El Capitan State Beach Campground is nestled along the the picturesque stretch of coastline lying between Goleta and Point Conception known as the Gaviota Coast. When driving west from Santa Barbara, El Capitan, or “El Cap,” is the first of three state park campgrounds. The state park is open for both day use and overnight camping.
With 132 campsites available year-round, a camp store, and restroom and shower facilities, El Cap is a popular destination. Online reservations for weekends and holidays are recommended at least two weeks before you plan to stay. Campers share the state beach with day users. Campsite zones are split into four loops, each containing roughly 30 sites. Five additional group camping sites are peppered throughout the campground, and 9 RV-only sites are also available. Please note that El Capitan State Beach no longer has an RV dump station.
Campsites are mostly shaded and situated under coast live oaks, western sycamores and eucalyptus. Sites 1-28 are located near El Capitan Creek (seasonal flow) and provide more privacy. Sites 29-124 are slightly elevated on the coastal bluff. are less private, and they offer better access to ocean views. Some are shaded others are not. Potable water faucets are located throughout the campground, as are restrooms and showers.
A highlight of the area, El Cap visitors are treated to beautiful views of the ocean, the Santa Ynez mountains, and the surrounding coastline. Recreational opportunities include hiking trails, a coastal bike trail, beach and ocean access, and for the patient surfer, the potential to surf one of the premier right hand point breaks in the area. Wildlife viewing can also be good here; look for intertidal critters, seabirds, dolphins, harbor seals and spouting grey whales during their annual migration.
Keep an eye out for poison oak in and around the campground, creek area, and along the hiking trails. As is the case throughout the central California coast, poison oak thrives here. Rattlesnakes are also seen on occasion.