Yucca/Las Cruces Loop (Gaviota State Park)
- Location: Gaviota State Park, Santa Barbara County. From Highway 101 (32 miles west of Santa Barbara and 8 miles south of Buellton) take exit 132 for Highway 1/Lompoc. Head west for 0.6 mile to San Julian Road. Turn left and follow San Julian Road 0.6 mile to its ending at the trail head.
- Agency: Gaviota State Park
- Distance: 2.3 miles
- Elevation gain: 600 feet
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: Good; weak to fair in some spots
- Water: None at trail head; water is available at rest stops on both sides of Highway 101 half a mile south
- Restrooms: None at trail head; full service restrooms available at rest stops on both sides of Highway 101 half a mile south
- Camping/backpacking: Gaviota State Park has a beach side campground a few miles south of this trail. Click here for more information.
- Recommended gear: sun hat hiking poles
- Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes Around Santa Barbara
- More information: Trip description here
- Rating: 6
This loop provides a nice introduction to Gaviota State Park’s expansive back country. The only drawback is that it never really escapes the noise of Highway 101 but it if you are in the area for other hikes or perhaps on a coastal road trip and want to stretch your legs, it’s an enjoyable destination for burning a few calories and taking in some good ocean and mountain views.
From the end of San Julian Road, pass through the gate and follow the fire road a short distance to a four-way junction by an information board. The center fork is the Las Cruces Trail, the return route. Make a hard right on the Yucca Trail (the loop can be hiked in either direction but doing the Yucca Trail first allows you to get the steepest ascent out of the way quickly; it also saves you the potentially tedious task of climbing uphill on a fire road). The Yucca Trail wastes no time ascending the ridge, on a trail that is often loose in addition to being steep. However, the views get better and better, including Gaviota Pass, Gaviota Peak, the Lompoc Valley to the north and the coastline to the southwest. A few small clusters of oaks provide some shade although most of the route is exposed. Keep an eye out for poison oak.
Just under one mile from the beginning, you begin a descent to a saddle. Upon reaching the junction, turn left on the Las Cruces Trail, a fire road, and follow it as it descends, heading east. The exposed upper portion of the Las Cruces Trail isn’t particularly inspiring but the hike becomes more enjoyable when you drop into an attractive woodland of coastal live oaks – providing both shade and scenic variety. Continue your descent until you reach the junction with the Yucca Trail and retrace your steps a short distance back to the parking area.
The Las Cruces Trail was named for the nearby Las Cruces (“the crosses”) Adobe. According to local legend, the name comes from the crosses that Spanish soldiers placed on the graves of native Americans following a battle in the early 1800s. The adobe is said to be haunted by the ghosts of three prostitutes and a gunfighter.
Text and photography copyright 2017 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.