El Capitan State Beach


El Capitan State Beach is located about 17 miles West of Santa Barbara CA at the mouth of El Capitan Creek.  (This is a South facing beach so West is "North" or up the coast.)  This is one of three state beaches on Santa Barbara County's beaufiful Gaviota Coast

Tidepooling, beachgoing, surfing, beach walk or "hikes" and camping are among the activites.  The park bluffs are shaded with sycamore and oak tree groves.  A paved path (called Aniso Trail) for walking or bicycle riding starts at the campgrounds, running west up the coast for about 2.5 miles, connecting to Refugio State Beach.

For more information about visiting the park see the official State Parks El Capitan webpage

Click any picture below to enlarge. 

East (or "down the coast") from the Day Use Parking:

The mouth of El Capitan Creek near the tidepools on the beach, 2/5/11

Hiking trail running along El Capitan Creek and through oak and sycamores groves.

El Capitan Creek seen from the trail running along the park entrance road.

Following the path, just past the mouth of El Capitan Creek and tidepools.

Beach path nearing the end of the SB just before it turns back following the creek.

The end of the trail just past the turn leading back to the creek & through the woods.

Panoramic view of the East end of El Capitan and the coast toward Santa Barbara.

The pictures above taken along the path down to the beach East from the day use lot or following the beach to the left.  You will pass rocky tidepools, cross the mouth of El Capitan Creek continuing along the beach, nearing the end turning through tree groves.  The path then meets back up with the creek, running along the creek back to the park entrance road.  A path follows along the entrance road and back to the day use lot.  This is a short easy walk. 

The picture on the left shows the coastline view in the direction of Santa Barbara.  This is beautiful undeveloped coast, the uplands are ranches.  Somewhere in this direction is Naples Reef, currently a preservation effort.  The beaches in this direction are accessible only by walking the beach below the bluffs which you must do during minus tides.  Make sure to check the tide charts if you plan on trying it. 

The Tidepools:

The tidepools near the mouth of El Capitan Creek, Santa Cruz Island on the horizon.

In the tidepools, anemones, 2/5/11

I believe these are sunburst anemones.

West end of the park (or "up the coast"):

The pictures below taken walking the West end of the beach, or going to the left from the day use lot.  The bluffs and wooded campgrounds are above.  During minus tides you can follow the beach, passing through Corral Beach (below Corral Canyon between El Capitan and Refugio) to Refugio State Beach.  At high tide, you can take Aniso Trail, a paved path on the bluff tops.  Aniso Trail starts at the campgrounds and connects to Refugio State Beach 2.5 miles away.  Once you get to the first point nearing the end of El Capitan there is a path up the bluffs to Aniso Trail, a good route to take if the tide gets to high to pass around the point.  Walking the beach is recommended only during minus tides, the beach can literally disappear at high tide.  Make sure to check the tide charts before attempting the beach route.

Trees on the bluffs near the campgrounds

Walking the beach toward Refugio near Corral Beach area looking back at El Capitan

The paved path following the bluffs by the campgrounds, connecting to Aniso Trail

Bluff top trail past the campgrounds heading toward Refugio State Beach

The Campgrounds:

El Capitan Creek seen from the campsites.


Standing in campsite 12, notice the plants...poison oak. Pretty but don't touch!

Beautiful ocean view campsite

View from the bluff next to campsites.

Campsites closest to the park entrance

More California State Parks on the Gaviota Coast:

Gaviota State Park (beach & Beach to Backcountry Trail)
Gaviota State Park Hot Springs
Refugio State Beach
Gaviota Coast

Links (on other websites):

Looking for more beach walks and hikes in the Gaviota Coast area?
Santa Barbara Trails Council's list of beach walks on the Gaviota Coast:


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