Fire and floods have destroyed or made inaccessible many of the trails in our area. Read LPNF Alerts & Notices and SB County Road closure information.
Jump to main content

Santa Barbara Hikes

Tunnel Trail

Tunnel Trail

[out of 5]
 *  *  *  *
For:Uphill, long if you go all the way to the top, exposed to sun
Please park inside the white lines and clean up your dog poop. Respect the neighbors at the trailhead and don't let your dog go on their property.
Indian Pinks
Indian Pinks on upper Tunnel trail

Tunnel Trail is one of the most popular trails in Santa Barbara. It is within 5 minutes from downtown and has enough twists, turns, and surprises to keep hikers interested. Unfortunately it's mountain-biker mecca, which means you are likely to be run off the trail.

Described here is the basic trail from the trailhead to La Cumbre Peak, the highest peak in Santa Barbara at 3995ft. Along the way are little side trails that you might be able to find if you are alert. If you are interested in an all day adventure you can try one of these steep, super-primitive trails, but use your head. People have gotten lost up there and have needed the Search and Rescue Team (and even Search and Rescue has gotten lost!) For that reason those trails aren't actually described here, but they are there for the discovery.

Tunnel Trail begins on the same paved road as Inspiration Pt. The road is an access road used by Edison and lasts about a mile until it becomes a dirt road. You can ride your bike or hike up the dirt Edison Road if you like. That is an excellent hike all its own.

Tunnel Trail starts a bit past the end of the pavement and goes up the mountain steeply for about 3.5 more miles. Along the way are gorgeous views of the city. The trail is usually very dry with one creek that runs only after rains. If you go up there shortly after a good strong rain you can see the waterfall, which can be impressive. The waterfall, when dry, is an impressive rock formation and makes a nice lunch/view spot. At the top you reach East Camino Cielo Rd. From there it is a short walk up the Road to La Cumbre Peak where there is an old fire tower, picnic table, and the fanciest outhouse I've ever seen. There are also breathtaking views of the rugged Back Country on the other side of the Santa Ynez range.

The hike is about 9-11 miles round trip (depending on if you go all the way to La Cumbre Peak) with an elevation gain of about 3000 ft.

Please note: Parking at the trailhead is limited and strict. You must park behind the white line or else they really do ticket and tow. It is a congested neighborhood and parking within the white line helps emergency vehicles get through. Please be courteous to car traffic as you walk up and down the road and let residents get through. Please keep dogs on leash because there is a flock of free-range chickens that lives in the area. Residents have been pretty vocal about the traffic and safety issues in the area and your courtesy will keep the trailhead open.

Boulder, CO Leave No Trace Frountcountry program

Add update

Please add a brief update about trail conditions. All comments are moderated and will not display until approved, which can take days if I'm away on the trail.

(not displayed)


Here's an email I got: We need the help of all hikers who enjoy the Tunnel Trail and Inspiration Point, and we hope that your organization can help us spread the word. I looked over your website and am not sure how to best get the word out to your hikers. Beginning the last week of September, goats will once again be working at the trailhead to clear vegetation. This work is very important for fire safety and is funded with a Fire Safe Council Grant awarded to the Mission Canyon Association.The goats will be penned with a clearly marked netting style pen that is electrified with solar panels and guarded from predators by specially trained dogs who protect them from coyotes, bobcats, domestic dogs. These dogs are predator control dogs, not pets. They are raised with the goats, live with the goats all year long, and their job is to protect the goats from any and all predators, including people and domestic dogs. Predator control dogs don’t know the difference between a curious pet, person, or a hungry coyote; all they know is that something is endangering their goats, and they respond accordingly. So respect them and their work. Please be sure that all dogs are kept on leash while anywhere near the goats. It is imperative that no one feed these dogs or the goats. They are on a special diet and should never have any sort of other food no matter how small a tidbit nor how tempting.Domestic dogs and people feeding the goats and/or dogs are the biggest threat to the goats and their work. Even the most well behaved dogs generally bark and may lunge at the goats and their pens, sometimes damaging the pens. Goats are not something a dog sees every day, and it stimulates even the best of them. The predator control dogs could harm people and their pets if they appear to be endangering the goats or if they enter the pen. These dogs are not vicious, but they have a job to do.If you go to, choose Photo Gallery and watch the third video down, you will see exactly how the dogs react to a perceived threat to their goats. No, she is not wagging her tail because she is friendly. That is a warning along with the barking and the stance. She is doing her job.We are asking everyone who uses the Tunnel Trail to help us protect the goats and their work by keeping all dogs on leash while in the area where the goats are working and by reminding others to do the same.Thanks for any help you can give us in getting the word out.
Posted by: Diane  on  2012-09-11
I did Rattlesnake to connector to Angustora Pass last weekend and there was recent (day or two old) rock slide covering the Tunnel Trail. The slide its self is only about 40' wide and passable on foot, it's located about 1/2 mile uphill of the connector trail. I already notified FS but if your heading up that way just keep an eye out above you. When I went through there was still some really small stuff coming down.
Posted by: ThomasGypsie  on  2011-12-02
Hiked Tunnel to the top (road) today. Started at 9AM, saw a few hikers below the connector to Rattlesnake but none beyond that. One biker coming down on my way back. There is water in the falls and the trail is in good condition, only somewhat muddy at the bottom before the fire road. Suprised to see ice on the trail at the top. Took 3 1/2 hrs.
Posted by: Work Dog  on  2011-01-01
Hiked the Tunnel from South Portal to Angostura Pass yesterday (Monday, 10/4/2010) in glorious drizzly weather. Views were pretty much nil ‘til about the time we were approaching the Connector junction and the falls (dry), after which time the clouds slowly gave way and we had great views of Arlington, Cathedral, Barger and La Cumbre Peaks. Even in the mid-day sun, the winds were cool and the only sound we heard was the occasional clanging of some wires on those burned posts near the very top. Awesome stuff. We returned via the Rattlesnake Connector and out to Skofield. Some photos at: [url][/url] [url=][img:e183985d2e][/img:e183985d2e][/url] C
Posted by: Cross Tie Walker  on  2010-10-06
Mountain lion spotted on Tunnel Trail. Been spotted elsewhere as well. Usually seen at dusk.
Posted by: Diane  on  2010-09-18
Was this a hike on a trail, or a bake in an outdoor oven? I'm not really sure. The trail was hot, dry and steep, but it was in a good hikable condition. Tunnel Trail is home for the Mission Falls, which, on the map, seems easy to access. It's easy indeed. But it's no longer a fall at this time!! It's a completely dry rock formation. Not many people (and no dogs) were on the trail on this fine Sunday afternoon. I saw very few hikers and some downhill mountain bikers. Animal encounters include a few geckos (?), an unidentified insect bite on my neck, a very cute humming birds, and some butterflies. It was a fun exercise, with a very beautiful view of Santa Barbara covered in a sea of fog on the way down. Lessons learned: 1) use insect repellant on neck. 2) bring more water (even more than 2.5 liters!) 3) choose a cloudy day to hike this trail. SUMMARY: - Distance = 8.62 miles. - Elevation change = 2544 ft. - Time taken = 6:30 hours. - Liquid consumed = 2.5 liters (and that's NOT enough!)
Posted by: redhathiker  on  2010-06-14