Find Your Inner Glamper at Santa Barbara’s El Capitan Canyon

glamping el capitan canyon santa barbara california

A great road trip is made up of many important parts – blaring tunes, silly games, delirious laughter, frequent stops for decadent roadside treats, and the grand feeling that you are as free as a bird, to follow your fancy wherever the winding road may lead. In this case, the road was U.S. Route 101 and it was leading us right to the water’s edge of Santa Barbara’s stunning Pacific coastline and our very first glamping adventure at the sumptuous El Capitan Canyon campground.

Mapping this route from Los Angeles to El Capitan Canyon puts the drive at 115 miles, an easy hour and a half drive north on the 101. But, when you add in a stop at Jinky’s in Sherman Oaks for breakfast, a hike at Malibu Creek State Park, and a pop into McConnell’s in Santa Barbara for some of the finest ice cream you’ll ever drool over, drive times look more like 6 hours. But who’s counting, right?

glamping el capitan canyon santa barbara california

Turning into the driveway of the campground, it appeared as most, a small check-in kiosk with a helpful attendant eager to welcome you, 360 degrees of green leaves and chirping birds. But, as we made our way across a quaint tree-covered bridge and further down the road blanketed on both sides by bright yellow wild mustard plants, we realized quickly this seemingly unassuming hamlet had only given us but a glimpse into its hidden treasures.

One step into adventure yurt revealed amenities one would expect at a hotel; exceptionally comfortable queen and twin trundle beds, fragrant, organic shampoos and soaps, a mini fridge, accent lighting, and even a space heater for those chilly beach nights. Outside we had a large picnic table, a firepit with a removable barbecue grill and an unobstructed view of the lush forest.

glamping el capitan canyon santa barbara california

We spent our first night getting to know the lay of the land. Just 50 yards from our campsite was a bathhouse, restrooms, heated swimming pool, playground, and a large open grassy field where our daughter played soccer with the other camp kids until twilight passed and they could no longer see the ball. Then our Austrian neighbors and their kids cozied around our campfire as we shared stories of our lives and our travels, and our passion for roasting the perfect marshmallow until late in the night.

We awoke early the next morning ready for some adventure and as luck would have it, we had our pick of two trailheads, both a brisk 5-minute walk from our campsite. We took the advice of the staff and headed up the Llama trail in search of some stunning ocean views and a tiny farm that we were told recently welcomed a dozen new baby goats.

glamping el capitan canyon santa barbara california

This short hike is perfect for kids and grandparents alike, with only a moderate quarter-mile incline at the start, the rest of this trail is wide, well-maintained and virtually flat. There was nothing between us and the mighty pacific save for the cleansing ocean breeze, the warm sun, and yes, many, many adorable farm animals.

At the tail end of our hike, we decided, as you do when you’re glamping, to swing by the El Capitan Canyon Store to check out the unique handmade gifts, convenient barbecue dinner kits (yes, you don’t have to bring your own food, they have everything you need packaged in neat kits with utensils, plates, and eats like marinated tri-tip, salmon, and even s’mores kits ready to throw on the grill), then we indulged in a delicious double espresso. The rest of our second day was spent catching bugs, climbing rocks, roasting corn, more soccer, and more great conversation over wine with our new Austrian friends.

glamping el capitan canyon santa barbara california

Two nights was not enough to truly explore all this campground had to offer, so we decided to pack up the car and stay put in search of something spectacular we had heard whispers of from a friend in LA, the superbloom. A rare occurrence in California, a superbloom only happens when evenly-spaced gentle rain storms and low winds combine to germinate dormant wildflower seeds deep in the soil. The result is a sea of vividly-colored petals blanketing the vast valleys and soft rolling hills.

glamping el capitan canyon santa barbara california

Approaching the Bill Wallace trailhead just at the north end of the campground, we entered a veritable artist’s palette splattered with every hue of green, purple, red, and orange, juxtaposed against a clear blue sky. If it wasn’t for the rather indignant feelings of a five year old, we would have spent half the day on this trail, but our two mile loop was just enough to turn meltdowns into smiles for the long drive back home.

Accommodation Details:

Situated on 300 acres of towering sycamores and California coastal oaks, each one of El Capitan Canyon’s 139 individual sites offers guests a relaxed, communal experience whether you’re in a tent, a yurt or a cozy cabin. Originally a Chumash tribal celebration site, the canyon is blanketed by flavorful elderberries, wildly fragrant sage and the constant crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Our favorite El Capitan Canyon amenities and activities:

Family Room 5+
Kitchenettes
Laundry Service
Onsite Dining
Onsite Market
Refrigerator
Heated Outdoor Pool
Playground
Fire Pits
Room Service
Maid Service
Complimentary Beach Cruiser Bikes
Hiking
Yoga Classes
Massage Therapy

Trail Information:

Bill Wallace Trail
Distance: 12 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
Open to: Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding
Difficulty: Moderate

Llama Trail
Distance: 1.25 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Open to: Hiking only
Difficulty: Easy

To schedule a docent led hike on either the Bill Wallace Trail or the Llama Trail, please email wallacetrail@elcapitancanyon.com

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Mommy Hiker’s 2017 Essential Hiking Gear List

hiking gear lists

Before you hit the trails, you want to make sure you have the gear necessary to make the most of your trip. Whether you’re going on a quick walk around your local state park or you’re going on a longer overnight hike, these picks are sure to make your trip all the better.

Carhartt Hiking Shoes & Backpack

carhartt backpack

carhartt hiking boots

The bare bones of any hiker’s arsenal is a good pack and some durable shoes. Carhartt’s been at it 127 years, so they know a thing or two about rugged gear. These pieces of gear are made with durable waterproof material, so you can keep going all day.

Garmin Waterproof GPS

garmin GPS

With this Garmin, you can keep track of the routes you take, mark waypoints, and it also features a trip computer, sunrise and sunset times, information about hunting and fishing, a compass and a barometric altimeter. It’s powered by AAA batteries. This particular GPS is configured to handle tracking through deep tree cover or inside canyons and has a feature that allows you to retrace your steps.

Coleman Camping Stove

coleman camping stove

This Coleman stove is small enough to fit inside an 8-inch pan. It’s also easy to store: the burner and base separate making it even more portable. The large base makes stirring easy. The burner is adjustable and is optimized for fuel efficiency and performance under harsh conditions. One 16.4 ounce propane cylinder is good for up to 2.5 hours of cook time on high.

Sierra Designs Tent

sierra designs camping tent

Sierra has a reputation for crafting products that last decades.  This tent by Sierra Designs is a lightweight nylon and polyester three-season tent. This tent sleeps two people. Pitching is pretty easy, and there are only three poles. Storage and the rainfly are built in, so that’s a bonus.

Leatherman Multi-Tool

leatherman pocket knife tool

The Leatherman is a great way to have almost every tool you’ll need in one small space. Weighing in at 6.9 ounces, this little guy is home to 18 different tools. When you’re watching the weight of your pack increase, you can thank your Leatherman for being so petite.

Ray Ban Polarized Sunglasses

ray ban sunglasses

Nobody wants to walk all day long squinting. It’s important to keep your eyes from UV rays. In addition to your safety, these glasses will keep the path clear for you, and the polarized lenses are great for cutting down the glare. If you’re going to do any fishing, they’ll also help you see the fish in the water. A good pair of sunglasses can make the difference between a mediocre trip and a great one.

MSR Cookset

MSR camping cookware set

You’ve got to eat, and if you need to cook, it’s better to have something lighter than a cast iron skillet. This MSR cookset takes saving space to the next level. Everything in the set nests together and the whole thing is under 2 lbs.

 

Photive Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

photive waterproof bluetooth speaker

Sometimes you want to have an impromptu trail dance party, or you just like singing in the shower. These speakers are nearly indestructible and can sustain eight hours of play on one charge.

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

black diamond trekking poles

If you’re distance hiking or you’re hiking treacherous terrain, you’ll need trekking poles. These trekking poles are ergonomic and collapse down, making them rather portable. If you need good hiking poles, Black Diamond offers a great lightweight product that’s made of carbon, so you know they’ll last.

Yeti Gear

yeti water bottle

Whether you need a good water bottle or something to keep your pot of coffee hot, Yeti’s 64-ounce Rambler is a great option. It has a wide mouth, and the cap is great for clipping to your pack. The bottle is made of stainless steel, it’s got double-walled vacuum insulation, so your beverage will stay really cold or hot all day long.

Kelty Sleeping Bag

kelty sleeping bag

If you’re camping overnight, you need a good sleeping bag. This bag from Kelty is rated for temperatures as low as 20°F. Available in regular and long sizes, this polyester bag featuring two blankets will keep you comfortable all night. It’s easy to store and it comes with a stuff sack. The total weight comes to 5 lbs 1 oz, so it won’t kill your back on a long day.

Win a Family Vacation to Iceland from Outdoor Families Magazine!

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Iceland is becoming one of the fastest growing tourist destinations of the decade. With a 30% increase in tourism in 2015, travelers are eager to take advantage of the low airfare and the untouched landscape.

If the Land of Fire & Ice is on your bucket list, we’ve got some great news! Outdoor Families Magazine is giving away a family adventure vacation for three to one of their lucky readers!

Here’s what you win:

The giveaway ends February 1, 2017, so enter today and your family could win the trip of your dreams!

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