Saturday, March 19, 2016

Montecito Peak

Hiked: 3/18/2016
Distance: 2.6 miles round trip on trail and use trail
Summit Elevation: 3214'
Elevation Gain: 950'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.76
Round trip time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Recommended water: 16 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Camino Cielo
Difficulty: Easy

#52 on the Sierra Club Lower Peaks list is Montecito Peak. It overlooks Montecito, Santa Barbara, and the Channel Islands. The Cold Spring Trail can be used to reach it from the east or the west. I chose the east route since it starts on Camino Cielo and I wanted to hike Cathedral Peak later in the day from the same road.

I left home very early with plans to reach the summit of Montecito before sunrise. I parked at Cold Spring Saddle on Camino Cielo and started down the trail. The morning stars led the way into the void. Apart from a few washouts, the trail was in mostly good shape. Montecito loomed ahead in the darkness. I wanted to see the city lights below, but I only saw a faint glow through the shroud of the marine layer. When I got near the saddle, I found an opening to the ridge and took the ridge all the way up. I got to the summit just as the first blaze of light broke over the horizon. The marine layer hid not only the city lights, but the entire ocean. I searched around for a register but could not find one. I found a reference mark for the summit, but not the triangulation benchmark. I enjoyed the great views, then headed back and drove about 5 miles north on Camino Cielo to a turnout near La Cumbre Peak for the hike to Cathedral Peak.

Heading toward Montecito in the dark

First light on Montecito Peak

On Montecito

Marine layer covering the ocean and Santa Barbara

Montecito reference mark

Looking back at Montecito on the return


  1. That's a long drive for you. Hope you got to spend some time afterwards in SB or Carp.

    1. Nope, day hiked then drove home. About 2-1 drive time vs hike time. A consequence of my sad devotion to peak lists. OTOH, it was beautiful country and worth the drive.

  2. Btw, what's the difference between a reference mark and a triangulation benchmark?

    1. The primary benchmark, or triangulation station marks, usually have a triangle in their center. Reference marks are associated with the benchmark and have arrows in their center pointed toward the benchmark. There are also azimuth marks and other kinds of marks. I usually try to distinguish between reference marks and trig marks, but there is additional confusion when a county or local gov places a mark vs the USGS or US Army Corp of Engineers. Here is a pretty good summary: