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Madulce Peak


Location: Santa Barbara County, about 20 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 ToposMadulce Peak 7½, Big Pine Mountain 7½, Fox Mountain 7½, Salisbury Potrero 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: Samon Peak, Big Pine Mountain, West Big Pine

Printable version of this route


(USFS Adventure Pass may be required)
Distance: 31 miles round trip on road and trail
Gain: 4700' total, 3900' out plus 800' on return
Time: 15-16 hours round trip
Rating: Class 1, very strenuous
Navigation: Easy

Original: John Backus, May 1981


  • 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 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 0.5 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 Samon Peak.
  • Continue south up the road about 1.7 miles (700' gain) to a saddle where the road starts downhill.
  • About 30 yards past the saddle, the trail that goes to Madulce Peak starts off to the left, visible from the saddle. Continuing straight ahead on the road leads to Big Pine Mountain and West Big Pine.
  • Turn left on the trail and follow it for 1 mile as it crosses over a ridge and then goes along its east side to a trail fork, with a sign on the right reading "Madulce Peak 2". The left fork goes 2 miles down to Madulce Guard Station.
  • Take the right fork, following this realigned trail (not shown on the topo map) that begins just northeast of bump 6381', trends downward to a major ridge north of Madulce, and then doubles back steeply uphill with 23 switchbacks to meet the old trail alignment at the main ridgeline near bump 6412'.
  • After meeting the main ridgeline, turn south along the ridge to the summit, which is marked by the foundations of a former lookout. The new trail alignment to the summit is 1 mile longer than the former trail.

Printable version of this route


(USFS Adventure Pass may be required)
Distance: 24 miles round trip on trail
Gain: 4800' total, 4000' out plus 800' on return
Time: 13-14 hours round trip
Rating: Class 1, very strenuous
Navigation: Moderate

Original: Alan Coles, April 1989


  • Same as Driving Route 1, except the trailhead is about 0.7 mile east of the locked gate at the end of the road, near a spot shown as Willow Campground on the topo map where the road heads west.


  • From the parking area (3340'), hike south on a trail that follows Santa Barbara Canyon, crossing the creek 34 times. After about 8 miles you will come to the Madulce Guard Station and a trail junction.
  • Turn right, pass through Madulce Campground, and continue 2 miles to a trail junction with a sign on the left reading "Madulce Peak 2".
  • Take the left fork and proceed as in Route 1.


Madulce Peak is in the Dick Smith Wilderness. Campfire permits are required.

The road that goes past Chokecherry Spring separates Dick Smith Wilderness, on the east, from San Rafael Wilderness, on the west. The road itself is not Wilderness and is suitable for mountain bikes.

Madulce Peak is generally climbed with Samon Peak, Big Pine Mountain and West Big Pine on a 3-day backpack trip called "The Big Four". For all four peaks, the distance is 45 miles, the gain is about 8000', and the whole experience is very strenuous. There is water at Chokecherry Spring. If you camp at Alamar, you must carry overnight water 3 miles and about 1000' of gain from Chokecherry Spring. Bears frequent the area, so it is advisable to bear proof foodstuffs and other consumables when leaving your campsite.

Descending Route 2 is not recommended after dark.

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