Enjoy Coastal Vistas From the Top of Gaviota Peak

Father Juan Crespi of the 1769 Portola Expedition dubbed the coastline here San Luis, in honor of the King of France. However, the soldiers of the expedition thought that La Gaviota, Spanish for sea gull, was a more apt description.

This hike begins in Gaviota State Park and ends in Los Padres National Forest. You’ll visit warm mineral pools, then continue to the top of Gaviota Peak (2,458 feet) for superb views of the Santa Barbara County coast.

The inland portion of the state park is separated from the beach by U.S. 101. Located in a protected cove, Gaviota Beach is a popular year-round destination. The surf is gentle, but sometimes the wind whisks around Point Conception and cools down beach-goers.

Near the beach are a campground and a picnic area. A long pier at the north end of the beach is popular with fishermen and sunset strollers.

Directions to the trailhead: Thirty-five miles up the coast from Santa Barbara, exit U.S. 101 at the Lompoc/California 1 off-ramp. Turn east a short distance, then follow the highway frontage road a quarter of a mile to the end of the road and park in the Gaviota State Park parking lot.

The hike: Follow the fire road, which is strewn with rocks and eroded from winter floods. This is a well-used stretch of trail; most folks walk only to the hot springs and turn back. Soon, the noise of the highway fades away. A half- mile walk beneath oaks and old sycamores and up a moderate grade brings you to Gaviota Hot Springs.


The springs are more lukewarm than hot. Cross the rock dam and follow the trail uphill through steep brush a short distance to the fire road. Bear right.

As you walk up the steep fire road, you leave behind the oaks and enter a typical chaparral community. Sometimes this can be a hot hike. During the winter months, however, it can be blustery up on this ridge route. At times you might be assaulted by clouds, which zoom past, enclosing you in fog for a few seconds. When you reach the top of the ridge, the trail bears right a quarter of a mile to the peak. Atop the peak is a radio relay tower. On clear days, much of the Santa Barbara County coastline as well as Channel Islands and Point Conception are visible.

Gaviota Peak Trail

U.S. 101 to Gaviota Peak:

6 miles round trip;

2,000-foot elevation gain