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Santa Barbara Hikes

Hell's Half Acre/McKinley Peak

Hell's Half Acre/McKinley Peak

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For:Hilly, sun exposure, very long if you go to the peak.

Hell's Half Acre is an interesting rock formation on McKinley Road about 5.5 miles from the start at Cachuma Saddle on Happy Canyon Road. McKinley Peak is one of the highest peaks in Santa Barbara County, over 6000ft. high (1564 meters).

The trail is really a dirt road, but the road is closed to traffic, unless you have a forest service key to unlock the gate. The road can be steep at times as it winds its way along the crest of the San Rafael range and along the San Rafael Wilderness boundary. There are firs and pines, meadows and rocky outcrops along the way. It is an excellent bicycling route.

Along McKinley road is the junction with the Big Cone Spruce trail which has a nice, shady camp along a creek (after quite a steep drop from the road). The Big Cone Spruce trail eventually meets up with the Manzana trail just beyond the Narrows camp, making this a possible loop or car shuttle back pack trip. The Big Cone Spruce trail does get quite overgrown with poison oak along the bottom portions, however. At the end of McKinley Road is the trail head to Mission Pine Springs and beyond, wonderful backpacking destinations, and the trail head to Santa Cruz Mountain and beyond.

The total round-trip mileage to McKinley Peak is about 20 miles, making this a strenuous hike. However, on the rainiest and most miserable and cold day imagineable a couple of 60+ year old women were observed jogging to McKinley Peak, a weekly ritual, so how hard could it be? (Famous last words, eh? Believe me those ladies are TOUGH.)

The total round trip mileage to Hell's Half Acre is about 12, and it's pretty tough, too.

The GPS waypoint information was donated by Alex Chernikov.

You will need an Adventure Pass to park at the trailhead.

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I camped at Mission Pine Spring on Sunday night and water from the pipe filled a qt. bottle in 27 seconds. Always seems to be water in McKinley and Mission Pine Springs. Also saw plenty of fresh bear sign all the way from Cachuma Pk. to the piney top of San Rafael.
Posted by: toejam  on  2014-09-30
Hiked up to San Rafael Peak from Cachuma Saddle today. McKinley spring is still flowing well (which is shocking - where does that water come from!?). The weather was great - cool and quite windy with scattered clouds.
Posted by: Sebastian  on  2014-09-28
Hiked through McKinley Spring last weekend. There was no fresh bear sign, which surprised me because it seemed like I was seeing more tracks & scat every time I went up there. Guess they all went to Big Cone Spruce for the winter.
Posted by: toejam  on  2014-01-19
Thank you for that information Steve. Richard
Posted by: Wandering  on  2014-01-10
The McKinley Spring camp is on a brushy mountain side and has no grass. McKinley saddle has grass, and some might say is a better place to camp anyway.
Posted by: toejam  on  2014-01-05
Question, Grass near McKinley camp. Can anyone tell me whether in a normal spring is there grass enough near McKinley camp for horses? Merci Richard
Posted by: Wandering  on  2013-12-30