The length of California Coastal Trail crossing the Gaviota Coast is one of the most spectacular sections of the trail in Southern California.

Or would be if the public could access it, and a proper signed and designed coastal trail could be completed.

For more than a decade developers, conservationists and local government officials have wrestled about how much residential development (if any) should be permitted on the Gaviota Coast, the most pristine coastline remaining in Southern California. On Tuesday, September 1 the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors considered a controversial plan to subdivide the Las Varas Ranch and build homes, which opponents said would cramp the California Coastal Trail and inhibit access to trails to the beach. The supervisors voted to deny the contentious Las Varas Ranch Project.

That also means that trail access to the beach and the route of the California Coastal Trail remain on private property and that many of those hiking to the beach or along the bluffs are trespassing.

For a great overview of the California Coastal Trail on the Gaviota Coast check out a video: Gaviota Coast: SoCal’s Celebrated Rural Shoreline.

The video, part of a series about the California Coastal Trail, features the well-spoken Phil McKenna of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy discussing the natural treasures of the region and Trailmaster John McKinney speaking about the path he helped pioneer and has promoted for more than twenty years.

The rural Gaviota Coast is a magnificent blend of beaches and bluffs. (Photo NPS)
The rural Gaviota Coast is a magnificent blend of beaches and bluffs. (Photo NPS)

This summer KCET, the nation’s largest independent public television station, has been presenting several episodes a week of CALIFORNIA COASTAL TRAIL, described as a digital field guide with the intention of raising awareness about the 1,200-mile long California Coastal Trail, its past, its present, and future through a series of videos, online guides, and historical narratives.

Partially funded by The California Coastal Conservancy, “California Coastal Trail” is produced by Thomas Rigler; his Rigler Creative team brought the acclaimed “City Walk” to television.

As the producers describe this episode: The Gaviota Coast features one of the most coveted shorelines in the state. It is Southern California’s largest stretch of undeveloped coastline, containing approximately 50 percent of its remaining rural shores. Located in Santa Barbara County, this 76-mile swath of pristine beaches and idyllic landscapes passes through National Forest lands and five state and county parks. Recreational opportunities abound on the Gaviota Coast, which is why the California Coastal Trail plays such an integral role in the region’s future. “The California Coastal Trail has been a complete success as a planning tool to increase coastal access,” remarks environmental advocate and author John McKinney.

With plans to expand the trail, it is hoped that the Gaviota Coast will become more accessible to the public, contributing to a greater experience of this tranquil strand.

As John McKinney, The Trailmaster declares on camera: “I’m very happy whenever I see the California Coastal Trail logo and the footprints and everything else going down to the beach because I know someone has planted the seed for hikers at the trailhead. You’re on the California Coastal Trail, you’re part of the dream. You’re part of something special. You’re part of the 1,600-mile system of interconnecting beach and bluff trails that explore the glorious California coast.”

Hike On.
The Trailmaster
John McKinney