Posted by: James Wapotich | April 8, 2011

Trail Quest: Las Cruces Trail

If you’re looking for a pleasant country walk then the Las Cruces Trail may be the answer. The Las Cruces Trail is part of a network of trails found in the northern part of Gaviota State Park. Of those trails some follow an unpaved fire road and some are footpaths. The road itself is grassy and easy to follow and makes for good hiking while the footpaths are for the most part overgrown. With this network of trails one can make a loop trip through this part of the park. The entire loop is about 4.5 miles and follows the road for all but the last mile.

"Gaviota State Park" "Santa Ynez Mountains" "Las Cruces Trail" "Overlook Fire Road" "Santa Barbara"

View Towards Overlook Point


To get to the trailhead take Highway 101 to the turn off for Highway 1 and head west on Highway 1 towards Lompoc. Take the first turnoff on your left, San Julian Rd., and follow it back towards Highway 101, past Vista de Las Cruces School. Just past the school there is a parking lot. The road continues a short way further to a locked gate where the trail begins.

Gaviota State Park extends from the ocean, north to Highway 1 and covers more than 2,000 acres of land that is a mix of oak woodland and chaparral. A map of the trails can be found at www.parks.ca.gov/pages/606/files/gaviota_map.pdf.

From the trailhead, the Las Cruces Trail follows the dirt road as it climbs its way west to the ridge that runs along the back of the park. At the one-mile mark it joins the ridge just as the trail branches. From this juncture continue south along the fire road, following the ridge. The trail at this point changes names and becomes the Hollister Trail.

It is also at this juncture that one can find the top of the Yucca Trail. And although this footpath is shown on the map as leading back to the trailhead it is completely overgrown and disappears altogether three-quarters of the way there.

Continuing south along the road, the trail levels out and offers some great views of the surrounding area. At the 2.5-mile mark the road branches with one road heading east and another road that climbs right to the top of a peak. The Hollister Trail continues east, however a side trip to the top of the peak does provide one with some nice views of the southern part of the park and the Pacific Ocean.

"Gaviota State Park" "Santa Ynez Mountains" "Santa Barbara" "Las Cruces Trail" "Overlook Fire Road"

Shortly after this juncture the Hollister Trail joins the Overlook Fire Road. From here continue north, back towards the trailhead. This last section is probably the nicest as it makes its way through rolling hills covered with a mix of wild grasses and oak trees.

At around the 3-mile mark one comes to one of the few trail signs in the park. This is where one can find the Woodland Trail, which connects back to the Hollister Trail. This footpath is also overgrown, but in this case instead of being brushy it’s overgrown with wild grasses. The trail can be followed, but it is both a test of one’s tracking skills to find the trail and one’s imagination to believe that you are still on the trail.

Continuing along the Overlook Fire Road, at the 3.5-mile mark, the trail branches with the Overlook Fire Road turning east to join Highway 101. It is here that the Ortega Trail begins and continues north back to the trailhead to complete the loop. And although this footpath is not as overgrown as the other two, it still requires pushing through some brush and so watch out for ticks, as they are very active this time of year.

Regardless of how far you hike, you’ll get to see what feels like a hidden corner of our local mountains.

This article originally appeared in section A of the April 8th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.


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