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.
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)
|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 and Trespass Trails Loop |
This 2.6-mile loop steals a view over Highway 101 and the Gaviota Tunnel.
|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 |
This 2.5-mile hike just off Highway 101 visits wind-carved caves in Gaviota State Park with great ocean views.
|Nojoqui Falls |
This short 0.65-mile hike visits an 80-foot tall fern-lined waterfall.
|More Central Coast Hikes |
Explore other destinations along the California coast between Ventura and Monterey, including trails in Los Padres National Forest.
|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 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 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.