I have driven up to San Luis Obispo many times and always enjoy the stretch of coast that starts from Santa Barbara and ends as you turn inland near Gaviota. On a recent drive though, I decided I should stop there and see what the state park had to offer. The trail I chose to try went up to the caves that you can see from the highway. They are carved out by the way the wind moves through that area and are known as the Gaviota wind caves. It was a challenging and fun hike to a unique formation. Here is all the information.
- About 4 miles round trip
- 600 feet of elevation
- A lot of uphill
- Free parking
- I wrote this in 2015
As a caveat, this trail is not as easy as the stats make it sound. All of the elevation is in the last half mile, and if it is warm outside, bring a lot of water as there is no shade.
After exiting the road at Gaviota Campground, you will keep right to go up the hill from the campground entrance. When you reach the top of the hill, you will immediately park on the right-hand side next to the mountain lions sign and the above gate.
From here, you will walk the dirt road for about a mile and a half. As you are walking, you will see the above single track heading up into the hill by the caves.
As you get closer, you will see the spur for this trail and can start the steep ascent up into the hills. I say steep because this trail literally goes straight up. There are relatively no switchbacks, which makes you realize why switchbacks were invented as you are just going straight up a steep incline.
On top of the first small hill, you will have a beautiful view of the coast one way and the tunnel and highway the other. Continue climbing and you will get closer to the caves.
Once you get over the last hill and get close to the base of the caves, look to your left and check out the cave standing alone. This is one of the bigger and most intricate caves you will see and is also a great place for shade if you went on a hot day like us (as there is almost no shade on this trail).
From here, you will continue up whichever trail is the most worn as there seems to be a lot, then push until you reach the top of the caves area. Walk around to the back, and you will see a perfectly worn wind cave that you can sit in and enjoy the below view from.
From here, continue to explore and take in the views of the coast if it is clear. There are plenty of small and large caves to explore.
On the way back down, I suggest cutting in towards the other caves at the base as there is a lot of unique stuff in this area. It is crazy to think these are made just by the wind and time. After that, proceed back the way you came and enjoy the coast all the way down.
Let me know what you think of this trail if you do it.