Santa Ynez Outdoors

Santa Ynez Outdoors

1. Cachuma Lake/Cachuma Lake Nature Center

Halfway between Santa Barbara and Solvang, Cachuma Lake is a sunny, year round recreation wilderness area in the mountains. Cachuma Lake has 42 miles of shoreline but because the lake is a domestic water supply, no swimming, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, or body contact with the water is permitted. Fishing and boating are the main water activities here.

The recreation area has five hikes which vary in length from a ¼ mile loop to the Tequepis Trail, a 4 mile one way hike to the ridgeline of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Eagle watching tours are very popular here during November through March and guided nature walks are offered on Saturday afternoons.

Fees for day use are $8 per vehicle, $5 for hikers, $13 with a boat, and an extra $3 if you bring your dog. (Be sure to bring proof of current rabies vaccination. Dogs are not allowed within 50 feet of the shoreline, must not be in boats, and must be on a leash that’s 6 foot or less.) Rates are discounted for seniors, disabled and Good Sam Clubs.

2. Nojoqui Falls County Park

There is a hidden 80 foot waterfall two miles north of the Gaviota Tunnel just off Highway 101. Nojoqui Falls County Park, an 88 acre day use park, located on Alisal Road, is at the back of the Gaviota Pass. Initially the park with its ball fields, barbeque grills, playground, restroom, and picnic tables looks like a generic recreational area. The hiking trail is beyond the park. Look for the signs indicating the trailhead’s location.

The one mile hike to the falls is an easy one and takes only about thirty minutes to complete. The trail parallels Nojoqui Creek upstream to the base of the year round falls over several footbridges cross the creek. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the park picnic tables after the hike.

The park is located 1 ½ miles east of Highway 101 near the Gaviota Pass. From 101 take the Old Coast Road to Alisal Road. From Solvang, take Alisal Road south to the park. Hours are 8 a.m. to sunset.

3. El Capitan State Beach

This is a pristine California beach, great for camping, tide pooling, swimming, picnicking, and surfing. The 140 campsites are spacious with spectacular, unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean. Very clean with newly remodeled shower and bathroom facilities, El Captian is also a great place to view dolphins, sea lions and pelicans. Be aware that the train passes near here and there is some highway noise, but the sound of the waves usually drowns out road racket. This is a popular camping area and reservations are usually necessary months in advance. Dogs must be leashed at all times.

El Capitan has lots of shady areas under oaks and sycamores and a sandy beach with hiking trails and tide pools. To get down to the beach, take the staircase at the top of the bluffs. A bike trail connects with Refugio State Beach to the west.

4. Refugio State Beach

Even from the 101 freeway, little Refugio State Beach looking inviting. Tall, swaying palm trees line the beach located below Gaviota and El Capitan State Beaches, twenty miles west of Santa Barbara. This is a beach that looks like it belongs in Hawaii, with the graceful curve and the line of palm trees near the shore giving it a different look from most California beaches. There is camping here and good fishing. Trails and picnic sites are nearby. Kayaks sometimes line the beach here. Refugio is twenty miles west of Santa Barbara and 2 ½ miles of El Capitan State Beach.

Day use parking is $8 per vehicle. This is a very popular camping beach, one of four in Santa Barbara County. Camping fees are $25 to $35 and camp sites sell out quickly. Reservations are available up to seven months in advance. There are no hookups for recreational vehicles.

Refugio State Beach, 10 Refugio Beach Road, Goleta, CA 93117