El Capitan State Beach

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. At low tide, the truly great walk between El Capitan State Beach and Refugio State Beach 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 are 10 miles of trails, filled with beautiful views and a small, scenic canyon. The Bill Wallace El Capitan Trail is especially recommended. Far fewer people visit this part of the park. Watch for wildlife, including raptors.



Hwy 101, Exit 117, Santa Barbara County

Managed By

California State Parks

Distance from UCSB

11.7 mi (biking)

How To Get There

Bike, Drive

Things To Do

Beach Activities, BBQ, Birdwatching, Camping, Hiking, Other Recreational Activities (Kayaking, Surf fishing), Picnicking, Relaxing, Running, Studying/Reading, Surfing, Swimming, Viewing, Walking, Watchable Wildlife

Fun Facts

The state beach is named for Spanish Army Captain José Francisco Ortega, who obtained the area as a land grant in the late 1700s.

Other Information

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.

This destination has accessible features; to review, click here.

Nearby Public Lands Worth Visiting

To the west of El Capitan is Refugio State Beach, which also has camping, hiking trails, fishing, picnicking, beach amenities and more.

Best Time To Visit

All Year

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