El Cap/Refugio -



Difficulty: Easy • Mileage: 13
Elevation Gain: Slight ups and downs. ft. • Location: Gaviota Coast
Features: Out & Back, Picnicking, Car Camp, BBQs, Beach Access, State Park

A section of the bike path is washed out. Though it is formally closed you can walk your bike around it. Be extremely careful.


This bikeway extends from El Capitan to Refugio State Beaches along the ocean bluff. The route is level and perfect for children. In the springtime the bluffs are filled with tall grass and colorful mustard plants, and a variety of wildflowers that add a lovely quality. The ride can easily be extended up into Refugio Canyon (see next ride description).


The Basics

  • Length : 2-5
  • Gain : Slight ups and downs.
  • Difficulty : Easy
  • Path : Paved bike path and roads.

Things to Look For

  • Points of Interest : Out & Back,Picnicking,Car Camp,BBQs,Beach Access,State Park

Find Other Similar Trails

Difficulty: Easy
Points of Interests: Out & BackPicnickingCar CampBBQsBeach AccessState Park
Locations: Gaviota Coast

Links & Resources


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Hike Details

  • Length : 2-5
  • Gain : Slight ups and downs.
  • Difficulty : Easy
  • Path : Paved bike path and roads.

Access / Getting There

Trip mileage begins from Goleta Beach County Park

  1. El Capitan Sate Beach is 11 miles beyond the Fairview turnoff in Goleta (20 miles from downtown Santa Barbara) on Highway 101.
  2. There is a fee for parking in the park.
  3. To avoid paying the fee there is a parking area for backcountry hiking that is perfect for bike parking.
  4. From the El Capitan turnoff, drive west two hundred yards and bear right at the northbound turnoff and continue on Calle Real.
  5. The parking area is at the entrance to El Capitan Canyon Ranch RV camping area.  

Things to Know


Trip Log

On The Trail

For those of you with small children, even though it is just a few miles up the coast from Santa Barbara, El Capitan is just far enough away to make it a lovely place for a picnic, day at the beach, or for a weekend campout. There is a picturesque trail following the road down into the park that is great for kid-type exploring, as well as the creek itself, which is especially nice to meander up during the springtime. 

Make sure to bring the bikes along, even if a day at the beach is what you're primarily there for. It is a relatively easy two mile ride to Refugio Beach, though there are a few ups and downs along the way.

The bikeway begins just on the beach side of the kiosk where you pay for day or overnight use of the park. Look for the beginning right before you enter the day use parking area. It leads up onto the ocean bluff where there are additional overnight camping spots. The main part of the bike path begins at the end of the camp sites. 

At the half way point to Refugio the bike path drops down to Corral Beach, a wonderful spot to stop and let the kids explore. There are several rocky points which jut out to the ocean's edge on either side of Corral Beach so it has a very secluded feeling. If the tide isn't too high you may be able to make it around these points, although there's always the possibility of getting splashed if you don't time your dash around them just right.

If you’d like to add more mileage to your ride, when you reach Refugio Beach, go under the freeway and as far up into the canyon as you’d like. The first 4 miles until you reach the Circle Bar B Ranch are almost level and as you near this guest ranch, the canyon narrows, plunging you into vertical walls of sandstone and a covering of alder trees, which filter the sunlight and add to the enchanting feeling of this section.

Do take care as you cross those places where the creek runs directly across the road. They can be slippery.

To begin the ride from Refugio Beach, park along Refugio Road under the freeway bridge. There you won't have to worry about paying a user fee. A short trail leads along the creek and into the park. As you go under the railroad overcrossing, turn left. The path leading to El Capitan begins right there.

Campsite Reservations—overnight camping reservations for El Capitan and Refugio State Beaches (and Gaviota as well) may be made through Mistix. The phone number for all of these parks is 1-800-444-PARK.

El Capitan has 140 family campsites which are suitable both for tent and RV camping. There are 85 family campsites at Refugio Beach.

On The Bike

On The Run

On The Walk

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Last Updated: Saturday, April 2, 2016