Posted by: James Wapotich | January 21, 2011

Trail Quest: Seven Falls

The hike to Seven Falls is easily the most popular of all front country destinations. And with good reason, it is close to town and the series of cascades and pools created by Mission Creek as it flows over the exposed sandstone is a local sight worth seeing. The hike to Seven Falls is about 3 miles roundtrip and involves some rock hopping.

Los Padres National Forest Seven Falls Santa Barbara Hike

View Towards Seven Falls

To get to the trailhead find your way to Tunnel Road in the foothills behind the Santa Barbra Mission. The trail begins at the end of Tunnel Road and so parking is to be found along the road. The trail follows the paved road to a locked gate and then continues for about a mile. Along the way it crosses Mission Creek and passes this side of the tunnel that at one time carried water from Gibraltar Reservoir to Santa Barbara and gives Tunnel Road its name. 

At about the one-mile mark the trail becomes a dirt road and branches in two directions. You will want to continue towards the left, pass the beginning of the Tunnel Trail, which climbs away towards Camino Cielo, and instead follow the Jesusita Trail. The trail at this point is well marked. The Jesusita Trail shortly thereafter crosses Mission Creek on its way to Inspiration Point. It’s here that the “trail” to Seven Falls begins.

Los Padres National Forest Seven Falls Santa Barbara Hike

Seven Falls

There is no official trail, however enough people hike upstream to the falls that there is a trail to be found part of the way. If you lose the trail, not to worry as it’s less than half a mile to the falls from here. The falls are easy to recognize, as they are a captivating series of pools carved in the sandstone by the creek. 

If you’re a fan of rock hopping, there are 3 more pools to found another half mile upstream. For the daring you can rock climb your way above this first set of pools or as an alternative, backtrack downstream and take the ridge “trail”. To locate the ridge trail start where you left the Jesusita Trail and almost immediately on your left find the “trail” that leads up to the ridge along the Western side of the canyon. This will take you just past the first set of pools. From there it is mostly rock hopping, but you’ll occasionally find small sections of trail.

Los Padres National Forest Seven Falls Hike Santa Barbara

Upper Pool past Seven Falls

Regardless of how far you decide to hike, Seven Falls makes for a nice day hike and one can find a number of places to rest and swim along the way. 

This aricle originally appeared in Section A of the Friday, January 21st, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

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