Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 8:54 am | Fog/Mist 58º

 
 
 
 

Dan McCaslin: Day Hiking Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point

A less-traveled path to inspiration beckons in Santa Barbara's front country

Rugged and rocky Arlington Peak looms above in this view from Inspiration Point on the Jesusita Trail.
Rugged and rocky Arlington Peak looms above in this view from Inspiration Point on the Jesusita Trail. (Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk photo)

Many readers of this column have some acquaintance with the enticing “front country” hiking trails, usually heading up well-watered drainages such as Mission Canyon, San Ysidro, Cold Springs, Romero, Rattlesnake Canyon Wilderness, and also up verdant San Roque Canyon, where the Jesusita Trail begins.

Since the Jesusita has always been popular, and has an easy access from town off Highway 192, I haven’t given it any attention either in these columns or in my own daily hiking.

Over the last four decades, my path has wandered into San Roque Canyon only thrice, and always with relatives and their young children.

Yet the Jesusita Trail is the “backdoor” longer route over to the popular Inspiration Point (1,800 ft.), and this path is both more demanding as you hike beneath massive Arlington Peak (3,200 feet), and less frequented.

After turning inland on San Roque Road off Highway 192, you drive only a mile or so to the Cater Water Treatment Plant (note Lauro Reservoir on the right at trailhead) to find the signs indicating Jesusita Trail (elevation about 500 feet), there is parking for about 12 cars.

The Jesusita Trailhead is just above the city of Santa Barbara’s Cater Water Treatment plant, and has parking for about 10 cars. Click to view larger
The Jesusita Trailhead is just above the city of Santa Barbara’s Cater Water Treatment plant, and has parking for about 10 cars. (Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk photo)

Proof of the enduring popularity and use of this wonderful nature trail is that on a mid-June Friday, there were already 10 cars parked at the trailhead at 7:45 a.m.

The 3.1-mile hike begins pleasantly downhill, and one enjoys being down “in” the creek bed, but then this canyon hike ascends 1,300 feet up to Inspiration Point on the steep slope of Arlington Peak, which is a spur from the Santa Ynez Range.

The trail begins by descending steeply, crossing the almost-dry creek bed, and then ascending a bit until at 0.7 mile you see the well-signed Arroyo Burro Trail going straight ahead, but you stay right and head up the old road.

Avoid the inviting Arroyo Burro Trail that leads you 4.4 miles through horrendous brush and fire-blackened terrain to the crest at West Camino Cielo (and the old shooting range).

The early part of the Jesusita Trail is wide and fairly easy, before giving way to a steeper section on the climb up to Inspiration Point. Click to view larger
The early part of the Jesusita Trail is wide and fairly easy, before giving way to a steeper section on the climb up to Inspiration Point. (Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk photo)

I’ve undertaken this wretched path, and discourage everyone except the hardiest women and men from tackling it.

While meandering on these up and down sections, study the views of the low mountains looming above, north and east.

At times you can pick out – left (west) to right (east) Cathedral Peak, Arlington Peak, and behind them 3,900-foot La Cumbre Peak.

After ambling 1.3 miles of an easy hike, and passing the Moreno Ranch and supping at the drinking fountain there, we leave the old ranch road paralleling the creek bed and ascend sharply left into the hard chaparral and looming heat.

Note the red arrow on the old iron Jesusita Trail sign telling you to stay off the private road.

A trail sign marks the way along the creek. Click to view larger
A trail sign marks the way along the creek. (Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk photo)

Your climb truly commences here.

Please respect the private landowners whose property Jesusita Trail hikers legally pass through.

I was overtaken by a number of trail runners and groups of very fit hikers racing up to Inspiration Point on this much more difficult section.

From Moreno Ranch to Inspiration Point’s viewing promontory you toil another 1.8 rugged miles.

Should you want more, and to climb Arlington Peak itself, you can do this by going past Inspiration Point and down to Seven Falls (dry now) and the upper pools (marked on the Ford map).

Cathedral Peak, Arlington Peak and La Cumbre Peak provide an intimidating backdrop on the Jesusita Trail. Click to view larger
Cathedral Peak, Arlington Peak and La Cumbre Peak provide an intimidating backdrop on the Jesusita Trail. (Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk photo)

There is a free climbing route from there back up to the Dragon’s Back and to Arlington – that was not on the agenda for a mid-June workout.

This round trip up and down the Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point is generally moderate, but strenuous in the upper sections.

There was water in certain sections of San Roque Creek, and plenty of California wildflowers were hanging on despite the heat and onset of summer.

Those of us fortunate enough to live and work here can feel gratitude that such a rustic and compelling landscape and trail exists absolutely adjacent to our fair town.

A metal sign marks the way on the Jesusita Trail. Hikers are encouraged to avoid private property along the route to Inspiration Point. Click to view larger
A metal sign marks the way on the Jesusita Trail. Hikers are encouraged to avoid private property along the route to Inspiration Point. (Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk photo)

On clear days, the hiker enjoys beautiful seascapes of dull blue with the Channel Islands framing a dark silhouette between sky and sea.

Jesusita Trail is ideal for the very young and the elderly (with poles) with its gentle meandering beginning portion.

While Jesusita is heavily used, compared to my beloved Rattlesnake Canyon Wilderness Area, there were many more hikers and joggers; how great to see the humans out enjoying nature (and working out).

Many hikers had well-mannered dogs with them. There were also a few mountain bikers who were respectful and warned us of their skidding approach with their bells.

It must be said that mountain bikers have hammered the upper reaches of the Jesusita Trail.

Even in summer, wildflowers can be found in spots along the Jesusita Trail. Click to view larger
Even in summer, wildflowers can be found in spots along the Jesusita Trail. (Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk photo)

I do not recommend this trail in summer’s high heat, and in any case bring plenty of water and emergency gear, and go with someone who has completed this hike.

If you just have to go in summer, as I did recently, begin hiking at the Lauro Reservoir at 5:30 a.m. — imagine how alert and eager you’ll feel heading down the auspicious trail.

Even in godless mysticism, we recoil at the harsh desert beauty, lizards and bees and wildflowers, caught between Arlington Peak’s rocks and a wine-dark sea.

4-1-1 Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point:

Distance: 3.1 mile ascent to Inspiration Point; 6.2 round trip miles; suitable for sturdy children over 6 years old.

Conditions: From your parked car at 500-foot Lauro Reservoir (water treatment plant), you climb 1,300 feet over 3.1 miles to get to Inspiration Point; it can be brutally hot here in summer, so plenty of water and an early departure are essential during the inferno; best as a winter hike.

Driving directions: From Santa Barbara’s Westside, drive up Alamar and turn left onto Foothill Road/Highway 192. Soon you will see the San Roque Road stoplight and turn right, drive less than a mile to the entrance of well-marked Jesusita Trail next to Lauro Reservoir.  There is alternate parking down at Stevens Park; add one mile to your round trip if you do this.

Map: Ray Ford’s A Hiker’s Guide to the Santa Barbara Front Country.

— Dan McCaslin is the author of Stone Anchors in Antiquity, and has written extensively about the local backcountry. He welcomes reader ideas for future Noozhawk columns, and can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to read additional columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

A view looking out at the chaparral-covered hillside from an oak-shaded section of trail. Click to view larger
A view looking out at the chaparral-covered hillside from an oak-shaded section of trail. (Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk photo)

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >

Meet Your Realtor Sponsored by Village Properties

Photo of Elizabeth Wagner
Elizabeth Wagner
"I consider myself to be an up front and honest agent and willing to talk my clients out of purchasing a property that isn’t right for them or won’t meet their needs in a year or two."

Full Profile >