Gaviota Hot Springs

Gaviota Hot Springs

Gaviota Hot Springs is a small natural hot spring located just off the 101 freeway in Santa Barbara County California. The hot springs are large enough for about half a dozen people to soak in and temperature usually fluctuates in the 90-100 degree range depending on the season.  Many people who see the hot springs come away disappointed because they expect them to be larger and hotter. A park ranger told us that the early Spanish missionaries who wrote about Gaviota Hot Springs described them as a pristine desert oasis. They were obviously exaggerating a bit. However, many of the natural hot springs in Southern California are located on private land and are inaccessible, so Gaviota is one of only a small handful of natural hot springs that everyone can visit.  The hike itself is less than a mile, but its all uphill and took us 15 minutes at a brisk pace.  The water temperature in the hot spring was probably closer to 100 degrees when we made the trip.  There was also a very strong sulfur smell in the water, but that’s not unusual. Be warned, the mosquitoes come out when the sun goes down. My girlfriend and I both ended up with a ton of bug bites on our legs.  The parking fee at the trail-head was 2$ when we visited in April of 2013.

Although not a worthy destination from Orange County by itself, there are several other rad things to do close to Gaviota State Hot Springs. There is a short hike to see some wind caves in Gaviota State Park. Nojoqui Falls is a great little waterfall hike just a few minutes down the road on the 101. If you plan on making a trip to Gaviota Hot Springs, you absolutely cannot skip a visit to the miniature Danish inspired town of Solvang.  Also nearby in Santa Barbara is another amazing hike called 7 Falls. I've had bad luck catching the falls with any water running in them, but I’m determined to make the hike again next year.

Directions to Gaviota Hot Springs: From Santa Barbara, drive 30 miles west on the 101 Freeway. Pass the Gaviota Rest Area and drive 1.5 miles further to the next exit (132) labeled California 1 (Lompoc / Vandenberg AFB). At the top of the ramp, make an immediate right, and then make another right on the unnamed Gaviota Park Boundary Road. Continue 1/3 of a mile to the cul-de-sac at road’s end. You will be parallel with the 101 and should see the historic “Gaviota Hot Springs” sign.  Just hike up the hill on the wide path for about a mile until you smell sulfur and follow the little stream to its source. 

Gaviota Hot Springs Trailhead Sign

Paula' Pancake House. Solvang California
I dare you to eat the Danish pancakes at Paula's Pancake House and say they weren't the best thing that you've ever eaten. It cannot be done. 

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