Gaviota Caves Sierra Club Hike
By Robert Bernstein
The Sierra Club is slowly starting up again with local hikes. Due to COVID concerns we are not encouraging carpooling with non-household members, though we are OK with letting people decide for themselves.Last Saturday I led a hike to the Gaviota Wind Caves. Here are my photos!
I was originally supposed to lead a front country hike in the mountains. But the Forest Service asked to close all trails in the front country mountains. This, due to so many fires being fought in the northern part of the state. I personally think this is a mistake. Hikers have not caused any fires in this area in the 40 years that I have lived here. But, hikers are a valuable asset in watching for fires and reporting them.
Fortunately, Gaviota is a State Park and they have remained open. Except for the sections that overlap with Forest Service areas. Specifically, they told me that access to the Gaviota Hot Springs is closed now.Gaviota is very dry, but we were fortunate with the weather. It was cool and foggy as we began our ascent. It can be quite brutal on a hot day as there is no shade and it is very exposed. Here was the view as we approached on the service road.
That first hill is quite a challenge. Originally, there were switchbacks on the trail. But impatient people have cut a path that is very steep!
At the top of that first hill we paused to enjoy the overlook near the Gaviota tunnel.
We continued on to the first cave. This one is the largest and most intricate of the caves, going on into several sections. Tatiana and Anthony posed in an upper section.
The rest of the group posed below in the main chamber.
The upper caves were the next destination.
Another steep and exposed climb. The trail has become rather eroded and there are sections of exposed rock. One person turned back at this point. It is always good to know your limits and safely to stay within them! But the rest of the group forged ahead with smiles on their faces!
Here I photographed the group, using the inside of the first cave as a window!
The most famous cave is the Wind Cave at the very top of this cluster of caves. Here my wife and I posed in the window.
And I got this shot of the group from below, looking up into the window.
Most people head back after visiting the Wind Cave. But we were heading on to the Overlook above Gaviota Pass and the tunnel. This gives beautiful views to the valley beyond.
Perhaps by coincidence (or not) we encountered another group of Sierra Club people coming the other way on the connector to the Lookout fire road! Alejandro is the current Outings Chair who is first in this photo. Followed by Diane who runs the super-valuable Santa Barbara Hikes web site. Then Tony our former Outings Chair and Ines.
Here was the final approach to the Overlook where there is a landmark antenna visible.
The Overlook was our lunch spot. I posed for a photo at this point.
We usually see turkey vultures up there, but we only saw one from a distance. Here was the view down into the Gaviota Pass and the northern end of the tunnel. You can see tiny specks of a group of motorcyclists out for a ride together!
It remains to be seen when we will have access to our local front country trails again. For now, Gaviota State Park is one option. If you are up for a more strenuous hike you can go all the way up to Gaviota Peak from the other side of the freeway.
A new round of hikes is being developed by our Outings Chair Alejandro. Please stand by and check here to see what is coming up!