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Gaviota State Park Camping Guide

If you want to explore California’s natural landscape, Gaviota State Park should not be missed. Although the park is often overlooked by tourists and locals alike, its distinct geography and climate make it truly unique.

Turning your visit into a camping trip is the perfect way to fully immerse yourself and give yourself plenty of time. Read on to learn everything there is to know about Gaviota State Park camping!

gaviota state park camping

What to Expect at Gaviota State Park

Just a 30-minute drive from Santa Barbara, Gaviota State Park is one of California’s hidden gems. Located on the coast, the park features a beach, bluffs, caves, a canyon, and more.

So if swimming, hiking, or surfing are up your alley, you definitely won’t want to overlook a camping trip at Gaviota State Park.

Weather

Gaviota State Park is the only place in the United States with a Mediterranean climate. This means the weather at the park varies depending on when you visit, but it’s fairly moderate overall. Summers are dry and sunny, while winters are mildly rainy.

The park can also get windy due to its coastal canyon location, so dress and pack accordingly!

Wildlife

Gaviota State Park’s unique climate and location make the area rich in biodiversity. There are more than 525 plant species, almost half of California’s plant families. Animals in the region include mountain lions, black bears, and eagles. Sharks have also been spotted in Santa Barbara County.

Closures

Recent storms and flooding have caused damage to the park’s infrastructure, roads, and trails. As a result, as of January 2023, Gaviota State Park is closed until further notice. You can check the park’s Facebook page for updates.


Gaviota State Park Camping

If you’re ready to explore all Gaviota State Park offers, you may be wondering about the park’s camping options. After all, what’s a better way to immerse yourself in the coastal landscape than camping?

Keep reading to learn about Gaviota State Park’s camping options.

Tent and RV Camping

Gaviota State Park has 39 campsites, which can be used for both tent and RV camping. Campsites are arranged in a loop, and most are in the sun. If you want a shaded spot, try to get one of the lower-numbered campsites.

These campsites fit medium-sized RVs up to 25 feet long but do not have hookups. Each campsite has a fire pit and picnic table. The campground also has restrooms.

Reservations are recommended and can be made up to six months in advance.


Things to Do at Gaviota State Park

Once you’ve reserved your campsite, you’re ready to plan the rest of your trip! Here are the best things to do at Gaviota State Park.

gaviota state park camping

Hiking

Gaviota State Park has some truly unique hiking trails that take you through wind caves, up mountains, and more. The trails vary in length and difficulty, so there’s something for just about everyone. Below, we’ve listed some of the top options.

  • Gaviota Wind Caves – The Gaviota Wind Caves Trail is a two-mile out-and-back trail, but despite the short distance, it’s semi-strenuous. The hike takes visitors up several hills, where they’ll encounter wind-sculpted caves. Plus, the top of the hike offers spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding landscape.
  • Gaviota Peak Trail – Gaviota Peak Trail is a six-mile out-and-back hike. With an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet, it’s a hard hike, so plan accordingly. But if you’re up for the challenge, it’s well worth it! The hike has incredible views at the peak, along with hot springs nearby. If you visit in the spring, the trail is full of wildflowers, too.
  • Bald Mountain (via Gaviota Peak Trail) – If you’re feeling up for a long, challenging hike, this one’s for you. The Bald Mountain Hike via Gaviota Peak Trail is nearly 20 miles long (9.9 miles each way). Hikers encounter rock formations, ocean views, elevation gain, and more along the way.

Beach

Of course, one of Gaviota State Park’s highlights is its beach, which offers plenty to do in and of itself. Here are a few ways to enjoy the beach area!

  • Picnicking – Gaviota’s beach is great for picnics! Enjoy a nice meal surrounded by natural beauty. The state park has several picnic tables available for visitors to use and enjoy.
  • Surfing – Gaviota State Park is a good spot for surfing, and there are many other great surfing options in the surrounding area, too. It’s ideal for intermediate-level surfers, and surfers should be aware that it’s a bit rocky and sandy.
  • Fishing – Fishing used to be a popular activity at Gaviota State Park, but unfortunately, the fishing pier and boat hoist have been closed since 2014 due to damage.

Hot Springs

Gaviota Hot Springs is located just a half mile off of the hiking trailhead, and they’re a great way to relax after a long hike.

The hot springs are a lovely blue color, though they smell of sulfur. There are two pools that can seat between six and eight people, so it’s best to go early to avoid the crowds.


What to Pack for a Gaviota State Park Camping Trip

In many ways, packing for a camping trip at Gaviota State Park is much like packing for any other. Bring all the essentials, including a tent (unless you’re staying in a trailer), sleeping bags, cooking supplies, and clothing.

For a full checklist, check out our blog about What to Bring Camping.

But in addition to the essentials, you should pack a few things to prepare for Gaviota State Park, specifically.

First and foremost, previous visitors note that the park is quite windy, so you’ll need to pack accordingly. If you’re planning on tent camping, this is especially important. Make sure your tent is high quality, and plan to use ropes and stakes to secure it.

For tips on securing a tent in windy conditions, visit our post about How to Set Up a Tent in Any Weather.

Additionally, much of the park is sunny; if you visit in the summer, it can get quite hot. Pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, and ensure you have plenty of water.

gaviota state park camping

Wrapping Up Gaviota State Park Camping

As you can see, this California state park is one-of-a-kind. Hopefully, the tips and recommendations in this article give you everything you need to plan the perfect Gaviota State Park camping trip!

Looking for even more California camping recommendations? Check out our Best Places for California Beach camping page to find more amazing destinations.