Gaviota Caves Sierra Club Hike
By Robert Bernstein
We had a big group of seventeen for our Sierra Club hike to the Gaviota Caves! Here are all of my photos.
With the Montecito trails destroyed and/or off limits for the foreseeable future, our other regional trails are getting a lot more foot traffic.
We started on a paved service road starting near Gaviota State Beach.
This gave us a view of the caves and surrounding area we were about to venture into
The first challenge is a big grassy hill.
There has never been a good trail up this hill. But it has gotten even worse recently. It now goes straight up the side of the hill with no switchbacks. As you can see, this makes for a rather steep and treacherous climb!
Happily, we all made it OK to the first overlook across a canyon. This is above the Gaviota Rest Stop and you can see the Gaviota Tunnel entrance in the background.
Of course we posed for a group photo here
Far across the canyon is a peak with an antenna. That will be our lunch spot in a couple of hours
From the first overlook the trail ascends through what looks like concrete
A geologist couple on a previous hike assured me this is a natural geological aggregate. This ascent gave us the first of a series of beautiful views back toward Gaviota State Beach and the railroad trestle
Another fifteen minutes or so of hiking brought us in sight of the first cave which is also the largest, with several connected chambers
The next trail section was eroded and steep, but not too far until the next set of caves
We could look back down at people at the first cave (which unfortunately has been defaced recently with paint)
At that next cave I also had a pleasant surprise, meeting one of my favorite dance partners Kelli Butler along with her husband Shane Butler who creates wonderful events in Ojai!
Our group posed inside the cave as well as in the window of the cave!
A beautiful "trail mix" of hikers from around the world! Greece, Argentina, China and even a few from the US!
It is still winter, but we did spot a few flowers
Then it was on to the famous Wind Cave at the pinnacle of the Gaviota Caves complex. Again, we posed facing in and facing out!
We then headed on toward the distant antenna, where no one else was heading!
First, a steep descent on a primitive, steep trail through dense brush
A glance back where we just came from
A bit more of a climb before the trail leveled off
Another view back down toward Gaviota State Beach and the railroad trestle
A view way down to the first overlook at the top of the grassy hill
Then we came to a woodsy passage of oak trees draped with lichen
And on out to the newly marked "Overlook Trail" junction. Upon returning it is important not to miss this easily missed junction!
We have maybe another half mile further on the Overlook Trail
A view out to a high pressure gas line below toward the north
And we get to the awaited Antenna
And a few more feet to the Overlook above the Freeway and Tunnel
A good place to pose for photos!
After a nice lunch break at the Overlook it is time to head back
Noticing that junction that is easy to miss!
We pass the Wind Cave where a new group is sitting inside
And we pass below
A quick stop to cool off and rest on this warm day at the lowest cave
A woman heading up pauses to pose with us as we finish our descent
And a turkey vulture circles overhead
We take a slightly different route back past some flowers
And a structure that seems related to the high pressure gas line
The net elevation gain was only about 500 feet, but the up and down made it more like 800 feet. And the round trip distance was almost exactly five miles.
A most enjoyable hike with a happy group of hikers on a beautiful day!