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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[El Capitan Canyon] Mommy Hiker Campground Spotlight

Family camping in santa barbara

Nestled in a breathtaking canyon, surrounded by hills covered in colorful wildflowers, and just minutes from the Central Coast city of Santa Barbara, California sits El Capitan Canyon, a hidden gem of a campground. Offering families numerous outdoor lodging options from canvas, safari-style tent camping sites to comfortable adventure yurts, and even luxurious cedar cabins, this resort-style campground boasts creature comforts like hot showers, super clean toilets and even awesome, kid-friendly amenities like playgrounds and heated outdoor pools.

To read our full guide to camping and hiking at El Capitan Canyon, see Jennifer Fontaine’s article on Examiner.com.

Reserve your spot today at El Capitan Canyon for your next unforgettable family camping adventure!


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Overview

El Capitan Canyon has provided Southern Californians with a cozy sanctuary since the early 70’s. Take advantage of the local hikes with trailheads on property, frolic with their llamas and goats, enjoy live music concerts in the summer, or indulge in an in-room massage.

The Canyon Market and Deli is well stocked with a large selection of local, organic groceries, world renowned wine, and those often-forgotten sundries like sunscreen and bug spray. Order their signature BBQ kit which includes all the necessary ingredients to enjoy a family meal cooked over the campfire, or if you don’t feel like grilling, the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Natural Features

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. Originally a Chumash tribal celebration site, the canyon is blanketed by flavorful elderberries and wildly fragrant sage. Two local hikes take you over soft rolling hills, along the majestic Pacific Ocean, and through vast pastures where goats and llamas dance to the sounds of the crashing waves.

Here’s a list of our favorite amenities and activities El Capitan Canyon has to offer

  • 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