Gaviota (Las Cruces) Hot Springs – Goleta, CA

One of the most sought-after destinations in the Los Padres National Forest is Gaviota Hot Springs—a place where nature enthusiasts, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts come together to experience the magic of Mother Nature. Located at a high elevation of 3,910 feet in the Gaviota Coastal Wilderness area, the hot springs is a must go for those seeking to get off the beaten path.

The road leading to this magical place is known for being bumpy, filled with potholes, and requires a considerable amount of patience (and time) to navigate. But once you see those hot springs, you know the trip was worth it. Here’s everything you need to know about Gaviota Hot Springs so you can make your way to paradise.

Hot Springs Pools

Gaviota Hot Springs
Gaviota Hot Springs

Gaviota Hot Springs, located just off Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, is a natural wonder that attracts its share of bathers. The warm, sulfery water is a nice detour if you have tired legs to soak. A $2 fee is charged to park at the trailhead.

The pools are formed as warm water mixes with colder water flowing down from the mountains, creating a perfect spot for relaxation and soaking. Despite the strong sulfuric smell, the pools are surrounded by lush ferns and a peaceful ambiance. Visitors can also enjoy a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean while soaking in the springs.

With temperatures ranging from 94 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit, the pools are about three feet deep and can accommodate six to eight people. Clothing is required on the property per state park rules. However, some visitors may not comply with the clothing requirement. To avoid the crowds, it is best to visit during the early hours of weekdays.

The overall area of Gaviota Hot Springs spans 8 acres and includes a campsite area with fire rings and picnic tables for campers. Additionally, there is an outhouse located near the camping area, providing a convenient spot for visitors.

In short, Gaviota Hot Springs is a natural wonderland that offers a serene atmosphere for relaxation and soaking. Visitors can avoid the crowds by visiting during the early hours of weekdays and can also take advantage of the nearby camping area.

Camping and Lodging

If you’re planning a trip to Gaviota Hot Springs, your lodging options are best found in nearby Santa Barbara and Solvang. Both cities boast a wide range of hotels to fit different budgets and preferences.

For those who prefer a more rugged experience, camping is a great option. Unfortunately, camping is not permitted at Gaviota Hot Springs, which is reserved for day use only. However, there are several camping grounds in the surrounding areas that are popular for overnight stays.

Gaviota State Park, which is situated near Gaviota Hot Springs, provides a variety of camping choices, ranging from RV sites to basic tent sites. Given its closeness to various hiking trails and its position right next to the beach, this shoreline campsite is highly attractive.

El Capital State Beach, just three miles from Refugio State Beach, is another great option for oceanfront camping with stunning views of the Pacific. The 132-site campground offers a range of amenities for campers.

Refugio State Beach, situated a bit further away from Gaviota Hot Springs, offers a picturesque setting for camping and other outdoor activities. With 67 sites, this oceanfront campground is a great destination for those looking to enjoy the beauty of the California coast.

Overall, while camping at Gaviota Hot Springs is not an option, there are plenty of nearby camping grounds that offer beautiful oceanfront views and easy access to the area’s natural beauty.

The Gaviota Hot Spring Trail

Gaviota Hot Spring Trail
Gaviota Hot Spring Trail

One of the park’s main attractions is the Gaviota Hot Spring Trails. There are two trails to choose from, one easier and the other more difficult. The Las Cruces Trail is a 2.5-mile hike that leads to the hot springs from Pacific Coast Highway. The Las Varas Trail is a 4-mile hike that requires rock climbing skills and good traction hiking boots. For those up for the challenge, hiking both trails is recommended, starting at Las Cruces Campground and ending at Gaviota State Beach.

To reach the trailhead, visitors can drive 30 miles west on Highway 101 from Santa Barbara or take the 101 South for 8 miles from Buellton to the exit for California One. The Gaviota Park Boundary Road leads to the trailhead where visitors can begin their hiking journey.

In addition to the hot spring trails, Gaviota State Park offers several other hiking options. The Gaviota Peak loop is a 6.5-mile hike that leads to a 2,458-foot summit, while the Tunnel View and Trespass Trails Loop is a shorter 2.6-mile hike offering a view over Highway 101 and the Gaviota Tunnel. The Gaviota Pass Overlook Loop is a 6.5-mile hike that offers views of scenic ridges in the park. The trail ends at an elevated overlook above the Gaviota Tunnel.

For those looking for a shorter hike, the Gaviota Wind Caves and Nojoqui Falls offer 2.5-mile and 0.65-mile hikes respectively. Visitors can also explore other Central Coast trails and campgrounds in the surrounding area, including trails in Los Padres National Forest. With its diverse range of hiking options and campsites, Gaviota State Park is the perfect outdoor destination for adventurers of all levels.

Getting to Gaviota Hot Springs

The directions to Gaviota Hot Springs are simple: head up Highway 154 (and its bumpy road) and turn onto Las Cruces Road. Make your way up the dirt road until you see a sign that reads “Gaviota Beach Trailhead.”

After you pass the Gaviota Beach Trailhead, you will see a small, gravel road on your right that branches off of the main dirt road. This gravel road leads you to the hot springs, but it’s also private property—so pay attention to any “no trespassing” signs or fences.

Take this short, little section of gravel road to the end (it will be very short) and park at one of the small pullouts. If you want to hike to the hot springs, it’s about a 1.4-mile round-trip hike with about 500 feet in elevation gain along the way.

If you are lucky and find that there is parking at the trailhead, then it’s only an 0.8-mile round-trip hike with about 100 feet in elevation gain along the way.

Parking and Fees

Visitors to Gaviota State Park can access a designated parking lot near the trailhead for the hot springs. A small day-use fee is required for those without a state park day pass. However, it’s important to note that the parking lot closes at dusk and is monitored, so visitors must finish their hot springs experience before then.

To make the most out of your visit to the hot springs in Gaviota State Park, it’s essential to plan ahead and ensure you have the necessary permits and fees. The day-use fee for the parking lot is a small price to pay for the experience of soaking in the natural hot springs. Just remember to complete your visit before dusk to avoid any inconvenience.

What to Bring to Gaviota Hot Springs

Gaviota Peak Trail and Hot Springs
Gaviota Peak Trail and Hot Springs

Get ready for an unforgettable experience amidst the natural beauty of the Gaviota Coastal Wilderness area. While there are no designated campsites, you can still pitch a tent and camp in the area for a more immersive experience.

For those planning to camp, make sure you pack all the camping essentials, including a spacious tent, sleeping bags, pads, lantern or flashlight, snacks, and at least 2 gallons of water per person. But if you’re not camping, grab your swimsuits, towels, toiletries, sunscreen, and water bottles.

The Gaviota Hot Springs Experience

Gaviota Hot Springs is a sought-after destination for its hot water and serene environment. Once you find a suitable space for your tent and fire pit, you can enjoy soaking in the two pools formed in the river rocks. The larger pool can accommodate six adults, while the smaller one is perfect for a small group of friends or couples.

Depending on the season, the water temperature in the pools can range from lukewarm to warm. The pools are cooler in winter and early spring but still comfortable. However, during the hot summer months, the pools can be too hot to enjoy.

To fully enjoy your time at Gaviota Hot Springs, don’t forget to pack towels, sunscreen, and enough food and water for your stay. Also, be mindful of your surroundings and wildlife encounters.

What NOT to Do at Gaviota Hot Springs

To preserve the natural beauty of Gaviota Hot Springs, avoid any form of vandalism, including carving or painting on the landscape. Campers should use bear-proof food containers to protect their belongings and avoid camping without a permit. Building or modifying fire rings is also prohibited to ensure the natural occurrence of wildfires.

When to Visit Gaviota Hot Springs

Gaviota Hot Springs is open 24/7, year-round. However, the road leading to the hot springs can be slippery and challenging during wet and rainy conditions. It’s advisable to drive slowly to avoid getting stuck in the mud or sliding off the road.

If you’re planning to visit Gaviota Hot Springs in spring or fall, be prepared for snowy conditions or mudslides due to the high elevation. But don’t worry; you can still access the hot springs during these seasons.


Discover the natural beauty and therapeutic waters of Gaviota Hot Springs, located in the stunning Santa Barbara County. This popular destination is accessible year-round and offers a unique and refreshing experience for those looking to relax and explore the great outdoors.

The journey to Gaviota Hot Springs is an adventure in itself, with a 6.5-mile loop along a scenic route that takes you past Gaviota Peak, Gaviota State Beach, and Gaviota Beach. There is a parking fee, but it’s worth it for the natural ambiance and stunning views. Be sure to bring plenty of water and wear sturdy shoes, as the hike up the hill can be difficult.

Once you reach Gaviota Hot Springs, you’ll be rewarded with warm, healing mineral waters that bubble up from the ground. The blue sulfery water is said to have therapeutic properties that can ease muscle pain and relieve stress. There are several hot water pools to choose from, each with its own unique temperature and ambiance.

If you’re feeling adventurous, consider a midnight hike to Gaviota Hot Springs. The hottest hours are between midnight and dawn, making it an ideal destination for those who want to experience the healing power of the hot spring water without the crowds. Be sure to bring a flashlight and watch out for poison oak along the trail.

Gaviota Hot Springs is located off Gaviota Peak Road, just past Gaviota Mountain. The park is open year-round, but it’s best to check Gaviota Park hours before you go. If you want to make a day of it, consider camping at Gaviota State Park Campground or hiking the Gaviota Trail.

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Local information

Address: Gaviota Park Boundary Road, Goleta, California 93117
GPS: 34.489274,-120.230451
Season: Year-round




Anne loves to explore the world and share her experiences through her blog. She loves to travel to places that are off the beaten path and find unique experiences to share with her readers. She also loves to share tips on how to make the most of a trip, from budgeting to activities. She hopes that her blog will inspire others to explore the world and enjoy the beauty of nature.