Cachuma Lake Recreation Area in Santa Barbara fits your camping style

There are two types of campers. The first looks to trade iPads and cellphones for three days of staring at the beauty that is Mother Nature. The other enjoys the great outdoors but also doesn’t mind gas stations, boat cruises, nature centers and swimming pools. Luckily, at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area (2225 Highway 154, Santa Barbara; [805] 686-5054,, you can be both as the 9,000-acre site provides enough to please die-hard wilderness enthusiasts as well as weekend warriors. The tab: summer camping rates $28-$48; yurts $60-$85 and cabins $110 to $135. A daily automobile pass is $10; a boat pass is $13; kayak/canoe is $5; nature cruises are $15 for adults and $7 for children; dogs are $3.

The bed

Lake Cachuma offers numerous types of lodging. Perhaps most interesting are the seven yurts. They range from 14 to 24 feet in circumference and come with bunk beds and mattresses (but no bedding), doors that lock, skylights, an electrical outlet, a space heater, a zipped window, wooden decks, barbecues, picnic tables, water spigots and fire rings. Those looking for something more traditional can rent one of four furnished cabins with full-service kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, satellite television and dining areas. Three cabins sleep six; the fourth sleeps four and is Americans With Disabilities Act accessible. Full and partial RV sites are available year-round. Depending on how you camp, you’ll either be jealous or cast a scornful look at the array of satellite dishes and shaded awnings. For the über adventurous, individual tent sites are available.

The meal


Barbecues and fire pits are throughout Lake Cachuma. There’s also a general store that sells what you’ll need for a cookout but forgot to pack. Sandwiches, ice, soda, beer and an assortment of snacks are just a few of the items available for purchase. While you’re at it, you might as well pick up some dog food, a football, crayons, charcoal, a poncho and batteries.

The find

Because Lake Cachuma is a source of drinking water, swimming, water-skiing and wading are not allowed; boating and kayaking are. With an on-site bait/tackle shop, fishing licenses for sale and a pool open Memorial Day through Labor Day, who wants to swim in a lake? Besides water activities, Lake Cachuma features five hiking trails from a quarter-mile to four miles long.

Lesson learned


Walk about 50 yards from the overflow parking lot for the easiest — and perhaps best — access to the lake. At the end of the short hike is a secluded beach to your left and rocks to your right. The trail from the parking lot narrows as you get closer to the water, and you could literally walk into the lake if that sort of thing were allowed. Because it’s not, you’ll have to stand at the edge of the water, throw in a fishing line, gaze at the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountains and listen as the birds sing.