Gaviota State Park | Outdoorsy

Gaviota State Park
Guide

Introduction

Looking for a Californian beachside RV getaway? Gaviota State Park welcomes visitors to swim, hike, and gather geological knowledge before retiring to their RV campsite near the ocean’s edge. Located 33 miles away from Santa Barbara, the park is the place to be for young scientists and geology lovers. Adventure seekers will appreciate the ocean’s capacity for water fun. Combine your love for nature and fun at Gaviota!

The history of the park dates back to 1953, and the area surrounding the park is one of the longest parts of the Californian coast that has remained largely untouched. The area was first discovered back in 1769 by Spanish explorers and was named Gaviota after the Spanish word for seagull when one of the explorers killed a bird of the same name.

The beach is the main attraction for visitors thanks to the multiple recreational opportunities available, such as swimming, snorkeling, and even scuba diving. Out of the water, the Santa Ynez Fault offers its contribution to the park through a warm sulfur spring that bubbles up for hikers to enjoy. Gaviota Peak and the canyon bluffs provide a visual incentive for hikers and they also make for a great photography background. Gaviota Canyon will give pause to any observer who wishes to take in its views, and visitors will also love how close they can stay to surrounding points of interest just outside the bounds of the park.

Gaviota State Park is home to one RV campground that is suitable for rigs up to 30 feet in length. All of the sites are primitive with no hookups available, and there is also a hike-in camping area for visitors wanting to get up close and personal with the surrounding natural area. Be ready for the sunshine and waves when you visit Gaviota State Park!

RV Rentals in Gaviota State Park

Transportation

Driving

Gaviota State Park is located 33 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, California. The entrance to the park is off of U.S. Highway 101, which travels through the central region of the park. Highway 101 takes travelers through the Gaviota Gorge Tunnel, which has a vehicle height restriction of 14 feet and 9 inches. Due to the unique geologic features at Gaviota, rockslides may occur at any time in the park. Alternate routes may be posted in the event of a rockslide. Vehicles are required to stay on paved roads in all areas of the park.

Parking

If you are just visiting for the day, there are multiple parking lots and trailheads that are easily accessible in several places along 101 throughout Gaviota. For those staying in the park, you can set up your rig in the campground and easily walk down to the beach or hiking trails.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Gaviota State Park

Campsites in Gaviota State Park

Reservations camping

Gaviota State Park Campground

Want to call the park home during your visit? There are a total of 39 RV-friendly campsites for you to choose from, all of which are primitive with no hookups available. The sites are known to be on the smaller side and are suitable for RVs up to 30 feet in length, but if you have a larger rig you should consider staying at the nearby El Capitán State Beach Campground that is suitable for rigs up to 42 feet or Refugio State Beach Campground.

Visitors to Gaviota State Park and campground have an opportunity to enjoy views of a Southern Pacific Railroad trestle overhead as they explore the creek. A fire ring and picnic table are available at each campsite, and there is a central shower block with restrooms that all campers are welcome to use during their stay. The campground is also equipped with a camp store, and you should be able to get cell phone reception on all of the major networks.

Campground reservations are highly recommended, and they can be made up to six months in advance online or by phone. The campground is open from April until the end of October each year.

Alternate camping

Hike-In Camping

If you want to camp under the stars for a few nights, you can make the most of the hike-in campsites within the park. Most people who use this camping area will bring a pop-up tent with them since there is no vehicle access. These hike-in sites are available on a first-come, first-served only basis and they are located outside of the main campground. The hike-in sites are open from April until late October.

Tent Camping

Along with RV camping, tent camping is also a very popular accommodation choice for visitors to the park. All of the sites within the campground can be used by tents, but there are no tent-only camping sites besides the hike-in camping area. Since camping is very popular at Gaviota State Park, it is recommended that you book a reservation in advance of your arrival so that you will have a guaranteed place to pitch your tent.

Seasonal activities in Gaviota State Park

In-Season

Beach Walking and Exploring

Looking for a place to relax and watch the ocean through its movements? Gaviota offers a unique view of how the ocean interacts with land at different times of the day. At low tide, the sands can be explored for treasures. At high tide, the water’s edge reaches up as if it is trying to kiss the surrounding bluffs. Rise from your campsite to see where the water is early in the day. Stay all day or return in the evening to see how the ocean has moved its edge during the day.

Fishing

Enjoy the sand in your toes and see what you can reel in at Gaviota! As you fish, you will be able to look out across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean and take in the beauty of the skyline. A California Fishing license is required within the bounds of the park, and be mindful of swimmers and other water participants while fishing. There are no guarantees that fishing gear will be available to rent, so remember to bring your own rod and bait if you want to cast out a line.

Aquatic Activities

Scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming are all great water activities for Gaviota visitors. While the beach area can be windy, the sand and water’s edge provide a natural playground. Curious minds are easily drawn to peek under the surface of the water at Gaviota. Come and see what you find! One benefit that beach lovers appreciate about this beach is its proximity to the campsite. Remember to consider how the tides may affect your water time.

Off-Season

Biking

The trails of Gaviota offer mountain bikers an excellent playground! Park in one of the day-use parking lots and hop on your new favorite trail or ride from the campground. Remember to use proper signaling and safe riding practices at all times. Hikers may also be present on the trails. Be sure to alert other individuals on the trails as you approach from either direction. Riders must stay on designated trails at all times.

Hiking

The trail to Gaviota Peak offers views of the Channel Islands and the coast for hikers who are ready for a bit of a challenge. While dogs are allowed in the park, they are not permitted on the trails. Gaviota Hot Springs is just under a mile from the trail parking lot. Hikers can enjoy the Wind Caves Trail (also known as the Beach to Backcountry Trail) from the campsite area for a unique view of how wind changes rock formations.

Geology Fun

Gaviota State Park is the place to be for geology lovers and anyone who enjoys viewing the natural wonders of where the ocean and land meet. Bring your curious side and see what bits of nature you find along the water’s edge. Preserved fossils and bluff formations fill the vision of those who tread here! The Monterey Formation and its surrounding natural geologic features have brought scientists to search for the sources of oil in this area.

Find the perfect campsite.