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El Capitán State Beach

Secluded, yet only a 20-minute drive from the bustle of downtown Santa Barbara, this idyllic spot offers both sandy beaches for swimming and rocky beaches for tidepooling (not accessible), as well as picnic tables perched on a bluff above the beach. Upland day-use and camping facilities are on a narrow coastal terrace. Three ramped walkways provide access from the bluffs to the beach and picnic area, but access onto the beach is down a slope strewn with large boulders, so a beach wheelchair is essential. The southernmost ramp is the least steep; the others are dangerously steep. From October to February, monarch butterflies congregate in the dense stand of trees around El Capitán Creek near the park's entrance. A blufftop trail connects to Refugio State Beach. 
State Parks Advisory: Many of California's state parks are reducing hours of operation and limiting access to facilities because of budget cuts. We recommend that you consult State Parks' website and contact the park directly before planning a visit.

Trail/Pathway Details

Aniso Trail

Trailhead: North end of day-use parking lot, next to restrooms

Length: 1-2 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Steep

Several trail sections, including the approach, are very steep, but in a motorized chair I readily climbed them. Someone with good upper body strength might be able to manage unassisted in a manual chair.

Terrain: Hard

The asphalt is worn in places.

Obstacles: The trail is closed a half-mile out.


The Aniso Trail travels along bluffs high above the ocean for some 2.5 miles, from El Capitan State Beach north to Refugio State Beach. Although only a half-mile segment was open during my visit in October 2009–the rest is closed indefinitely due to erosion–you will be rewarded with unobstructed views of the Channel Islands and the north coast. The trail dips and climbs while intermittently passing alongside the campgrounds. Since this is an established trail, I didn't feel that it intruded on the campers. At times Monterey cypress and sycamore provide shade and shelter from the wind. On my visit, a few monarch butterflies delighted me, confirming that fall had arrived.  

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Beach Wheelchair: Yes

Pick up at ranger station at park entrance

Accessible Parking: Yes

Beach day-use lot

Accessible Restroom: Yes

Next to store at north end of beach day-use lot 

Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

Tables are on a grassy bluff overlooking the beach, reached from an asphalt path at the south end of the day-use parking lot. In my motorized wheelchair, I had no problems traveling a very short distance on firm grass to reach them.
Rocky access to beach
Rocky access to beach (Bonnie Lewkowicz)

Features icon key

  • Beach Wheelchairs Available
  • camping
  • hiking
  • picnic
  • swimming

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: California State Parks
Phone: (805) 968-1033
Hours: 7 am to sunset
Fees: Entrance
Dogs: On leash
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, September 12, 2009
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing