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Gaviota Peak

Gaviota Peak

Features: (from Gaviota Peak sits at the lofty west end of the Santa Ynez Mountains behind Santa Barbara. The 2,458-foot peak is just two miles from the Pacific Ocean, putting it in prime position to offer eye-popping views. There are two routes to the summit from the trailhead in Gaviota State Park. The traditional Gaviota Peak Trail is 3.15 miles one-way, while the immensely scenic Trespass Trail is 3.35 miles one-way, creating a superb 6.5-mile loop with 2,150 feet of elevation gain.

Driving Directions: 
From Santa Barbara, drive approximately 30 miles on Highway 101. When the freeway turns north toward the Gaviota tunnel, pass the Gaviota Rest Area and drive 1.5 miles to the next exit (132) labeled California One (Lompoc / Vandenberg AFB). At the top of the ramp, turn right and make another immediate right on the unnamed Gaviota Park Boundary Road. Continue 1/3 of a mile to the cul-de-sac at road’s end. From Buellton to the north, take the 101 South for 8 miles to the exit for California One. Turn left across the freeway and make a right on the frontage road to the trailhead.

Trail Directions: 
From the trailhead just off the Highway in Gaviota State Park, hike up the road toward Gaviota Peak. The road climbs uphill at a steady grade over the first quarter mile to a junction with Trespass Trail. From here you may head left or right to reach the peak.

Trespass Trail is a narrow singe-track trail with stunning ocean views, while Gaviota Peak Trail offers slightly less scenic (though still very enjoyable–especially in the springtime) inland views from the road. If forced to choose between the two, Trespass Trail would be the top choice. Since you can visit Gaviota Peak as a loop, hike up on the fire road and then come down on Trespass Trail, enjoying the views looking out from the mountain.

Turn left up the fire road toward Gaviota Peak and Gaviota Hot Springs. After a short distance, the road crosses a creek and comes to a junction with a single-track on the right that heads up to the hot springs, reaching it after 0.1 miles. Continue past the hot-springs to continue the hike–or stop in for a dip.

Gaviota Peak Trail continues swinging out across a grass field before aiming up the mountain again. The road finds shade and passes through a metal gate, roughly 0.9 miles from the start. Continue up Gaviota Peak Trail, which passes in and out of shade as it steadily climbs steeply uphill.

After climbing a thousand feet over the first 1.6 miles, the trail enters Los Padres National Forest. You cam begin to make out a thin view of the Pacific Ocean as the road continues to climb, putting on another thousand feet over the next 1.4 miles. Come to a T-junction in the saddle northeast of Gaviota Peak. The junction greets hikers with a grand view down the other side of the ridge over a stunning stretch of coastline spanning east toward Santa Barbara. This should propel you on to the panoramic views at the summit. Turn right and finish the ascent, tackling the final 0.17 miles to the top of Gaviota Peak.

Those descending on Trespass Trail will find it completely different from the ascent. Trespass Trail is narrow, overgrown, and unmaintained. Definitely wear long pants if you trek this way or your legs will get scraped. Pick up the single-track heading southwest off the summit and enjoy the views. The chaparral surrounding this trail is beautiful and dense.

After 1/3 of a mile, the trail reaches a grassy slope. The trail then descends another 2/3 of a mile to the bottom of a ravine, at an elevation of 1,400 feet. The trail turns to the right, heading west for 0.7 miles to a gate across the trail.

Pass through the gate, re-latching it as you go, and return to Gaviota State Park. The path dissects a few more patches of high brush over the next half mile before coming clear and widening to a two track that allows brisker hiking across a grassy slope. Shortly after Trespass Trail widens, you will pass the top of Tunnel View Trail on the left, an alternate route back that offers a view of the Gaviota Tunnel. Turn left and descend a quarter mile to the trailhead, completing this 6.5-mile loop with 2,150 feet of elevation change (or take a right to return to the hot-springs for a post hike soak).


Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.