Adventures of the Gaviota Coast


Escape the Terracotta Jungle

The Gaviota coast extends westward from Coal Oil Point near U.C. Santa Barbara around Point Conception, then Northward to Point Sal in Central California. Roughly 20 of the 60 miles that consist the Gaviota coast are in the Southern facing (warmer) Southern California region. The rural character of this coast means you won’t have cope with McMansions blocking your view, strip malls sprawling beyond the ends of the Earth, or the accompanying masses. What you will find instead is secluded beaches, rare coastal grasslands, well tended agricultural fields, and wilderness extending North into the Los Padres National Forest.

Intertidal Wonderland

With 20 miles of pristine coast to choose from, I’ll leave it up to you find the perfect playa. El Capitan, Refugio, and Gaviota State Parks are a great place to start the quest for your favorite sandy seclusion. Bring everything you’ll need for the day as the stores at these parks are often closed. If you plan your trip with low tide in mind you”ll be treating yourself to an excellent tide pooling experience.

Rugged Mountains

Whether you’re looking to get your boots dusty on Trespass trail or are into picnicking on a 4,000ft. summit, the Gaviota has you covered. Park your wheels under the sprawling limbs of a Sycamore and begin your ascent into the Oak woodlands and beyond into the Chaparral.

If hiking ins’t your thing, take a drive up to Santa Ynez Peak, the highest summit in the entire Santa Ynez Mountain range. Cruise along Camino Cielo, Spanish for Road in the Sky, and enjoy the scenic views along the way. When the pavement gives way to dirt you’ve found the peak. If you wish to continue on the dirt fire road, I’d recommend a vehicle with high ground clearance as the dirt road is rough until you hit Highway 154.

Searching for Cetaceans

The Gaviota coast shares the Santa Barbara Channel with the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary. This area of the Pacific Ocean is famous for its wildlife including, Stellar Sea Lions, Blue Whales, Brown Pelicans, and even the occasional Great White Shark. Bring a hat, warm jacket, and a camera. Leave the rest to Condor Express.


Looking for a day filled with emerald barrels and a night lit by raging bonfires? Look no further, you have found Jalama County Park. 1.5 hour drive from Santa Barbara, this hidden gem is the a local favorite weekend getaway. The surf pounds and the winds can be wild, so bring adequate camping supplies and attire, and always bring more beer than you think you need.

For more information about the Gaviota Coast and how you can help protect it, please visit: Gaviota Coast Conservancy and take a look at a documentary about the coast, Gaviota: The End of Southern California.


About Author

Tamlorn Chase

Tamlorn Chase hails from the coastal town of Santa Barbara, where he works as a wilderness guide, wildlife filmmaker, and environmental activist. Protecting the natural world is his profession and passion.

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