Wind Caves (dayhike)

Trip Date: 5/18/2015

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.

Synopsis: A short trip, first along a paved access road, then on trail, brings the hiker to some interesting limestone caves. Although you travel through fairly impacted terrain, the views from high up on the hillside are long and impressive. On a clear day, look for the Channel Islands.

Trail sequence: Beach to Backcountry trail (Wind Caves trail) / Beach to Backcountry (Wind Caves)

Type: Out and back

Distance: 2.3 miles

Elevation: Min. - 26', Max. - 534'

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

Trail notes: Though this hike isn't particularly difficult, there are plenty of spurs all over this area. Be careful not to get sidetracked. 

Track: Wind Caves - 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. After a few, sometimes obscured, switchbacks, you turn toward the northwest and climb to the outcrop where the first caves are.

- From here the trail continues in the same general direction for a few yards before you have to take a side spur to the limestone cliffs to the north. These caves can be easily seen from the trail so the little spur shouldn't be hard to find.

- The return trip is straightforward. Head for the first outcrop you passed earlier, then work your way back down to the paved surface and the trailhead. 

Video: Youtube