This was our first time peakbagging in the Santa Ynez Mountains and we weren't expecting too much since the highest point is under 5000' and its proximity to the ocean reminded us a little too much of the Santa Monicas (aka The Baby Mountains).
The Dragon's Back starts out easy enough on the popular Tunnel Trail before you leave the fire road and cross over Mission Creek and start gaining some elevation. There are some fun class 2 spots right off the bat and you quickly get started on the (almost) 3000' of total gain over these 2.5 miles to the peak.
The really steep section starts about a mile into the hike. For some reason, the day we went it was unbearably hot and we actually considered turning back because the stupid sun was relentless and wouldn't stop squishing my head. Just under half a mile later, after a short stretch of class 3 reminiscent of the Clouds Rest summit push, we came to a nice flat rest spot where we took a break and decided we felt good enough to continue.
|Starting the steep part|
There is no trail the rest of the way, but there were plenty of other people ahead of us who seemed to know what they were doing so we followed them and when they got too far ahead of us, we followed their footprints. The remainder of the hike is mostly class 2 with a little bit of class 3 mixed in just to piss you off.
Almost the entire hike goes along an open ridge, which gives you plenty of opportunities for unobstructed views of the ocean and the Channel Islands. This also means that you're stuck in the sun for the majority of the hike, but there are a few large boulders along the trail that you can duck behind to escape the heat.
When we got to the summit, we considered continuing on to Cathedral and La Cumbre Peak to make a loop back to the trailhead and avoiding having to climb back down all those rocks (descending class 3 is much scarier than ascending), but based on the map we had, it would have added at least another 5 miles to our hike and we weren't prepared for the extra mileage.
On the way back, we came across a few drops that could have meant the end of our ankles, so we ended up backtracking a bit. It's best to look around for an alternate route rather than rush down this dangerous section of the trail.
|La Cumbre Peak|
We were planning on returning on the same route we took to the summit, but at some point we left the trail and had to descend a very steep and slippery trail straight down into the canyon. We ended up at the top of Seven Falls and the only safe way to get through it at that point was to jump into three separate pools and swim through them to get out. Luckily, there were several friendly beer drinking college students hanging out there who helped us keep our packs dry.