek.

GPS highly recommended.

Friday, July 07, 2017

fun hike. I did get off-trail near the bottom and wound up in the creek/canyon. Haha fml when that happened. There were some nasty pools of water with snakes in them so i had to jump down some ledges to avoid the pools, use hand holds and climb down others, and the whole thing turned into quite an ordeal. like I said fml. I was loving it until that happened. anyways, a moderate hiker will find this trail cake. And if ur lucky a nice cool mist will blow over the saddle between arlington and cathedral for a nice afternoon cool down.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Very hard would make moderate and some hard trails look like a walk in the park

Monday, March 20, 2017

Dont be fooled this is abit more than hiking, lots of bouldering as you make your way to the top. Well worth that incredible view, you will certainly not regret going all the way!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

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.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

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.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

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).

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

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.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Steep but worth it

Thursday, July 23, 2015

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!

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