Vandenberg Air Force Base as Nature Preserve

This is a historial post from Hiking the California Trail, a 1998/2002 book set by Bob Lorentz and Richard Nichols. Where possible an update has been provided.

Vandenberg Air Force Base, established in 1958 when it absorbed the older Camp Cook (founded 1941), occupies 98,500 acres (154 square miles) along the central California coast in northern Santa Barbara County. With 35 miles of wild shoreline, Vandenberg qualifies as one of the most important large parcels of property on the California coast.

Vandenberg AFB currently has about 4,000 military and 4,000 civilian personnel. The Base hosts several important activities including a Strategic Air Command base, the center for missile-combat training, a center for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) testing, a satellite launching area for NASA, and the west coast base for the Space Shuttle. With so many activities and programs, Vandenberg Air Force Base will likely be operational for a while. Should the Base ever be decommissioned, we strongly hope and urge that its extensive lands be turned over to the state of California for a public park. a Fortunately the Air Force takes its stewardship of this invaluable land very seriously. Of the 98,500 acres, only about 20,000 acres have facilities, with the other 78,500 acres remaining mostly wild, undeveloped and virtually inaccessible to the public. The wild portions of Vandenberg harbor abundant mountain lions, coyotes, wild pigs and lesser land mammals, plus some of the healthiest deer herds in California. The coast itself features some of California’s richest tidepools as well as healthy populations of both resident and migratory marine mammals.

Participants in Coastwalk’s 1996 Whole Hike took an escorted walk along Vandenberg’s entire coast, but public access is generally quite limited. This book describes walks along 8½ miles of the Vandenberg coast in Santa Barbara Sections 2A and 3A, plus another 4⅜ miles from Purisima Point south that you can walk with a weekend pass from the Air Force. All those miles are among the least travelled miles on the entire CCT.The pristine and wild nature of the Vandenberg coast and the solitude you’re likely to experience there make it well worth a visit.

Originally Published in Hiking the California Coastal Trail: Guide to Walking the Golden State's Beaches and Bluff from Border to Border - Volume Two: Monterey to Mexico by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols
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