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+
Laundry Service
Onsite Dining
Onsite Market
Heated Outdoor Pool
Fire Pits
Room Service
Maid Service
Complimentary Beach Cruiser Bikes
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

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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The Outdoor Gear Lover’s Gift Guide – 2016

It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays, and with all the Black Friday noise, it’s getting harder and harder to find the perfect gift for our outdoor-loving friends and family. That’s why we have curated our favorite outdoor gear picks, all in one place, to make your life easier, so you can get outside and enjoy!

Browse our Guide’s Sections:
Outdoor Tech
Camp Comforts
Outdoor Attire
Food and Wellness


1. Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera with AF-P DX 18-55mm (Get $150 OFF here!)

Features include:

  • SnapBridge Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 24.2MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 4 Image Processor
  • No Optical Low-Pass Filter
  • Native ISO 100-25600; 5 fps Shooting
  • MSRP $646.95

Get the package deal which includes an additional lens (70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED) and save $350!

2. Secur Sp‑6000 Ultimate Solar Charger

Features Include:

  • High Efficiency 12 Watt Solar Panel
  • 10,000 mAh Lithium Battery
  • Dual USB Ports with Smart Chip for Fast Charging
  • Waterproof Pouch for Smart Phone Charging
  • MSRP: $125

3. MeFOTO BackPacker Air Tripod (Get $59 OFF here!) 

Features Include:

  • HyperLock leg locks – Each tripod and monopod uses our new HyperLock leg lock design, which is much faster than traditional tripods and monopods that have 9 to 15 leg locks.
  • Selfie Stick/Telescoping center column – You can take selfies with the included Bluetooth remote and smartphone adapter. When used as a center column it telescopes for additional height when needed.
  • Lightweight – Way less to carry around. MeFOTO Air combines strong and lightweight materials making it possible to create a 2 lb. tripod and a 0.9 lb. monopod.
  • Compact size – Fits inside small and medium sized bags. This is due to the unique HyperLock leg system where each leg section is nested into one group.
  • Rigidity – Don’t be fooled by the size and lightweight design. MeFOTO Air is as sturdy as they come. The HyperLock leg lock design is actually superior to some traditional tripod leg locks.
  • MSRP $184

4. House of Marley EM-JA007-GR Chant Mini BT Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Get $37 OFF here!)

Features Include:

  • Bluetooth 4.1 + EDR, A2DP mono audio
  • 1 x 3W -1.5″ driver + passive radiator
  • Built-in microphone allows for use as speakerphone
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery with up to 6 hours of wireless play
  • Blended bio-plastic, silicone and recyclable aluminum housings, bamboo trim ring, exclusive REWIND cloth wrap, carabineer clip
  • MSRP $69.99

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1. TETON Sports ComfortLite Self Inflating Pillow

Features Include:

  • Packs down to 13x3x3 inches
  • Self-inflates to 18x10x4 inches
  • Weighs only 12 ounces
  • Microfiber top feels soft against your face; Grey non-slip bottom keeps pillow in place
  • High-Quality Construction
  • Easy to clean
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • MSRP $19.99

2. Matador Pocket Blanket (Get $5 OFF here!)

Features Include:

  • Ultra-compact pocket blanket folds out to large 63″ x 44″ blanket
  • Water repellent back side to keep you clean and dry
  • Puncture resistant to keep you comfortable. Protects you from twigs, rocks, dirt, sand and insects
  • Weighted corners for improved performance on breezy days
  • Attached storage pouch and “easy-pack pattern” to make folding and storing the blanket quick and easy
  • MSRP $29.99

3. Cotopaxi Inti2 Tent + Alcove (Tent sleeps 2, with Alcove sleeps 4)

Tent Features Include:

  • Recommended use: backpacking/camping
  • 3-season, double-wall construction
  • Sleeping capacity: 2 people
  • Weight: 4lb 9oz (2070g)
  • Packed size: 19 x 6in (48 x 15cm)
  • Weight (w/o rainfly): 3lb 5oz (1500g)
  • Packed size: 19 x 5in (48 x 13cm)
  • Weight (rainfly): 1lb 4oz (570g)
  • Floor dimensions: 88in x 52in (224 x 132cm)
  • Floor area: 31.8sq ft (3sq m)
  • Vestibule area: 11.9sq ft (1.1sq m)
  • Peak height: 45.3in (115cm)
  • 2 doors, 2 vestibules
  • Water-resistant, PU-backed rainfly
  • Ultra-tough, all-aluminum poles
  • Lightweight aluminum stakes
  • Alcove and Footprint sold separately

Alcove Features Include:

  • Recommended use: ultralight backpacking/camping
  • Sleeping capacity: 2 people
  • Weight: 2lb 8oz (1130g)
  • Packed size: 19 x 5in (48 x 13cm)
  • Floor area: 35.5sq ft (3.3sq m)
  • 2 setup configurations
  • Water-resistant, PU-backed ripstop nylon
  • Single-pole setup
  • Built-in floor

4. Scrubba Portable Laundry System Wash Bag (Get $5 OFF here!)

Features Include:

      • Machine quality wash whenever and wherever you want
      • A modern take on the old fashioned washboard: hundreds of internal Scrubba nodules efficiently clean clothes in minutes
      • Durable microbial- and hydrolysis-resistant polyether TPU; doubles as a dry-bag
      • Lightest and smallest washing machine in the world at only 5 oz.
      • Great for holidays, backpacking, business trips, camping, outdoor adventures, boats, emergency power outages, and small apartments
      • MSRP $54.95

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1. Cotopaxi Insulated Water Resistant Mens Kusa Bomber Jacket (Check out the Women’s version, too!)

Features Include:

      • Llama-poly insulation from the Altiplano of South America & 20D ripstop nylon w/ DWR finish.
      • Reversible. For versatility and style enjoy flipping the jacket inside out for a new color scheme.
      • Front zippered pockets for storage.
      • Ribbed details at the collar, cuffs, and hem round out the bomber for classic look.
      • Lifetime Warranty/Guaranteed for Good.
      • MSRP $198.95

2. Merrell Men’s Capra Venture Mid Gore-Tex Surround Boot (There’s a Women’s & a Child’s version, too!)

Features Include:

      • Lug Sole
      • Mesh and synthetic upper
      • Traditional lace closure
      • Bellows tongue keeps debris out
      • Breathable mesh lining
      • Single-density removable footbed
      • MSRP $230

3. Dorfman Pacific Men’s Rush Straw Lightweight Outback Hat (Get $8 OFF here!)

Features Include:

      • Straw
      • Imported
      • 100% natural fiber
      • Light weight
      • Exceptional breathing for cool wear on hot days
      • Attractive trim
      • Spot clean
      • MSRP $30

4. Jambu Dusk 2 Sandal (Get over 50% OFF here!)

Features Include:

      • Upper is textile/synthetic/rubber
      • Molded EVA footbed for maximum comfort and fit
      • Non-marking rubber outsole provides ultimate grip on all surfaces
      • Adjustable strap closure
      • Signature bump toe for added protection
      • MSRP $55

5. MyMayu Explorer Outdoor Boots

Features Include:

        • Constructed of 100% Waterproof Materials and sewing seams are sealed
        • Four-season suited when layered up or down with Helios fleece Liners
        • Upper made of durable, 100% waterproof, breathable coated polyester
        • Flexible, lightweight, TPR recyclable rubber sole
        • Dual toggle system: enclosed elastic at top with toggle to prevent water ingress and enclosed elastic with toggle closure at ankle for a customizable fit
        • Designed to fit just below the knee for maximum coverage of the lower leg
        • Quick drying
        • Collapsible – folds up easily to fit in your backpack or bag
        • BPA free sole
        • Brush clean when dry or hand wash- do not put in dryer
        • Made in North America
        • Vegan
        • MSRP $59.95

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1. Bare Snacks (Choose from Apple, Coconut, or Banana)

Features Include:

        • Real food, baked ’til they’re crave-ably crunchy. Snacks gone simple.
        • Just one or two simple ingredients
        • New look, same great crunch! (Packaging may vary)
        • Gluten free, fat free, no added sugar, Non-GMO, good source of dietary fiber

2. Melitta Single Cup Pour-Over Brewer with Travel Mug (Get $5 OFF here!)

Features Include:

        • Includes BPA Free red plastic cone drip brewer – red 16oz travel mug and 5 filters
        • Coffee aficionados agree that pour-over brewing makes the best coffee
        • Cone drip brewer window allows you to see how much coffee you are brewing
        • Screw on lid with easy close tab
        • Uses Number 2 size Melitta cone shaped filters
        • MSRP $15.20 (2-Pack)

3. Back to the Roots Mushroom Farm

Features Include:

        • Organic plant-based soil (can grow multiple crops!)
        • Oyster mushroom spawn
        • Spray mister
        • BONUS: organic heirloom tomato seeds to grow with your composted mushroom kit

4. All Good Lavender Lover’s Set

Features Include:

        • All Good Lavender Body Lotion (6 oz)
        • All Good Lavender Coconut Oil (9 oz)
        • All Good Goop (2 oz)
        • Made with Organic Ingredients
        • Each product has deep moisturizing benefits

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Still craving more outdoor gear suggestions? Check out these awesome gift guides from my fellow #OutdoorFamilies Network friends!