Santa Barbara Section 5

Refugio Creek, Refugio State Park to El Capitan State Park

Santa Barbara Section 5

Refugio Creek, Refugio State Park to El Capitan State Park

Since it takes a very low tide and summer beaches full of sand to walk the shoreline east from Refugio State Park, the CCT follows the paved Aniso Hike and Bike Trail to get to El Capitan State Park. It not only affords a break from sand and tideline walking, but also offers views of the surrounding countryside. Aniso is the Chumash word for seagull.

The paved trail starts just east of Refugio Creek near the spot where the campground road forks. Follow the level track east along the edge of the campground. By ⅛ mile you pass the last restrooms and leave the campground. Follow the paved trail as it climbs onto the marine terrace, offering a good view west across the flat around the mouth of Refugio Creek. The Santa Ynez Range rises to the north, the westernmost portion of the Transverse Ranges that run east-west through southern California. On the clearest days you can see the Channel Islands 25 miles offshore, yet another spur of the Transverse Ranges.

The paved path contours through coastal scrub paralleling the railroad tracks on your left. Pass a palm tree on your right at ½ mile and get a glimpse of the sandy beach below. Ascend a gentle hill around ⅝ mile. At the top of the hill you gain a good view of the coast to the east, all the way to Coal Oil Point on Santa Barbara Section 6, perhaps even beyond.

Descend to a small pocket beach around ⅞ mile-it's Corral Beach of El Capitan State Park. (Crucial low tide passages lie along the shoreline both west and east of Corral Beach.) The paved trail climbs back onto the marine terrace by one mile, with a view of Canada del Venadito to the north.

Soon the Aniso Trail/CCT descends, passing just above a beach. You can take side trails on the right at either 1¼ or 1⅜ miles to descend to the beach and walk the tideline east at all but high tide. Our described route, however, stays on the paved Aniso Trail. Beyond 1⅜ miles it ascends to the blufftop. By 1⅝ miles you're within sight of the highway sign, "EL CAPITAN STATE BEACH - 1 MILE." The path continues beside the railroad tracks to 1⅞ miles, then bends right.

Immediately after the bend, you enter the large, pleasant campground of El Capitan State Park. Aniso Trail passes the four choice hike/bike sites-yours for certain if you reserved in advance. If they're vacant, you can still inquire at the park's entrance kiosk. Then the paved track winds along the bluff's edge beside the campground. After a restroom beyond 2 miles, your trail dips through a gully. Pass the park's lifeguard headquarters around 2¼ miles which has a great view up the coast. Continue along the blufftop through alternating wooded and coastal scrub vegetation, passing several spur trails to the beach.

Both this section and the paved trail end at the day-use parking lot at 2½ miles. If you are continuing on Santa Barbara Section 6, turn right and walk 150 feet past the El Capitan store, then take the path that descends to the beach.

ALTERNATE ROUTE: At very low tides in summer, you may be able to walk the shoreline between Refugio and El Capitan.

SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: Walk or bike the paved path from either end and return, an easy 5 miles round trip.

Distance: 2½ miles (4.0 kilometers).

Open to: Hikers, bicyclists.

Surface: Paved trail.

Access point: Refugio State Park day-use parking lot.

How to get there: Turn west off Highway 101 at the Refugio State Beach exit, 23 miles west of Santa Barbara, 10 miles east of Gaviota. Drive past the kiosk and under the railroad bridge to where the road forks. CCT follows the paved bike trail on your left, but turn right and drive to day-use parking area southwest of campground.

Other access: Highway 101 at MP.35.2 for Corral Beach, MP. 34.4 for easy CCT access.

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain/loss: 170 feet+/130 feet-. If you leave trail for beach at 1¼ miles: 60 feet+/90 feet-.

Cautions: Day use open 8 a.m. to sunset. No overnight parking in day-use lots.

Further information: For Refugio State Park and El Capitan State Park, call Channel Coast District of California State Parks (805)968-1033.

Facilities: Restrooms, water, phones, picnic areas and seasonal stores at both Refugio and El Capitan State Parks.

Campgrounds: Refugio State Park has 85 units, all on the state park reservation system. El Capitan State Park has 142 units on the state park reservation system plus several hike/bike sites right beside the trail at west end of the campground.

Lodging: Many choices in Santa Barbara and Goleta to the east. Banana Bungalow is in Santa Barbara, (800)346-7835.

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