Ocean view from Gaviota Peak, Santa Barbara County, CA

Gaviota Peak and Hot Springs

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    • 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 east (turn left if you are coming from the north; right if you are coming from the south) and make a quick right onto Gaviota Park Boundary Road. Follow it a short distance to its end at a parking lot. The day use fee is $2 per vehicle (checks or cash; no change given).
    • Agency: Gaviota State Park
    • Distance: 6.5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 2,150 feet
    • Suggested time: 4 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, terrain)
    • Best season: September – June
    • Dogs: Not allowed
    • Cell phone reception: Good for the first mile of the Trespass Trail and on the fire road below the hot springs; fair on the summit; weak to none everywhere else
    • 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 sunblock
    • More information: Trip descriptions here and here (both in the opposite direction),  here and here; AllTrails report here
    • Rating: 8

Panoramic coastal views, rock formations and a chance to visit some secluded hot springs make Gaviota Peak a popular destination for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo hikers. Even L.A. residents will find this peak to be a worthwhile destination for a day hike, or perhaps as part of a camping trip at the nearby state beach. Don’t underestimate the challenges, though – steep terrain with little shade.

By using the Trespass Trail and the Gaviota Peak Fire Road, it’s possible to make an enjoyable, scenically varied loop. I recommend ascending via the Trespass Trail, rather than on the somewhat tedious fire road. The Trespass Trail features several very steep and loose stretches that can be potentially dangerous on the descent – especially on tired legs. Also, hiking in this directions allows you to save the hot springs for last (calling the springs “hot” is a little generous, but it’s still a pleasant spot to relax after having done the bulk of the work on this hike.)

From the parking lot, follow the fire road a short distance to a junction with the Trespass Trail. Make a hard right and walk to another junction, where you will stay left (the Tunnel View Trail is the right fork). The Trespass Trail climbs the west slope of Gaviota Peak, providing views of Gaviota Pass to the south. At 1.2 miles from the start, you reach another junction with the Tunnel View Trail. Head left and continue along the Trespass Trail, now heading due east. You’ll pass through a gate onto private land that gives the Trespass Trail its name (since this trail is an easement, you aren’t actually trespassing, but the name has stuck nevertheless.) At a Y-junction, bear right and head briefly downhill before beginning a climb to a saddle, 2.4 miles from the start.

At this point, you have gained about half of the elevation required for the hike, but the rest is all crammed into the next mile. At the saddle, you have your choice of ascending a steep fire break on your left or heading straight for a short distance on the official trail and then using an unmarked single-track – also steep – to reach the same spot. About 200 feet above the saddle, you reach a good rest spot with a large rock overlooking the canyon below. After catching your breath, the grind continues, leveling out slightly below the summit.

Here your efforts are rewarded with a 360-degree panorama including the Santa Ynez Mountains to the east, the ocean to the south and Lompoc Valley to the north and west. On clear days, the Channel Islands are visible. After enjoying the views, follow the same trail off the summit, heading northeast to meet the Gaviota Peak Fire Road. Turn left and begin your descent, taking in more views to the north and west.

About two miles below the summit, look for an unmarked but clear use trail leading to the hot springs. Though the pools are shallow (knee high for most adults) it is still possible to have a nice little soak in them before heading back to the trail head. The muddy ground on the bottom of pool is quite soft, so don’t be surprised if you sink another few inches when you enter the water.

After visiting the springs, follow the use trail downhill alongside the creek, soon returning to the fire road. Bear left and follow the fire road downhill to the junction with the Trespass Trail and then back to the parking lot.

Trespass Trail, Gaviota State Park, CA
Start of the Trespass Trail
Trespass Trail, Gaviota State Park, CA
Heading toward the mountains after the second junction with the Tunnel View Trail
Trespass Trail, Gaviota State Park, Santa Barbara, CA
View from the saddle just below the start of the steep climb
Gaviota Peak, Santa Barbara County, CA
View point on the southwest slope of Gaviota Peak
Trespass Trail, Gaviota State Park, CA
Steep climb on the Trespass Trail below the summit
Gaviota Peak, Santa Barbara County, CA
Looking northwest from Gaviota Peak
Gaviota Peak Fire Road, Santa Barbara County, CA
Oaks on the Gaviota Peak Fire Road
Gaviota Hot Springs, Gaviota State Park, CA
Gaviota Hot Springs

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.

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