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Montecito Peak - SB Peak #1 Redo - It's Good to Have Goals

Montecito Peak - SB Peak #1 Redo - It's Good to Have Goals


Why I start hiking in the dark Montecito Peak Elevation: 3,214′ Miles: 7 Trail head Agency: Los Padres National Forest

Over the past few months, I've been getting up early and hiking the Cold Spring Trail, with the aim to summit Montecito Peak from the bottom. Previously, I climbed Montecito Peak from Camino Cielo, but my starting point was actually higher in elevation than the peak itself. I see the peak on my way home from work and as I am driving around town and always felt a little lazy having climbed it from the top. To my defense, that was my first hike in Santa Barbara and I wanted to get a lay of the land.

Previously each time I started out on the Cold Spring Trail, I would get to a certain point, look at the time and head back down. I had to get to work. One time, I got within a quarter mile of the top and had to turn around. I had a meeting. After five or six attempts, I decided to get this done.


I woke up at about 5:30AM and headed to the trail head. It was completely black. I searched my hiking kit. No flashlight or headlamp. How did this happen? This was my morning; my opportunity. Luckily, I have a flashlight app on my iPhone that uses the small LED normally used for flash photography. It illuminated the way on the trail quite nicely.

Hiking in the dark to Montecito Peak

By this time, I was familiar with the trail, having hiked it several times and sometimes in pretty dark circumstances. After about 45 minutes, the sun started to rise and I could see through the greyness.

I made it to the fire road and I stopped for a breather, enjoying the view of the clouds below me. I was making good time, even though the darkness slowed me down a bit. A few hundred feet of climbing later, the sun started peeking out from behind the mountains to the east, bathing the clouds in a wonderful glow. I had to stop hiking for a bit and simply enjoy it. This was why I get up so early to hike. The view of the sun rising, surrounded by the fresh scent of chaparral, is something that's hard to explain. Checking the clock, I hiked on.

Made it to the fire road

The fire road down below

The next part of the trail is rocky, so care is needed in order not to roll one's ankles. I made it to the lone eucalyptus tree, a landmark for local hikers. Many people stop here and enjoy the view before heading back down. I, however, had other plans.

Eucalyptus Tree on the Cold Spring Trail

Before long, I was at the base of Montecito Peak. I knew I was in for a steep push and I wasn't disappointed. Roughly 300' in .15 miles, it's a lung busting scramble on soft dirt leading to the top. But once you get to Montecito Peak, it's amazing. Plenty of room to stretch out.

I looked at my clock. It will be a race downhill to make my 10AM meeting, as I still had to drop 3,337' in elevation in 3.5 miles, drive home, get ready for work, and then drive to work. I tweeted my thoughts and my boss read the tweet and pushed back the meeting until 10:30AM. Supercool. It still might be close. I wasn't sure precisely how long it would take to get back down. I had a quick breakfast, drank some water and started running down the trail, wherever possible.

View from the top of Montecito Peak

It's fun for me to see familiar landmarks fly by as I come down a mountain and this was no different. Once I got to the fire road, due to the excellent quality of the trail, I was able to pick up my speed and get down.

I made it to work at 10:05AM and I was early enough to grab some coffee and get settled before my meeting. My legs were tired, but my spirits were high.

It's good to have goals.

Montecito Peak Trail Map

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