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See the Retired Peak Guides in the Archives for Microsoft Word and other versions of this peak guide.


Samon Peak


Location: Santa Barbara County, about 24 miles north of Santa Barbara, 145 miles from Los Angeles


Auto ClubSanta Barbara County
Forest ServiceLos Padres National Forest: Mt Pinos, Ojai and Santa Barbara Ranger Districts
USGS ToposFox Mountain 7½, Salisbury Potrero 7½, Madulce Peak 7½, Big Pine Mountain 7½
Official HPS Maps TPO file - Save to your computer then open with National Geographic TOPO!
 Viewable PDF file - Approximately 9 megs
 GPX file or Google Earth KML file to download to GPS units and other map software (How to use GPX and KML files)
 Routes as shown on CalTopo using the above files (How to use CalTopo)

Nearby Peaks: Madulce Peak, Big Pine Mountain, West Big Pine

Printable version of this route


(USFS Adventure Pass may be required)
Distance: 25 miles round trip on road and use trail
Gain: 4600' total, 4300' out plus 300' on return
Time: 15 hours round trip
Rating: Class 2, very strenuous

Original: John Backus, May 1981
Update: New route that bypasses Chokecherry Gully - Byron Prinzmetal and George Wysup, May 2002


  • Drive north on I-5 past the Grapevine to the SR 166 off-ramp. Turn left (west).
  • Head west 36.5 miles, passing through Maricopa, to the junction with SR 33 south. This junction may be reached by a slower route via SR 33 north from Ojai. (There is a junction with SR 33 north in Maricopa that you will pass in Maricopa.) Turn left (south).
  • Go 2.7 miles to Foothill Road on the right. Turn right (west).
  • Go 2.1 miles, crossing the Cuyama River, to the Santa Barbara Canyon Road (9N11) on the left. Turn left, note your odometer, and go as follows:
  • At 3.1 miles, just past a ranch house, junction with a dirt road on the left and a paved road on the right with a sign "Santa Barbara Canyon Road". Turn right.
  • At 7.5 miles, fork with Santa Barbara Ranch visible ahead. Go right and cross a creek. The pavement ends.
  • At 9.5 miles, a cattle guard and gate.
  • At 10.0 miles, a hard to see dirt road on right. This is the turnoff for Fox Mountain #1. Keep straight.
  • At 10.8 miles, fork with Dry Canyon Road on the left. This is the turnoff for Lizard Head and Cuyama Peak (LO). Keep straight.
  • At 12.6 miles, a locked gate. Park here.

If the Cuyama River is impassable, return to the junction of SR 166 and SR 33 and go as follows:

  • Go west on SR 166 for 4.7 miles to a bridge over the Cuyama River, and an immediate junction past the bridge, on your left. This is Kirschenmann Road (paved). Turn left.
  • Continue 2.4 miles to the end of Kirschenmann at Foothill Road. Turn left (east).
  • Drive 3 miles to Santa Barbara Canyon Road on the right (south). Turn right and continue as above.


  • From the parking area (3440'), hike through the small gate (close it after you) and continue up the road.
  • At 4 miles there are the posts of a second gate; off the road to the right is a flat area suitable for camping.
  • Continue up the road, keeping left at a fork with Sierra Madre Road about 1/2 mile farther, and go about 5 miles farther to Chokecherry Spring (5500'), marked by a water trough and a large water tank. This is the turnoff for all nearby peaks.
  • From Chokecherry Spring, go north down the road about 1/4 mile to a narrow gully on the left (west).
  • Climb up this gully and where it gets tricky, zigzag up the slope to your left to the ridgeline. Be sure to mark this location for your return. (Please note: this route while steep with the potential for some dangerous rock fall is much safer than the old route up Chokecherry Gully). Continue about 200 meters to the top ridge.
  • At the top, turn left on an old trail cut through the brush. Follow this up the ridge, then down to the right to a meadow. Pick up the trail again at ducks at the north end of the meadow and follow it to the top of the main ridge.
  • Turn right on the ridge and follow the trail, which goes generally around the first bump on the east, around the second bump on the west, and over the top of the third bump.
  • From this bump go down along the ridge and up to the summit, marked by a benchmark, 'SAMON'.


Samon Peak is in the San Rafael Wilderness Area. Campfire permits are required.

This trail gets overgrown, so be prepared! Please perform use trail mainenance.

Samon is generally climbed with Madulce, Big Pine and West Big Pine on a 2-4 day backpack trip, preferably around Easter before the area gets too hot. For all four peaks, the distance is 50 miles, the gain is about 9200', and the whole experience is strenuous. There is water at Chokecherry Spring. If you camp at Alamar, you must carry overnight water 3 miles and about 1000' gain from Chokecherry Spring or plan to hike down to Bear Camp for water.

Together these peaks are known as the "Big Four". It is also possible to combine these with the "Big Three" by hiking from West Big Pine to San Rafael Mountain. To do this, use the Mission Pine Trail. It goes west through Mission Pine Basin and on to San Rafael Camp just east of San Rafael Mountain. From there it is a short hike to the summit of San Rafael Mountain. Water in Mission Pine Basin is not reliable.


  • Trailhead to Chokecherry Spring: 19 miles round trip, 9 hours, 2400' gain with 300' on the return.
  • Chokecherry to Samon Peak: 6 miles round trip, 1900' gain.
  • Chokecherry to Madulce saddle: 3.5 miles round trip, 700' gain, 1.5 hours.
  • Madulce saddle to Madulce Peak: 7 miles round trip, 4 hours, 1600' gain.
  • Madulce saddle to Alamar Station: 2.5 miles round trip, 1.5 hours, 600' gain on the return.
  • Alamar station to Big Pine junction: 5.5 miles round trip, 2.5 hours, 800' gain with 100' on the return.
  • Big Pine junction to Big Pine Mountain: 1 mile round trip, 1 hour, 500' gain.
  • Big Pine junction to West Big Pine: 5 miles round trip, 2.5 hours, 300' gain with 100' on the return.

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