This easygoing, 2.5-mile out-and-back climbs through oak groves on a paved path, then turns into dirt singletrack within a mile. The path crisscrosses Mission Creek as it winds through the canyon. Hop or wade across the water, depending on the season, and follow the creek upstream to Seven Falls. Don't forget to bring your swimsuit: Mission Creek cascades down step-like sandstone outcroppings, creating several warm, deep swimming holes. If you're fortunate enough to come during or just after spring rains, take a dip in one of the upper pools. When you're ready, turn around and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
-Mapped by Chuck Graham
TO TRAILHEAD: From State St. and E. Los Olivos St. in Santa Barbara, CA, head northeast on E. Los Olivos St. In 0.6 mile, continue on Mission Canyon Rd. In 0.4 mile, turn right at CA 192/Foothill Rd. In 0.2 mile, turn left at Mission Canyon Rd. In 0.3 mile, continue on Tunnel Rd. In 1.1 mile, bear right to stay on Tunnel Rd. Go 500 feet to the trailhead, which is just past Spyglass Ridge Rd.
- Distance: 3.9
Location: 34.46532, -119.712
Follow the paved Tunnel Trail east for 1.5 miles toward a narrow canyon. Enjoy the sounds of a waterfall near the footbridge.
Location: 34.4698575, -119.7073638
Cross over the footbridge and continue east. Ahead, the paved road meanders toward the canyon.
Location: 34.4698398, -119.7059852
Heading northeast, the paved road ends at a dirt road. Bear left into a oak woodland habitat. The creek will be on the left.
Location: 34.4711931, -119.7075033
From the dirt road, head northeast about 0.1 mile and turn left onto a singletrack that leads to the creek.
Location: 34.4727321, -119.7070849
Cross the creek then bear right on the trail that hugs the left bank. Depending on the season, the creek could be gushing or completely dry. Exercise caution during the rainy season. In the dry season, you can take the dry creekbed straight to Seven Falls.
Location: 34.47495, -119.7048
Seven Falls: The falls have sculpted a series of holes into the sandstone, creating some of the best front country swimming holes in Santa Barbara. Hoards of canyon tree frogs hunker in the alcoves and crevices around the swimming holes. Even in drought conditions, the upper pools are still full from the waterfalls that cascade into the smooth sandstone holes. When you're ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Tunnel Trailhead Sign
Location: 34.465311, -119.7119021
Location: 34.4698221, -119.7072458
Cross the bridge and continue up the road. ©Chuck Graham
Location: 34.4727144, -119.7069776
Rock-hop up the dry creekbed or take the trail on the left side of the creek to Seven Falls. ©Chuck Graham
Location: 34.4749256, -119.704746
Canyon Tree Frog Cluster
Location: 34.4749167, -119.7046602
You'll find clusters of canyon tree frogs in the sandstone crevices at Seven Falls. ©Chuck Graham