Gaviota State Park takes its name from the Spanish word for seagull, given to the area by soldiers of the Portola Expedition who supposedly killed a seagull while camping here in 1769. Marked by a tall Southern Pacific railroad trestle that crosses Gaviota Creek high above the day-use parking lot, the park is a popular spot for swimming, picnicking, surf fishing and camping, despite high winds that often blow through the area. A pier on the west end of the beach is used by anglers, and scuba divers and surfers use a boat hoist on the pier to access the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. Visitors can explore the rugged upland portions of the park from a trailhead in the parking area. Ambitious hikers can climb to Gaviota Peak that offers a spectacular view of the coast and the Channel Islands.
From the parking lot head up the road and you will see a gate on the right side. The pavement path will take you to the entrance of the hike marked by a sign with the trail information.Follow the path up the hill for a 2.5 mile out and back hike. There is an immediate incline so prepare for a bit of work. The path gets narrow and at times it becomes single file. I recommend wearing long sleeves and pants as some of the brush is overgrown. After the first hill the land levels off. Take a quick few steps to the right for an amazing view and a waterfall. Be careful as the edge drops off. After taking in the view, turn around and continue back up the trail. The path has a few small forks which reconnect quickly and a good number of switchbacks, but keep your eye on the caves and you will know you are headed in the right direction.
I happened to take this hike while it was raining and the trails were super muddy. I suggest wearing shoes with traction rain or shine due to the clay-like soil that crumbles easily. You will encounter a set of caves that have some graffiti. This is a great resting stop to have lunch or just take in the views. You can climb around up to the top of these caves for stunning views of the rolling greens hills and the ocean. You can see more caves up in the distance. I didn't try to wonder any further as the remainder of the trail looks like a tough scramble and the rain was really starting to come down. I read that are more caves up ahead but, I am not sure if they are the set of caves you can see in the distance. There are also hot springs in the area.
FYI - 2/19/17 parking lot was VERY flooded. You can park up top and walk down. Be prepared to trudge through mud. I am sure this will dry up after rainy season.
Also, this is not a hike for young kids.
For pictures and more information: http://www.fruitstandfresh.com/category/adventuretravel/cahikes/
I'm not a hiker by any means so I did the whole loop in 4 hours. We went up Gaviota peak trail, which is hard on the heart. We went down Trespass trail which is hard on the knees and toes! But I'm glad we did it this way rather than the other way around. People who have bad knees may prefer to start up with Trespass trail. When going up peak trail, look behind, there are some wonderful views. At the top, write down something ni the log book and take a selfie with the marker (bucket). We could not see very clearly in the distance because of the sea fog. Not a good trail for just after the rain, we saw several muddy spot (slippery!) on our way down.
This is one of my favorite trails in the Goleta area. We started early morning with showers light so we just kept on going. Hit the hot springs at the bottom on the way up to warm up , and then as soon as we were out - torrential downpour!!! The temp dropped to 40 , wind was howling, fog was heavy , and the rain wouldn't stop!!! Eventually got to the top a couple hours later turning the corner expecting a final ascent to the peak, but fooled again!! Once we reached the top... that's for you to find out!!
Great hike this time of year. The trailhead starts off paved, but right after the pavement ends begins a steep ascent. After reaching the set of graffitied caves, KEEP GOING. Reaching the higher set of caves adds about 10 minutes to your hike but it is definitely worth it. Expect light traffic and spritz on a bit of bug spray if you have it.