Posted by: James Wapotich | June 17, 2011

Trail Quest: Gaviota Peak

If you’re looking for a good workout and a chance to see some new sights, then the hike to Gaviota Peak may be the answer. Located just past Gaviota State Beach, this hike up the backside of the Santa Ynez Mountains provides some great scenery and views. The hike to the peak and back is about 6.5 miles and can include a visit to the Gaviota Hot Springs.

To get to the trailhead from Santa Barbara take Highway 101 past the beach at Gaviota to the turn off for Highway 1, and then turn right onto the frontage road which dead ends at the parking area for the trail. Parking is $2 at the trailhead or you can park for free back along the frontage road.

Santa Ynez Mountains Gaviota Hot Springs Santa Barbara Hike State Park

View towards the Santa Ynez Mountains

The trail to Gaviota Peak is part of a network trails within Gaviota State Park, which 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. The park borders a portion of the Los Padres National Forest to the east. A map of the trails within the State Park can be found at www.parks.ca.gov/pages/606/files/gaviota_map.pdf.

From the trailhead the trail follows the Gaviota Peak Fire Road most of the way and makes for unencumbered hiking. A short way in the road braches with the Trespass Trail heading off to the right and the trail the hot springs and Gaviota Peak continuing on to the left.

Gaviota Peak Hot Springs Santa Barbara Hike Santa Ynez Mountains State Park

View from the Gaviota Peak Fire Road

At the half-mile mark the Gaviota Peak Trail arrives at an unmarked intersection. Here the trail to the hot springs follows the creek off to the right, while the road to the peak continues to the left. The trail to the hot springs is overgrown, but not impassable. And while the hot springs may appear unappealing at first glance they still make for a good soak, particularly at the end of long hike or on a cold day. The hike to hot springs from the parking area is about a mile and a half roundtrip.

From that intersection the trail continues through grassy foothills, now golden with the approach of summer and then transitions into oak and chaparral as it makes its climb to the peak. Along the way one is treated to views of the valley below.

At about the 1.5-mile mark the trail leaves the State Park and enters the Los Padres National Forest, a much-weathered sign marks the boundary. The trail then reaches the ridgeline providing the first views of the Pacific Ocean. The trail continues to the right as it makes the final climb to Gaviota Peak where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the area.

Gaviota Peak Santa Ynez Mountains Hot Springs Hike Santa Barbara State Park Los Padres National Forest Campbell Trail

View from Trespass Trail

If you don’t feel like you got enough exercise hiking up to the peak and don’t mind pushing through brushy chaparral you can make a loop trip back to the trailhead along Trespass Trail. This alternate route is roughly 9 miles and includes some nice views of the area.

From Gaviota Peak, Trespass Trail follows the ridgeline west before descending down to the Trespass Trail. And while portions of the trail enjoy knee to shoulder high brush crowding in on the trail, re-growth from the 2004 Gaviota Fire, other portions are clear and fairly easy. Overall the trail is findable and opens up considerably as it descends.

Gaviota Peak Santa Ynez Mountains Hot Springs Hike Santa Barbara State Park Los Padres National Forest Campbell Trail

View from Trespass Trail towards the Pacific Ocean

At about the 6-mile mark, the turns westward, continuing down the canyon and looping back around to the trailhead. The last mile of the trail is a refreshingly wide road similar to the Gaviota Peak Fire Road.

Regardless of how for you hike you will get see a unique corner of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Gaviota Peak Santa Ynez Mountains Hot Springs Hike Santa Barbara State Park

Gaviota Hot Springs

This article originally appeared in section A of the Friday June 17th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.


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