Whether you need to relax after summiting Gaviota Peak in Gaviota State Park, or just prefer a quick, scenic destination hike, Gaviota Hot Springs is well worth the $2 parking fee. From the dirt lot, the fire road trail starts at a state park sign indicating the way to the peak and gains over 400 feet in elevation in a jaunt of just over 1 mile (round-trip). After an ascent under oak and sycamore groves, turn left at the junction with Trespass Trail. Shortly after, you’ll reach a spur trail with overgrown plants heading to the right and following a creek that will lead you to the hot springs. This section is incredibly lush and green, full of California blackberry bush—but keep an eye out for the shiny plants off trail that are in fact poison oak. Follow your nose. You’ll begin to smell the sulfur of the hot springs, produced by geothermally heated groundwater containing several minerals that many believe are medically beneficial. Soon two recently cemented murky blue pools will be in view, ready to welcome bathers. Enjoy a foot soak, or fully submerse yourself in the warm bubbling water before heading back the way you came.
To get to the hot springs, take Hwy. 101 N from Los Angeles through Santa Barbara to CA 1 N (Lompoc/Vandenberg AFB). Take a right off the exit, followed by an immediate right onto the frontage road. Continue for about half a mile to a dead-end to find the dirt lot and trailhead. No dogs.