Gaviota State Park
Secluded beach walks make this a must-do place to explore
BEACH WALK INFORMATION
Distance-2.5 miles east to the Vista Del Mar beach access; 3 miles east to San Onofre Beach
Topo-Gaviota & Sacate
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From Fairview Avenue in Goleta, follow Highway 101 west for 23.5 miles (32 miles from downtown Santa Barbara) to the turnoff into Gaviota State Park. Follow the narrow road for .3 miles, cross Gaviota Creek, then bear left to the beach. There is a fee for day use at the beach.
The turnoff into the park is from the fast lane and isn’t easy to spot because it is around a corner. Look for it as Highway 101 turns away from the coastline and heads into Gaviota Canyon.
Gaviota State Park is not just a beach access point; it extends several miles inland and on both sides of Highway 101. This provides a number of day hikes (which can be found in another section of the book) as well as beach walks. You can drive a mile west towards Hollister Ranch before you get to private property. There are several beach access points along here as well as trailheads leading up into the hills. The Gaviota Pier is a favorite of fishermen and the boat hoist (when it is working) makes it possible to explore this part of the coastline from the ocean. It is 3 miles from here to San Onofre Beach, an excellent, short walk on which you’ll rarely see anyone.
I have always found walking along the Gaviota beach to be a wonderful experience and I try to do it at least 3-or-4 times a year, usually in the winter months when it is much less crowded. West of the pier the coastline is rocky and you won’t be able to get too far, but what you will discover as you walk to the east easily makes up for this.
The walk begins by crossing under the train bridge, which is very impressive both in size and looks. Combined with the canyon behind it, this makes for a great photo opportunity. Just beyond the bridge you will need to cross the creek. This usually doesn’t involve any wading, but it might. Once beyond the creek, if the tide is low, you won’t find any other obstacles all the way to Arroyo Hondo, six miles distant. This is a walk I encourage you to find time to do.
Rather than the typical cliffs you will find steep layers of shale as you walk along and in the light of the later day these can turn a golden yellow. On the beach itself you will find thin edges of shale protruding from the sand like a series of fins, creating a very picturesque setting. There is one which has the shape of a young girl. Fringed with barnacles for hair it looks exactly like Little Orphan Annie to me. See if you can find it.
The walking continues through similar geology, with lots of rock outcroppings at the edge of the ocean and plenty of places for sea stars and other creatures to find a home. I usually continue on past Vista Del Mar until I can see the tall yellow-colored formation which marks the mouth of San Onofre Canyon, a bit more than two miles from Gaviota. Then it is back to the state park for a quick walk out to the end of the pier for the sunset before I head home for the evening.