El Capitan Camping Areas El Capitan Camping Areas

5 Best El Capitan Camping Areas For A Perfect Outing

If you are up for some camp life experience in Santa Barbara, California, you are just at the right place. This article is sure enough to guide you to the Santa Barbara Coast and beach area in California.

These places are dotted with sought-after campsites and RV parks, making it economical and straightforward to set up shop along some of California’s most beautiful coastline.

It is frequently mentioned as one of the most appealing West Coast vacations and with good reason. This is an easy, pleasant, and handy area to park or pitch a tent, and obtaining a campground map would easily sail you through.

Usually, campgrounds are still close to the city, but just far enough off the main highway to let you feel as far from daily life as possible and as close to the wilderness. Check out these five most sorted campsites in and around El Capitan State Beach.

1. El Capitan Canyon

el capitan camping
by: Tegan Mierle/unsplash

Location: 11560 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, California

El Capitan Canyon, an exquisite resort tucked between old sycamore trees opening into El Capitan Beach, is located 15 minutes north of downtown Santa Barbara, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains.

The Canyon provides a one-of-a-kind experience – one that is close to nature but also delivers unrivaled comfort in the field of outdoor recreation.


Safari tents are available in El Capitan Canyon for those looking for a more typical camping experience with some of the conveniences of home. The resort offers two types of tents: Safari Tent Queen (one queen bed) and Safari Tent Double (two queen beds) (two double beds).

The tents feature screened windows and zip-down flaps erected on high wooden decks. They’re also provided with facilities, both indoor and outdoor.

Finally, safari tents are available in El Capitan Canyon for those looking for a more typical camping experience with some of the conveniences of home. The resort offers two types of Safari tents: Queen and Double. The tents feature screened windows and zip-down flaps erected on high wooden decks. They’re also provided with indoor and outdoor amenities comparable to the adventure camp.

Activities to do at El Capitan Canyon

Guests may participate in a range of activities in El Capitan Canyon, including outdoor activities, dining, and seasonal events. There are plenty of exciting things to do in the resort’s area.

Guests can enjoy 15 miles of exclusive hiking trails leading from the property that take trekkers along the Central Coast. The most popular course, the Selma Rubin Route, leads to the llama and goat farm.

There are also a few more challenging hiking trails. For those who prefer to bike rather than climb, El Capitan Canyon offers adults bike campsites also. These may be utilized to go around the resort and its environs. On the grounds of the Canyon, there is also a heated swimming pool and a children’s playground.

The Canyon Market in El Capitan Canyon is a great place to get goods during your stay. This market is nothing like a conventional camp store.

Santa Barbara wines, candles, organic foods, sunscreen, and outdoor/adventure gear may be found here. Breakfast, lunch, and supper are available for dine-in or take-out, as well as BBQ Kits for cooking at your el Capitan campground.

 Canyon Adventures, such as back county hike, mountain biking, ocean kayaking, and surf fishing, are also available at the campground.

2.El Capitan State Beach

El Capitan Camping Areas
By: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash
  • Location: Highway 101 at El Capitan State Beach exit, Santa Barbara, California      
  • Operated byCalifornia State Parks
  • Fees: Peak season (March – November) – $45 and $35 non-peak season
  • #No Dump Station is provided

El Capitan is a popular place for camping, picnics, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor activities due to its tranquil environment, sandy beach, and closeness to Santa Barbara. There are plenty of shaded spaces throughout the park thanks to the sycamore, oak, and eucalyptus trees, and the well-kept hiking routes lead to scenic mountain and sea views. Keep a lookout for marine life and wildlife as you go down the slope from the bluffs to the beach. Watch for whales migrating to and from Mexico between November and April.

There are 119 conventional campsites at El Capitan State Beach Campground, accommodating RVs, trailers, and tents. The use of RVs or trailers is prohibited at nine additional campgrounds. There are five group camps at El Capitan State Beach.


El Capitan State Beach is around 30 minutes by road from Santa Barbara. Take Highway 101 north for 20 miles, then exit at El Capitan State Beach Road and turn left.

Camping at El Capitan State Beach

El Capitan Campground can accommodate parties of various sizes with over 100 single-family campsites and several group campsites.

Grounds can be rented from April 1 to November 30, while the rest of the year is first-come, first-served. Tents, trailers, and RVs (up to 42 feet) are accepted at the grounds, which feature a table, fire ring, and grill. There are restrooms, drinking water, coin-operated showers, laundry facilities, picnic spots, and a campfire center on the large campground.

Activities to do at El Capitan State Beach

  • Enjoy the beach, which is only a few feet away from your campsite.
  • Follow hiking trails in the area      
  • Try surfing or surf fishing
  • Experienced kayakers explore the coast
  • Cycle along the bike trail
  • Take the 3-mile Ansio Trail from Refugio to El Capitan State Beach.        
  • Visit the Goleta Butterfly Grove.
  • Hike through Nojoqui Falls Park

El Capitan State Beach offers outdoor enthusiasts and beachgoers alike a variety of activities. Try the Bill Wallace El Capitan Trail, Canyon and Ridgetop Trails, and Bill Wallace El Capitan Trail, which rewards elevation gain with expansive vistas.

Beachgoers are enticed by the lovely sandy beachfront, complemented by neighboring covered picnicking spots. Visitors may also fish for rockfish, calicos, and halibut from the shore or attempt surf fishing.

El Capitan is also an excellent place for birding, with hairy woodpeckers, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks frequently found in the campground.

Sites to Visit Near El Capitan State Beach 

 A few beaches and other group campsites around El Capitan State Beach are listed below:

There are five group sites at El Capitan State Beach. Two group sites are regular campsites, allowing RVs, trailers, and tents to stay. The other three group campsites are also tent-only. The campsites are grouped and near enough to stroll to the beach.

Sites can be booked from April till November. During the rest of the year, spots are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • de Anza Group Site: $235
  • Portola Group Site: $285      
  • Drake Group Site: $320        
  • Cabrillo Group Site: $320       
  • Ortega Group Site: $225

3. Refugio State Beach

El Capitan Camping Areas
By: Bethany Reeves/ Unsplash
  • Location: 10 Refugio Beach Road, Goleta, California
  • Fees: $45-$55 for peak season and $35-$45 for non-peak season

Refugio State Beach, about half an hour west of Santa Barbara, provides a unique environment and a tranquil haven for families and outdoor lovers. The palm-lined cove is ideal for relaxing picnics, coastal fish catching, and memorable kayaking. Its crystalline waters and isolated location are suitable for a whole day of pleasure and relaxation – and maybe a night of camping as well!

How to Get to Refugio State Beach

It takes less than 30 minutes to get to Refugio State Beach from Santa Barbara by automobile. Take Highway 101 north for 23 miles, then leave at Refugio Road (exit 120). Refugio Road should be followed. The parking lot at Refugio State Beach is 3 kilometers away.

Camping at Refugio State Beach

Stay the evening at one of Refugio State Beach’s 66 campsites and wake up to sweeping views. Each site features a picnic table and grill and hot showers, restrooms, and water, all of which are only a short distance away. There is also a small general store and snack bar placed along the coastline in the campground. Tourists should book campsites in advance, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Refugio Beach Group Campsites

RVs up to 30 or 35 feet are allowed in all three group campsites at Refugio State Beach. To reserve a group site, a minimum of 9 individuals are required.        

  • Yanonali:$235 (holds up to 32 people),       
  •  Anapamu:$235 (32 people maximum), and         
  • Bouchard: $350 (80 people maximum)

Things to Do at Refugio State Beach

Because of the calm seas and uninterrupted vistas of the Channel Islands, kayaking is a favorite sport at Refugio State Beach. From Refugio State Beach, Paddle Sports Center and Santa Barbara Adventure Company offer guided trips, or you may bring your kayak and explore the scenic coastline at your leisure. Sea lions, seals, and dolphins are all to be seen!

Key Features at Refugio State Beach       

  • Mile-long sandy beach
  •  The campground is close to the beach        
  • Kayak Tours led by lifeguards        
  • Plenty of picnic tables and BBQs       
  • General store open on weekends
Refugio State Beach Campground Facilities        
  • Restrooms with flush toilets, showers      
  • Fire ring, picnic table
  • Camp store, laundry, campfire center

4. Gaviota State Park

Gaviota State Park
by: Lisha Riabinina/Unsplash

Location: On U.S. Route 101, just 33 miles west of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

This is one of the California state parks frequently blown across the region by strong winds. It is a popular site for swimming, picnicking, surf fishing, beach climbing, and camping.

The park is marked by a prominent Southern Pacific railroad bridge that crosses Gaviota Creek high above the day-use area and parking lot. Anglers utilize a pier on the beach’s west end, while scuba divers and surfers use a boat hoist on the dock to reach the Santa Barbara Channel’s waters.

A trailhead at the parking area allows visitors to explore the park’s rough highland regions. Hikers who are up for a challenge can trek to Gaviota Peak, which gives sweeping views of the coast and the Channel Islands.


Take Highway 101 30 miles up coast (west) from Santa Barbara. Merge into the left turn lane and cross the highway to the state park entrance road on the left. A sign for Gaviota State Park may be found just before the route takes a steep curve north. The park road goes to a kiosk (which charges a fee) and then to the beach.

The Gaviota State Park Campground includes a loop of 38 campsites. Showers and a camp store are among the many amenities provided at the campground.

Key Gaviota State Park Campground Regulations
  •  Quiet Hours: 10 PM till 6 AM
  •  Generator operation hours are from 10 AM. to 8 PM, as needed.
  • At all times, dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet long and under human supervision. At night, dogs must be kept in a vehicle or a tent.

5. Cachuma Lake

Cachuma Lake
By: Katie Bonilla/unsplash
  • Location: 1 Lakeview Drive, Santa Barbara, California
  • Fees: $220 to $825 per night

The glistening Cachuma Lake is nestled within acres of wilderness, bordered by the magnificent Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains. You’ll find almost everything you need for a relaxing break in the great outdoors right here. Setting a camp here throughout the winter months is incredibly gratifying because of the mild temperatures, often bright sky, and well-known fishing conditions. 

Cachuma Lake is midway between the beaches of Santa Barbara and the Danish community of Solvang and is located along picturesque Highway 154 in the Santa Ynez Valley. The Cachuma Lake Recreation Area is a delightful and peaceful escape for people of all ages and seasons.

Tent sites, hookups, cabins, yurts, and group spaces may be reserved online. Reserve a 1- or 2-bedroom place with complete bathrooms and kitchenettes, a yurt, a hybrid of a permanent tent, and a tepee with excellent lake views. Cachuma Lake also has group campsites or large campgrounds for your next group get-together. Up to 6 months before the arrival date, all sites may be booked.

More than 400 RV, trailer, and tent campsites are available at Cachuma Lake Campgrounds. A hundred sites have complete hookups, while the remaining 30 have only power and water hookups. There are also ten Group Camps and a Hike and bike site at Cachuma Lake.

Key Cachuma Lake Regulations
  •  Quiet Hours are from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM. No generator was used during this time.  
  • Pets must be kept on a leash or in a cage at all times and should never be left alone.
Cachuma Lake Group Campsites

Cachuma Lake features ten group camping spaces that can accommodate groups of 32 to 120 people. At group sites, picnic tables, meal preparation tables, BBQ grills, giant fire rings, and piped water are available.

Closing Thoughts

Opening and closing date information about the campground are simply approximations, mainly based on snow conditions. Not all locations can handle all lengths of trailers or RVs.

Check to see whether your cars will fit in the parking area for your campground if you’re using a reservation service. It is highly advised to obtain firewood locally to minimize the spread of invasive insects.

Beautiful Places To Explore In Santa Barbara California
USA Tales

Last Updated on November 25, 2023 by ritukhare


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