Gaviota State Park takes its name from the Spanish word for seagull, given to the area by soldiers of the Portola Expedition who supposedly killed a seagull while camping here in 1769. Marked by a tall Southern Pacific railroad trestle that crosses Gaviota Creek high above the day-use parking lot, the park is a popular spot for swimming, picnicking, surf fishing and camping, despite high winds that often blow through the area. A pier on the west end of the beach is used by anglers, and scuba divers and surfers use a boat hoist on the pier to access the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. Visitors can explore the rugged upland portions of the park from a trailhead in the parking area. Ambitious hikers can climb to Gaviota Peak that offers a spectacular view of the coast and the Channel Islands.
Beach-to-Backcountry, Overlook, Hollister Trails To Gaviota Pass Overlook is 5 miles round trip with 700-foot elevation gain;loop via Overlook and Hollister Trails is 8.5 miles round tripwith 800-foot elevation gain
It would be unfair to say no one stops in Gaviota Pass. The pass hosts a Caltrans rest area, site of the only public restrooms along a 250 mile length of Highway 101 between Los Angeles and the hamlet of Bradley north of San Luis Obispo.
Most motorists who stop, and the multitudes who do not, remain oblivious to the area?s historical importance and natural attractions. Too bad, because Gaviota Pass and its pathways are too good to pass up.
Most of the pass?the green scene on either side of Highway 101?is the rolling backcountry of 2,775-acre Gaviota State Park. Park trails meander across oak-dotted potreros and travel ridgetops that afford hikers grand vistas of Gaviota Pass and the wide blue Paciﬁc.
Surely the most memorable view of the pass, to moviegoers anyway, occurs in The Graduate when lost soul Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) drives a beautiful new Alfa Romeo through the mist and into the Gaviota Tunnel.
Explorer Gaspar de Portola led his party through the pass in 1769. Expedition diarist, Father Juan Crespi dubbed the coastline here San Luis in honor of the King of France. However, Portola?s soldiers ﬁgured that La Gaviota, Spanish for seagull, was more appropriate.
Gaviota earned its small place in California history as a place to avoid. During the short Mexican-American War, General John C. Fremont and his 700 men were marching south toward Santa Barbara when they learned that the Mexican californio troops awaited in ambush at Gaviota Pass. American forces were led through nearby San Marcos Pass by rancher Benjamin Foxen on Christmas eve 1846. Thus, the Americans occupied Santa Barbara without bloodshed on Christmas day.
Gaviota State Park offers hiking on both sides of the pass. Eastside trail attractions include a hot springs and connections to Los Padres National Forest footpaths. On the west side of the pass, the park?s trail network honeycombs a delightful backcountry and offers the hiker a number of loops of varying distances and difﬁculties.