Gaviota Caves Exploratory Sierra Club Hike

Gaviota Caves Exploratory Sierra Club Hike title=
Gaviota Caves Exploratory Sierra Club Hike
Reads 3371

By Robert Bernstein

My latest Sierra Club hike was to the Gaviota Caves. But not the usual route. A completely crazy, challenging route!

Here are all of my photos!

What a truly perfect group we had for this challenging hike! Nine people, all full of energy and enthusiasm and ready for the difficulties we would face! We started up the "normal" route headed to the caves that most people know.

Here is the long view of the area as we started from the parking lot near Gaviota State Beach

Here we were starting out on the paved access road

Plenty of invasive non-native thistle and mustard that were very colorful

There is now an informational sign and map when you get to the trailhead

The mustard is quite thick along that first trail up that first hill.

There used to be a more reasonable trail with switchbacks, but people have cut a trail that goes straight up in an absurdly steep slope.

We saw the first of many Bush Sunflowers

And the first of many views of the train trestle at Gaviota State Beach

We arrived at the top of the hill for a view of the Gaviota Pass and the canyon between the first ridge and the second ridge

We started up the trail above that first overlook

And soon saw this Jimson weed in bloom. Very beautiful but reputed to have powerful psychoactive effects.

We saw the first of several varieties of "Everlasting" flower

Some Deerweed

I think this is Golden Yarrow

And Indian Pink

We got clear views of the main caves we were heading up to

We were soon at the first cave which is the largest, with multiple chambers.

Above Paula's head you can see an Indian Pink growing right out of the rock!

And Webb made the death-defying climb onto the very top of the cave and stood in the window of a small chamber at the top

We continued up, headed for the big caves further up and we could see people standing on top of the famous Wind Cave

We started to see Cliff Aster

And more varieties of Everlasting

Soon we were at the next cave

We soon started up a steep shortcut to the Wind Cave with Ananda in the lead

I think this is Foothill Penstemon

Webb took an even more challenging route to the Wind Cave

We saw one of many lizards. This is a Western Fence Lizard, also known as a "blue belly"

More intriguing sandstone carving by nature

The last bit of the climb to the Wind Cave is quite steep and slippery

But we were all soon inside, enjoying the spectacular view and the cool breeze passing through the Wind Cave window!

Linda and I posed in the window

Then it was Caixia and Paula striking a window pose

This is as far as most people venture. But the trail continues on!

First, we had to descend on a very overgrown path through the brush with Jim leading the way behind me

Barbara was right behind him, but she reluctantly had to leave early to head back for a music group she was playing with

We soon left a perfectly good trail to head down the next ridge over. Covered in chaparral, requiring lots of bush-whacking! A crazy way to go down, but the group was eager to check it out!

It is not clear that many humans venture this route, but we do see signs of animal traffic. Animal trails and tracks and scat.

At this point it was exactly noon and we stopped for lunch at a beautiful overlook to eat and enjoy the view

Here are some Blue Dicks

After that enjoyable rest we looked down that challenging ridge and made our way along

This turkey vulture soared above us

As we made our way through the brush. At times it was so thick it was hard to know the way.

Webb sometimes scouted the way and got us back on the ridge when I mistakenly saw an animal path as the way!

Caixia (in the bright top) happily declared that this is real hiking!

We finally made it through the thick brush to the lower part of the ridge. The way was clear to see the final set of caves that few make it to.

Linda prepares to drop through a window into the first of these caves

Ananda stands inside that cave

There is a narrow ledge alongside these caves in places, but it is quite safe and stable as we make our way past these beautiful lower caves

Caixia pops out of one for a unique pose

Here we saw Prickly Phlox

And more sandstone sculpture

And the highlight of this area: The "house cave" where several of us stopped to pose outside and inside

Webb got there by climbing over the top!

More lizards watched us

As we made our way down the ridge

To the oak (and poison oak!) filled valley below

One more bit of bush-whacking

And we were out!

As always, at you can see all of the Sierra Club hike listings. Hope you can join us!

Login to add Comments


Show Comments
SB_TAHOE May 22, 2018 09:29 AM
Gaviota Caves Exploratory Sierra Club Hike

Amazing trek. Awesome photos. 2 questions: how many ticks hitched a ride? Did you witness any vandalism or are people pretty much respectful of the caves?

EastBeach May 22, 2018 10:08 AM
Gaviota Caves Exploratory Sierra Club Hike

We hiked to the wind caves from the Las Cruces (north end) of the park on Saturday via Hollister ridge. Our warmup was a little used trail in the very NW corner of the park which had knee-high grass. - all of us got ticks on our socks :) Normally wouldn't get any starting from the Hollister Ranch road. I've got photos from 2011 that show very little vandalism. But now the first set of caves unfortunately has lots of graffiti on the east side. There used to be an ammo box with a logbook in the second set of caves but I haven't seen it lately.

sbrobert May 22, 2018 12:06 PM
Gaviota Caves Exploratory Sierra Club Hike

Thanks for the kind words! I found one tick on my body when I took a shower later. It had not attached itself. No one else reported any ticks. I had advised people to wear long sleeves and long pants.
As for paint vandalism, unfortunately there was some on the first big set of caves on the outside. Yes, the ammo box and log have been gone for awhile.
Best wishes,

Please Login or Register to comment on this.