Gaviota Hot Springs Trail Los Padres Santa Barbara hike Gaviota State Park spring

Driving up Highway 101 through the Gaviota Tunnel west of Santa Barbara, you might be unaware that a natural hot springs is less than a mile from the roadway. Gaviota Hot Springs is more warm than it is hot, but the blue sulfery water attracts its share of bathers. The springs are half a mile from the trailhead and only a tenth of a mile off the trail to Gaviota Peak, making it a nice detour if you have tired legs to soak.

From the trailhead cul-de-sac just off Highway 101 in Gaviota State Park, begin hiking up the wide fire road, which climbs 150 feet over the first quarter mile to a junction with Trespass Trail (an alternate route to Gaviota Peak).

Turn left and continue up the road to the next junction located alongside a creek. This is the water flowing down from the hot springs. Turn right and follow the water to its source. A tenth of a mile up this overgrown single track, you will arrive at Gaviota Hot Springs.

Some time ago, the small springs was built up with cement and separated into pools. Proceed up to the top pool which is deep enough to bathe in, but not to swim. Sulfur bubbles warm the milky blue water. Gaviota Hot Springs is on the small side, and the water would be more inviting if it circulated a bit more, but the springs is definitely worth checking out on the way to (or back from) Gaviota Peak. Done on its own, this is a one mile hike with 400 feet of elevation gain. A $2 fee is charged to park at the trailhead.

Gaviota Hot Springs
Gaviota Hot Springs

To get to the trailhead: From Santa Barbara, drive 30 miles west on Highway 101. When the freeway turns inland, pass the Gaviota Rest Area and drive 1.5 miles to the next exit (132) labeled California One (Lompoc / Vandenberg AFB). At the top of the ramp, turn right and make another immediate right on the unnamed Gaviota Park Boundary Road. Continue 1/3 of a mile to the cul-de-sac at road’s end.

From Buellton to the north, take the 101 South for 8 miles to the exit for California One. Turn left across the freeway and make a right on the frontage road to the trailhead.

Trailhead address: Gaviota Park Boundary Road, Goleta, CA 93117
Trailhead coordinates: 34.504598, -120.2259 (34° 30′ 16.55″N 120° 13′ 33.23″W)

Elevation Profile
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Gaviota Hot SpringsGaviota Hot SpringsGaviota Hot Springs

These photos were taken in July of 2011. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Gaviota Peak Hike Gaviota Peak
This 6.5-mile loop mounts a 2,458-foot summit two miles from the Pacific and then descends Trespass Trail to explore the wilds of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Tunnel View Trail Gaviota Tunnel View and Trespass Trails Loop
This 2.6-mile loop steals a view over Highway 101 and the Gaviota Tunnel.
Gaviota Pass Overlook Gaviota Pass Overlook Loop
This 6.5-mile loop tours scenic ridges in Gaviota State Park to arrive at a soaring overlook above the Gaviota Tunnel.
Gaviota Wind Caves Trail Gaviota Wind Caves
This 2.5-mile hike just off Highway 101 visits wind-carved caves in Gaviota State Park with great ocean views.
Nojoqui Falls Nojoqui Falls
This short 0.65-mile hike visits an 80-foot tall fern-lined waterfall.
McWay Falls More Central Coast Hikes
Explore other destinations along the California coast between Ventura and Monterey, including trails in Los Padres National Forest.
Nearby Camping
Gaviota State Park Gaviota State Park Campground
With 39 sites situated right next to the beach and proximity to many hiking trails, this coastal campground has a lot of appeal.
Refugio State Beach Refugio State Beach Campground
This 67-site campground is a great oceanfront camping destination along the coast west of Santa Barbara, just three miles from El Capitán State Beach.
El Capitan State Beach El Capitán State Beach Campground
This 132-site campground offers oceanfront camping along the coast west of Santa Barbara, just three miles from Refugio State Beach.
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Tagged with · California State Parks · Gaviota State Park · Goleta · Hot Springs · Santa Ynez Mountains
Distance: 1 mile · Elevation change: 400 feet

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10 Comments on Gaviota Hot Springs in Gaviota State Park

  1. Jenn wrote:

    Gaviota Hot Springs is a great trail and time for that matter! I was there this past summer and it was nice and hot and the springs were beautiful. I tend to stick to SB trails but I made the trek out there to check it out and it was so awesome! Great day hiking some new trails that I will now forever go back to.

  2. Kelly wrote:

    The hot springs is totally worth the trek out there. Short way up the hill and you’re there and on a nice evening, this is the place to be! My local friends showed me this place when I was in town and it was one of the best places I’ve ever been in town! Just beautiful and natural in every way.

  3. Ryan wrote:

    This is a short hike. We brought our two little boys – 6 and 3. The fire road is wide and well maintained. The last 1/10th of a mile of single-track from the fire road could use a little work. I’d bring a knife and some gloves next time to clear out some of the poison ivy starting to encroach on the trail up.

    • Lynn wrote:

      Cutting poison oak with a knife and gloves probably isn’t a good idea. You’re likely to get a good case of poison oak that way. Poison oak juice is powerful stuff and can spread around your body like magic.

  4. […] ascending, we checked out the Gaviota hot springs at the base of the trail. The water was warm to the touch, and the air smelled like sulfur. The […]

  5. Elizabeth A Haro wrote:

    Can you bring a dog to the hot springs area?

    • JC wrote:

      In my personal opinion, you should not. Unless you will be sure to keep your dog a distance from the pools and do not allow them to urinate/defecate anywhere that is wet (part of the water “system”). It’s not great etiquette to have a dog tied up who may be barking or yipping for you as you are soaking. Signed- A long-time dog owner/hiker

  6. BITA wrote:

    Is this hike suitable for children under 6?

  7. Zoe Garcell wrote:

    I was here this past weekend 4/1/22 and no this is not an April Fool’s joke. Please beware of ticks attaching to you. I went into the bushes to take off my bathing suit and dry off to get dressed and must have picked up the critter there. I found it in my belly button the next morning when I examined my navel to figure out why I had a burning sensation in my sleep. I didn’t know what I pulling out with tweezers until after I used Google Lens to identify it. I am sending it to a lab for testing to find out what I could have been infected with although I started Doxycycline the very next night as my doctor was concerned with the rash that quickly developed. In most cases, you won’t know they have attached but this sucker got smashed to death in my belly button because I wore tight jeans to dinner that same day.
    Have someone help you check for ticks in the hairline, behind your ears and your belly button or groin area where they hide. Ticks carry a multitude of serious diseases including but not limited to Lyme Disease.

  8. richard l peters wrote:

    I was there last week for the first time. Thru amazing gusts and rain and the trail is demolished! I was not impressed with the main pool as it was not very warm however, all the rain would contribute to the temp.. Unless you wear Muck Boots I bushwacked down the adjacent road when it starts to go up the hill thats when you bushwack down the grassy hill into the trees. You will see a hillbilly settlement down the hill stay to your left, cross the creek and it will lead you back on the road to parking area. Hike -On!