El Capitan is two terrific parks in one.
On the ocean side of Highway 101 is a wonderful place to camp, swim, surf (fall and winter), picnic, hike, explore tide pools or go for an extended walk on a really beautiful, undisturbed beach. The road to the beach is next to El Capitan Creek, which is lined with dense sycamores, willows and coast live oaks. There is a self-guided nature trail on El Capitan Point. The truly great walk between El Capitan and Refugio State Beach at low tide is filled with intriguing rock formations, birds, views, and ideal beach hiking or running.
To the north of Hwy 101, the park continues, and there is a 10 mile trail filled with views. Fewer people visit this part of the park.
Hwy 101, Exit 117, Santa Barbara County
California State Parks
11.7 mi (biking)
Beach Activities, BBQ, Birdwatching, Camping, Hiking, Other Recreational Activities (Kayaking, Surf fishing), Picnicking, Relaxing, Running, Studying/Reading, Surfing, Swimming, Viewing, Walking, Watchable Wildlife
This park ‘s name comes from the Spanish Army captain who obtained the land grant: Rancho Nuestra Senora del Refugio.
California State Parks has an excellent brochure for El Capitan, which includes hiking trails and other very helpful information. Camping reservations in the expansive and attractive campground can and should be made ahead of time. If you are planning on hiking the beach, it is best to do so during low tides. Here is helpful tide information.
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