Beach to Backcountry Trail (dayhike)

Trip Date: 12/8/2013

Location: Gaviota State Park

Permit/Pass: Self-pay at the entrance kiosk.

Trails: State Parks map

Directions: From Santa Barbara, drive up-coast (west) some 30 miles on Highway 101. Just as the highway makes a dramatic bend north, you’ll spot a sign for Gaviota State Park. Merge left into the left turn lane and turn left across the highway onto the state park entry road. The park road leads to a kiosk (parking fee required) then down to the beach. You’ll veer right before the kiosk and follow the unsigned road leading to the exclusive Hollister Ranch community. At the first bend in the road, you’ll find the state park trailhead and a pullout for parking on the right. 

Trail sequence: *Beach to Backcountry trail / Overlook fire road / Overlook / Beach to Backcountry

Type: Out and back

Distance: 4.7 miles

Elevation: Min. - 28', Max. - 862'


Rating: Moderate (factors: steep sections, overgrowth, some pavement)

Synopsis: A challenging hike through sometimes thick overgrowth and narrow, rutted and rocky trails. But the terrain and geology are fascinating, the views of the Channel Islands spectacular, and looking down from the tunnel overlook is worth the walk all by itself.

Track: Beach to Backcountry Trail - Gaviota SP

Turn by Turn:

  -- Walk around the gate and head up the asphalt road for just over a half-mile, keeping an eye out for a narrow trail (signed "Multi-Use) snaking off to the left through some high invasive brush. This is the Beach to Backcountry trail.

  -- As the trail heads up, sometimes steeply, the views begin to open up and the trail comes to a set of caves in the limestone cliffs.

[*It should be noted that all along this trail there are use-spurs leading here and there mixed in with legitimate park trails - and they are all unmarked. It takes a keen eye and a good sense of direction and distance to remain on course here. A trail map is an absolute must and a GPS couldn't hurt.]

  -- Past the caves you dip, then climb again and turn toward the east as the trail works its way another half mile up and over the ridge, then drops to meet the Overlook fire road.

  -- Turn right on the Overlook road and follow it about half a mile to where it dead-ends at a radio tower and small block house. Through the bushes at the end are some rocks where one can - very carefully - look down over the Highway 101 tunnel.

  -- When you head back be sure to remain alert for the left turn to get back onto the Beach to Backcountry trail, and pay close attention while navigating the turns and spurs that keep you on course on your way back to the paved road and your car.

Photos: Gaviota State Park