Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Guided tours
No
Backcountry camping
No
Lodging
No
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Gaviota State Park is a slightly underrated jewel in the California State Park system. Set about 30 miles west of Santa Barbara on Highway 101, Gaviota might just be overlooked since it falls just outside the populated areas of Southern California. However this also keeps the park's camping, beach, variety of hiking trails, and features free from the overrun crowds that can be present a little further south.

The nearly 2800-acre park stretches from the ocean to the peaks of the Santa Ynez Mountains, with a large and interconnected network of trails open to hiking, mountain bikes and equestrians. Trails vary in length and difficulty, with rolling hill rambles to peakbagging inclines.

The park also benefits from having an area of beach, which also has a boat lift where visitors can put in the water and access other beaches further west otherwise restricted due to private road access.

Gaviota State Park has several main access points, which can allow visitors to head to less crowded areas of the park during peak season, or coordinate vehicles for shuttling in order to hike more portions of the trails.

The main access point to the park is at Gaviota State Park Beach, which has a large parking area and beach access, along with picnic tables and grills, bathrooms and showers, and interpretive signs. 

Adjacent to the beach is Gaviota State Park Campground, which contains 39 camp sites, along with a hiker/biker area, that can accommodate vehicles and RVs up to about 25 feet in length. The campground's proximity to the beach gives campers the opportunity for a quick walk to reach the water.

A small nearby parking area accesses the Gaviota Wind Caves hike, which leads hikers on a climb up a steep slope to weather-carved sandstone formations overlooking the valley and camping area.

Hikers looking to follow this trail deeper into the rugged interior can climb up to Gaviota Pass Overlook, both of which offer hilltop panoramic views that stretch as far out as the California Channel Islands on clearer days. These interior trails also lead to another park access point at the end of San Julian Road which can be reached from Highway 1 near its intersection at the 101. 

The San Julian Road access to the park is a dead end road and a stopping off point for hikers and mountain bikers. While just across Highway 101, there is parking at the Gaviota Peak Trailhead. From here, ambitious hikers can head up to Gaviota Peak or follow the trails as they pass beneath the freeway and join with the network of hiking and mountain biking trails on the west side of the freeway. The Gaviota Peak Trailhead also offers a shorter hike to the Gaviota Hot Springs warm pools. 

Day use and entry fees vary, depending on where you're accessing the park from. Aside from the seasonal market that operates at the beach parking lot, there are no groceries or gas available in the vicinity of the park. Nearest amenities are in the town of Lompoc, or a brief drive in either direction along the 101.

Dogs are permitted in the state park day use and campground areas, however are not allowed on the beach or on park trails.

While not as popular as parks and trails nearer to Goleta and Santa Barbara, Gaviota State Park offers a variety of activities geared toward all ability levels. 

Further information can be found at the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation website.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Vehicle Fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Variety of activities suitable for all ability levels.

Features

ADA accessible
General store
Boat ramp(s)
Wildlife
Whale watching
Fishing
Big vistas
Flushing toilets
Family friendly
Picnic tables
Cave
Wildflowers
Bird watching
Bicycling
Potable water

Location

Nearby Adventures

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