24 December 2006

Gaviota Peak loop trail

Gaviota State Park and Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

Out past Gaviota beach, the wrong way on the exit to Lompoc (and right again), is the trail head for the hot springs and peak. The peak is about 3 miles by the springs and about 3.5 miles by trespass trail. Together, they make a loop. Trespass trail is on south and west facing slopes with more obstacles to following the trail. A second trail leaves to the right at the saddle to what may or may not be something interesting. Going straight goes past a dry lake and connects up with the trail up the mountain. Going left would connect up with the trail faster, but there is very little trail there. The route past the hot springs is more direct and road-like almost the entire way, which is mostly western and northern slopes.

We (mom and I) headed out a bit past noon on the trespass trail because it is winter and won't be too hot to hike a southern slope even this close to sea level. Also, it apparently has much better views. This turns out to be quite true, partly because there's less vegetation on the south side to hinder viewing and partly because there's ocean on that side.

So we paid the $2 parking fee and started up the trail. Taking the right fork at the sign puts us on the correct trail heading around to the south side of the peak. Soon there is a glimpse of ocean and a ribbon of 101 freeway. There has been enough moisture to get the bushes nicely green, but the smaller growth is decidedly brown.

glimps of ocean and ribbon of highway in rolling sandstone uplift mountains

The trail we are on is really rather like a road so far. Nothing I'd be worried about driving my small car over, even. But it'll get rougher along the way. The sandstone uplift leaves stripes in the local rocks and the north slopes with growth are nicely green.

roadlike trail and more sandstone uplift

To the west, past the big road and into a land of nothing more than fire roads and fences, the hills roll away like a frozen ocean.

rolling hills all the way to Lompoc

We pass by a locked gate and an old burn area. These oaks survived the fire some few years back.

oaks in old burn area

Some trees didn't make it though they are still here. White sage (bottom left) is plentiful in this area.

smaller trees that died in the bush fire a few years back

Mountains through the fire darkened oaks.

brown hills through the spaces around fire darkened oaks in foreground

Leaving this stand of oaks trying to live on the warm side of the hill, the trail snakes its way up to a saddle past a little more evidence of the old burn.

old roadbed going up the mountain

Some of the bushes burned in the fire are beginning to lose their charred bark and turn white, the fire was so long ago. Great vision of uplift "in motion" out there in those rolling hills.

sandstone uplift and long burned bushes

And here is that sandstone up close. This has been weathered so that there are so many little holes in it it almost has a lacy look to it.

sandstone pitted by weather to a lacy appearance

Higher up, even more rolling hills can be seen.

rolling hills past Lompoc

And with coming to the saddle, we get a first glimpse of the ocean to the east.

saddle point along the trail

From here the trail forks to go up the two sides of the saddle. To the right there may be some ruins. Or there may be some sandstone uplift that can look like they are, when the sun is mostly be hind them and they are at quite a distance, to be ruins. The old roadbed can be seen further up on that side. Going straight or right gets to the trail up the peak. There is a little dry lake bed people seem to like to walk past.

dry lakebed along trail

The possible ruins... or just ordinary rocks. Hard to see for me is hard to see for the camera as well. Someone will just have to hike up there and look some time. Jeff says it's just rocks, but the hike up is short so one can check it out easily.

ruins? unlikely

And even more hills in the view from further up. So I like the rolling hills.

rolling hills

And then with a bit of hiking up gullies, but with clear trail, we find ourselves at the peak. Views of the ocean and three islands stretch out far below. (Bigger?.)

view from Gaviota peak from west to east, but cropped to mostly the west side of looking south

And the other side. Mainly northwest. (Bigger?)

view from Gaviota peak to the north side

(I had a bit of fun putting together the panoramas. That's quality hand craftsmanship for you. Not even fiddling with the edges in some weird way to try to get them to fade into each other or anything. The first one has more coastline in the uncropped versions.)

Another higher peak disrupts the view to the northeast. The fire road heads that way, so that may be a fairly easy destination too.

After that the trail is road-like and fairly determined to go down. There is a spot near the hot spring at the bottom where it has a few little trails going off. The one by a little stream is probably to the hot spring itself. The stream water was warmer than most streams running down the side of a mountain, and was probably above the ambient temperature, but was certainly not hot. Maybe it had cooled substantially in a pool above. Another trail further up may have also gone to the hot spring.

We didn't go up to the hot spring.

The north side is all high foliage with even sycamores down by the stream. With so few wide views, not a lot of pictures were taken. Or maybe I was all tuckered out from snapping all the pictures on the way up. Either way, the pictures stop at the top of the mountain.

Down off the mountain before dark, even with the late start.

The marker at the top also contains log books.

©2006,2007 Valerie Norton
Posted 26 December 2006
Last updated 19 January 2007

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