[out of 5]
|For:||Uphill, long if you go all the way to the top, exposed to sun|
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.