We'd been wanting to explore the mountain area up near Santa Barbara for quite a while, and we finally decided to get up there recently and check it out.

The area we went to is in the Los Padres National Forest, up by Cachuma Lake. It's approximately 140 miles away from Long Beach, and you don't need an Adventure Pass for parking if you're camping in any of the campsites there. Your camping permit works instead.

This was a pretty spontaneous trip for us, we couldn't make an online reservation at any of the sites because we waited until the last minute so we went hoping we'd find a first come first serve spot! We left on a Saturday morning and got to the area around noon. Los Prietos was full, Fremont was full, our last resort was Upper Osos which luckily had a couple sites still open and the most radical camp host named Bob. You can buy firewood there, so you're not out of luck if you forget to bring some, and there are toilets & a water pump.

We set up our camp and then set out to go find the red rock swimming holes. They weren't too hard to find using the map we'd gotten from the Ranger's office (definitely go pick one up). We just relaxed by the water while the guys utilized the rope swing. We even saw a turtle in the pond how great!

After we had some dinner back at the campground, we decided to take the trail that started at our campground and go up into the canyon and explore a bit. It was really nice, very green in the lower areas, more than we'd expected. We were mostly alone on the trail as well, which is always a bonus. There are a lot of trails and possibilities for adventures up there, we definitely need to go back and explore more!

We finished the day around a fire with s'mores (a camping staple for us) and took our time taking down camp the next morning. We stopped by Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara for a swim (how could we not?) and grilled some lunch on the side of the road by the 4 Seasons (and got some awesome looks from people walking by dressed wayyy nicer than us). It made for a great one-nighter, definitely recommend checking this area out! But maybe make your reservations further in advance, in case you don't get lucky as we did.

unapologetically in love with flaming hot cheetos.

Before Jordan and Cami had their tent. Truly car campers.

Breakfast in Bed :)

Cachuma Lake, looking low :(

Post-camping rinse off in the ocean, a must.


  1. This is most definitely a trip I have to take!!! My bf and I drove up the coast of CA to SF and stopped at Big Sur, but we wanted to come back and explore Santa Barbara some other time! Thanks for sharing your photos and your experience!

    be the plebeian

    1. Santa Barbara is a must. It's such a charming perfect little quiet town. One day soon we'll do a city guide for it!