Posted by: James Wapotich | February 11, 2011

Trail Quest: Sweetwater Trail

The Sweetwater Trail is unique in that it follows the southern shore of Lake Cachuma and provides not only an excellent opportunity to see the lake up close, but to see the diversity of the local flora and fauna of the area as well. The hike is about 6.5 miles roundtrip and the trail is suitable for almost all ages.

Los Padres National Forest Day Hike Santa Barbara Santa Ynez River Lake Cachuma Sweetwater Trail

Lake Cachuma near Bradbury Dam

To get there from Santa Barbara, take State Route 154 north to Lake Cachuma, about 20 miles. For the hike you can either turn into the main entrance for Lake Cachuma and then veer immediately left and head towards Harvey Cove to find the trailhead, or you can continue on past the main entrance for another mile or so to the turn off for the Bradbury Dam Overlook and start the trail at that end. Parking inside the main gate is $8 per day and free at the Bradbury Dam Overlook. There is of course no swimming allowed in the lake.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Day Hike Lake Cachuma Santa Ynez River Sweetwater Cove

Sweetwater Cove

Starting at the Bradbury Dam Overlook gives one the rare opportunity of grabbing a soda and snack mid-hike at the Cachuma General Store. Plus I think a visit to the Nature Center, a definite must, is enhanced by having already been on the trail, seeing what’s out there and then returning along the same route with the new insights about the area that you may have picked up at the Nature Center. The Nature Center is about a quarter mile from Harvey Cove. 

Los Padres National Forest Lake Cachuma Day Hike Santa Barbara Santa Ynez California Sweetwater Trail

Hummingbird Sage beneath Coast Live Oak

Regardless of how far you hike you will have an opportunity to see Lake Cachuma up close and see some of the natural beauty of our local backcountry.

This article originally appeared in section A of the February 11th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press

If you have a trail report, I’d love to hear it.


  1. […] the opportunity recently to hike the Sweetwater Trail at Cachuma Lake with Park Naturalist Liz Gaspar. The trail follows the southern shore of the lake […]

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