Nestled into the Santa Ynez Mountains, Cachuma Lake is home to 420 campsites spread graciously throughout the area’s dense oak forest but still providing grand views of the lake itself.
About a quarter of the sites have full hookups (that is, a place to plug into electric, water and sewer) and plenty more which are considered “primitive,” meaning it’ll just be you, your van and the great outdoors. All of the sites do come with a picnic table and fire ring, most have immediate views of the water, and many are tucked into dense oak groves, providing some much appreciated shade come the summer months.
Around five hours south of San Francisco, and thirty minutes across the mountains from Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean, the park offers some 10 miles of hiking, a nature center with ranger programs and information on everything from the eagles soaring above to the wildflowers growing around your feet. Cachuma Lake offers some of California’s finest fishing, and for only $15 per adult, you can take a guided cruise to view wildlife and learn more about the area.
Should you find yourself in need of a little break from all of the wild around you, there are swimming pools to splash around in and even a bar at the marina.
Additional activities include guided nature hikes, a disc golf course, Junior Ranger programs for any kiddos you may have in tow, star parties and a fireside theater in the summer months.
Camping at Cachuma Lake
Firstly, if you plan to head to the campground at Cachuma Lake, you’ll want to make a reservation. All summer long, and every weekend Spring through Autumn, the campground is incredibly popular. You can make a reservation here.
Once you’ve secured your spot, be ready for miles of mountains and lakefront to explore. When the day’s fun is over, the campground is stocked with showers and flushing toilets, so it’s worth noting that should you choose a site with hookups, you’re likely better off choosing one with just water and electric, called a partial hookup site. The full hookup sites (which also include a place to dump sewage) are much smaller than the spacious ones you’ll find elsewhere in the park.
The campground features immaculately clean spots that are easy to drive in and back out of, with wide open nature surrounding you in every direction. If you like the idea of camping out in the woods, but can also appreciate the safety and convenience that an actual campground provides, Cachuma Lake is for you!
Pricing on sites ranges from $25 – $30 per night for a basic site with no hookups, and $50 per night for full hookups.
More Camping Near Cachuma Lake
Aside from the campsites run by Santa Barbara County, there are several places to camp in the Los Padres National Forest about 10 miles east of Cachuma Lake. All of these offer restrooms with flushing toilets, picnic tables and fire pits, with wood often for sale on-site. Most are primitive, dry camping only, though Los Prietos does offer electric hookups. Expect a winding, dirt road to get to these sites.
GPS: 34.5438, -119.8212
GPS: 34.5428, -119.8115
Los Prietos Campground
GPS: 34.5413, -119.8021
Sage Hill Group Campground
GPS: 34.5469, -119.7909
Upper Oso Campground
GPS: 34.5547, -119.7694