April was not very kind to me when it came to hiking and the trend continued. The trailhead is located 34 miles up the 101 from Santa Barbara. The Gaviota Peak hike appealed to me because I read it was like hiking in Santa Barbara but without the city below and with less traffic on the trail. Sadly, the weather conditions were poor and only got worse as the day progressed. I look forward to trying this hike again on a clear day because I have a good feeling that the views from the top are awesome. This turned into one of those hikes, a tough hike. Sometimes a tough hike is due to the steepness of the trail, the length of the day or, in this case bad weather. It became a test of will, hiker vs. the elements. I feel I held up well, just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I did enjoy the feeling of quiet solitude, made more pronounced by the blanket of mist that enveloped me.
I read the directions to this place from several sources and they never quite made sense to me. This is the inland side of Gaviota State Park. The signs you see for Gaviota State Park along the 101 are for the beach side. This trail is inland and on the right side. When you see the sign for Exit 132, CA 1 (I believe it also says Lompoc and AFB) this is the exit you want. Get off on CA 1. You’ll drive up a road. It’s more like a street than a highway. On your right side you will see the turn for an unmarked road. Take a sharp right onto this road. This rough paved road will take you back 0.3 miles to the end, a circular dirt parking lot next to the trailhead. You’ll be parking right across from the big CA 1 exit sign noting the exit that you just took. There is a $2 parking fee, self paid.
After about a quarter of a mile there is an unmarked trail running to the right leading to the Gaviota Hot Springs. The trail is a bit overgrown and there’s a good amount of poison oak. There are two pools with old stone walls built around them. I have seen pictures of people soaking in them. In the lower pool, the water looks milky blue, a bit darker in the upper pool. The water is warm but much cooler than something like a hot tub. Sounds great, but then there’s that sulphur gas bubbling up from below. If I saw water that was black and bubbling like this that had this odor, my first thought would be raw sewage. But a quick search shows that soaking in sulphur springs may have many healthy benefits. Photo 5 – The trail continues beyond the hot springs and connects with the original trail.
When the 101 turned toward the mountains, I believe this is called the Gaviota Pass, the views were amazing – huge rock-faced mountains towering above. The overcast conditions hid them from site on on the trail.
Gaviota Peak Trail is a wide fire road – easy to follow, no surprises. Photo 2 – Gaviota Peak is up there somewhere. Photo 3 – After a while the land switches from Gaviota State Park to Los Padres National Forest. Parked to the left of the sign, a bulldozer. More on that later.
The trail is only moderately steep, maybe moderate+ near the top. Photo 2 – Right after this old gate is a junction. To the right is Gaviota Peak and Trespass Trail, an alternative to Gaviota Peak Trail back down the mountain that is more wild and has great views, so I read.
From Gaviota Peak I returned to the junction by the old gate but this time followed the steep road to the left. Along with the rain drops and fog covering my glasses, heavy drizzle howled across the trail and reduced my vision down to about 20 to 25 feet. I just kept walking down this endless road without any reference points except the ups and downs of the ridgeline under my feet. It felt like I was walking through the Twilight Zone. My mind started playing tricks on me, hearing bushes rustle behind me and seeing shadowy figures move across the trail ahead.
Now on my way back, I could hear the rumbling of heavy machinery. The bulldozer I had passed was being used. I hiked passed as it was heading up the trail at a very slow pace. The noise was pretty bad, and the worst of it was the “beep, beep, beep” backing up noise that echoed throughout the mountains. A local hiker passed me and commented that this used to be a “quaint little fire road, but now they’re ‘fixing’ it”. He did not look happy. I don’t live in this area, nor do I know the issues surrounding the bulldozing, but I could instantly relate to this man’s feelings when I think of some of the things going on in my hometown of Malibu. This lizard had been kind of squashed by the bulldozer. He was alive but struggling across the trail and covered in dirt. I washed him off and he seemed to be doing a bit better.