I’m surprised I’m allowed to tell you about this one. Its one of our secret gems. We always have a place of the year, where we just can’t get enough. This year, it was Figueroa Campground near Santa Barbara.
The best part about this place is that it is technically an established campground, but we’ve rarely seen another soul enjoying it. You probably already know about my family’s intolerance of crowds. We’re out there to enjoy getting away from it all- and them all. And just relaxing rather than having to worry about all the little rules you find in the more popular locations.
Of course, that means its a little more out of the way, but the road up is paved and offers beautiful mountain views and wildflowers in the spring. The manzanita grow tall like real trees instead of shrubby like everywhere else. There are a few lovely trails for mountain biking, running or hiking, and a little creek where you can find (and lick) banana slugs.
Now is about the time that its best to head up to a place like this, because it offers just enough elevation gain to give you a break from the heat. Stop in Los Olivos on your way up for some fancy olive oil to drizzle over the summer bounty of vegetables you brought with you to grill.
LocationLos Olivos, CA
Activity GuideCar Camping, Biking (Road and Mtn), Hiking, Running
Quiet uncrowded campground with lots of shady sites in the mountains of the Los Padres National Forest, close to Santa Barbara. There is no potable water on site. Paying for a site entails purchasing an Adventure Pass. You must have one per car.
- Pit Toilets
- Established Tent and RV Sites (*no hookups)
- Fire Rings
- Picnic Tables
- Hoseshoe Pits
- Get your adventure pass and water in Los Olivos at the bottom of the mountain BEFORE heading up, or else you’ll end up like us having to rush down to get one and come back immediately with a ranger anxiously waiting to give you a fine.
- Bring your own horseshoes if you’d like to play.
- If you continue hiking up the road past the campground, you’ll reach the Davy Brown hiking trail where we found banana slugs and lots of shade. I left my jacket near the road and it got stolen, so be weary of leaving your stuff out as presents for strangers.
- Los Olivos has lots of cute wine tasting shops if that’s your thing.
- Take a walk up the road just before sunset to catch the amazing views of rolling hills and the shimmering Pacific ocean in the distance.