Top 20 Santa Barbara attractions

Gaviota State Park

Gaviota State Park extends all the way from a scenic beach, into the breathtaking Santa Ynez Mountains.

It's 34-miles west of Santa Barbara, and has a store, campground, picnic tables and restrooms.  Check day use fees or make a camping reservation.

Dogs are not allowed on the beach, but can be in the campground and day use area.  

5 best things to do at Gaviota State Park

1. Hang out on the white sandy beach.

The beach at Gaviota State Park has a pier at it’s west end, however due to storm damage you can't walk along the pier.  There are also picnic tables right on the sand, just steps from the water's edge.

Gaviota Beach was named after a Spanish expedition in 1769, when a soldier shot a seagull on the beach. The beach then became known as Gaviota (the Spanish word for seagull). The Spanish displaced the Chumash people who originally lived in the village of Onomgio, at the mouth of the Gaviota Creek, and the area became part of Rancho Refugio.  The land was then acquired in 1866 by the Diblee and Holster families, as a sheep and cattle ranch, and in 1875 the families built the wharf to transport goods.

2.  Look up at Amtrak trains on the dramatic Gaviota Trestle Bridge. 

This 80-foot bridge was built in 1900, to transport goods between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Amtrak trains pass by here everyday, speeding across this 811-foot wide span.  

3.  Purchase something at the store, usually only open on weekends.  

The Gaviota Beach store sells bait, ice, groceries, and camp supplies. Check store hours.

4. Check out the stunning white shale cliffs. 

These white shale cliffs are part of the six million year old Monterey Shale Formation.   Oil is extracted from the fractures in this formation by utilizing fracking techniques.

5. Explore scenic trails to Gaviota Peak and the Gaviota Wind Caves.

Gaviota State Park is a 3,000 acre park, that also includes some of the rugged backcountry of the Santa Ynez Mountains.  There are some popular but strenuous trails to Gaviota Peak and the Gaviota Wind Caves.  Please check with Park Rangers before venturing out, and let them know your plans.

Gaviota Peak Trail is a 6.5 mile roundtrip with breathtaking views of the Pacific Coast and Channel Islands from the 2,458 foot high summit, and Gaviota Wind Caves Trail is a 3 mile roundtrip leading to striking, sandstone caves sculpted by the elements, with distant water views.

Know before you go

  • Gaviota State Park location: 34-miles west of Santa Barbara.
  • Gaviota State Park, store hours (usually weekends only):  check here
  • Camping reservations:  check here
  • Day Use Fees:  check here.

Things to do nearby

Looking for other nearby places to visit?  Drive to El Capitan State Beach just 12 miles east of Gaviota State Park.

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