Out & About: Cachuma Lake, CA

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

In Santa Barbara County, nestled in the quiet hills, lies Cahucma Lake. Cachuma Lake is a reservoir in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County on the Santa Ynez River, adjoining the north side of California State Route 154. The 400-site campground is operated by Santa Barbara County Parks.

My family had the pleasure of taking a camping trip there for a 3 day weekend. Let me tell you, you will need a few more days to see and do everything that is available for you at the lake. Holy Smokes!

The drive was just under 4 hours for us coming down from Gilroy, Ca. It was an easy drive on a Friday, just after noon. There were miles and miles of vineyards and then passed through Pismo and San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay which is a must.

They have tent camping, hookups for RVs, yurts, and cabins. Clean bathrooms and showers but those could use some updating. Turkeys walked through our campsite and the wasps swarmed our food immediately after beginning cooking. After this trip we are purchasing a netted canopy for future camping because of the misery of cooking with those darn things around. They don't bite, but they're still annoying and mildly scary.

When we got there, we checked in and then drove to our camp site to set up our tent and equipment. While we were setting up, a park host came around to hand out the activities that were going on around the park. There are movie nights and live music during the summer at the Fireside theater, nature walks, nature cruises for ages 4 and up ($), a Junior Ranger program (pay for badge), you can watch the bats fly down from their bat box, swimming pool ($), fishing, boating, disc golf, book sales, the Nature Center, and they even have a convenience store, restaurant and gas station.

Let me start with the Neal Taylor Nature Center

It was full of hands on displays for the kids (and adults too!) Lots of stuff they could touch-which, if you have kids, you know how amazing it is to find a place where you don't have to worry about them being handsy. They had puzzles, hand puppets, tons of shells and animal bones, taxidermy displays. It was so informational to my kids. My 8 year old especially enjoyed soaking up everything he learned while in there. Next door they have book sales on Saturday mornings and throughout the year they have different workshops for kids and adults. They had a kids fishing workshop in August. In October they are hosting "Creepy Nature" which is a Halloween themed workshop where you can see spiders and do a Halloween themed craft and such. They are doing a great job with their programs!

It was HOT HOT HOT! Pool

We arrived the week after the swimming pool season closed which means it was only open Saturdays for the rest of the year. We had one day during our trip where we could cool down and it was much needed! The pool is $3 per person to swim, there was plenty of shaded seating, showers to rinse off before and after you get in with soap next to it. This alone was awesome because walking around the camp site, you get FILTHY and showers are $1/3 minutes. It was so nice to get clean and cool down in the pool.

Junior Rangers

Meet at the Nature Center with a small bag of litter and pay $3 for the badge. There are 4 different badges to earn throughout the county parks. After listening to the park docent talk about the local wildlife and the impact of litter on critters, you walk over and learn about woodpeckers. Afterwards, you take your pledge and then you earn you badge. This took about an hour but it was well worth it if you have kids that are eager to learn about nature.

The store has everything thing you would ever need to camp along with souvenirs, coffee, food, snacks, shirts, sweatpants, toys, batteries, medicines, camp stoves, firewood, ice, just everything.

Just a short drive away is the Danish Capital of America- Solvang, CA.

It had tons of little shops full of souvenirs and danishes, cafes, restaurants, etc. The Santa Ines Mission is there, an outdoor theater for plays, and our favorite was the Sunnyfields Park playground which looks like a castle. (The bathrooms are very clean here..YAY)

In the opposite direction, a short drive away is Santa Barbara. For cooler weather and...well, THE BEACH, there's so much to do and worth the drive for the beautiful views. The closest Starbucks is also here. Womp Womp.

We needed more time because we wanted to do the Nature Cruise and around the lake to see the wildlife and the surrounding of where we were staying and we didn't make it fishing. But we had so much fun and we will definitely be back to Cachuma Lake for more camping!


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