Clean sites,good restrooms, kayaks, nature center, and well stocked store.
The campgrounds are amazing! They have showers, restrooms, running water, bbq pits or regular bonfire pits and enough space for at least 1-5 tents! The staff are super helpful and cool- just be cool with them.
I recently stayed at the lake as part of an “unofficial” anthro club trip and it was amazing! The sizes of the camp grounds were more than enough and the whole ambience was perfect!
My only complaint was the lack of water access- you can boat in the lake, kayak, paddle boat- but there is no human contact because of the water treatments. It bummed me out but it wasn’t a total killer. They have a near by store on the grounds but town is a cool 15-20 min away. Nice escape coming from LA.
The kayak launch was pretty easy to handle!
We stayed in the primitive campsite area. Was nice and clean even sites. Had some portable toilets with in walking distance. Rented a boat at the marina and was warm all night in the summer
I am a native of Santa Barbara, CA, so I grew up going to Cachuma Lake. Cachuma Lake’s main recreational area is on a bluff overlooking the lake. There you can find tent sites, yurts, cabins, and full hookups for RVs. There are also smaller campgrounds at lake level - we prefer to stay in the Mohawk Shores campground, which is at lake level. The Mohawk Shores campsites are in a more densely packed oak grove, offering more shade and more privacy than the upper-level campgrounds. A few years ago they started pricing the “lakeside” sites in Mohawk more expensively than the rest of the sites in the area; ironic though, since the lake has been so empty the last few years due to the drought, and these sites are no longer lakeside.
The campsites each have their own picnic table and firepit with a grate, and water spigots are available in various places around the campground. Mohawk has its own bathroom with flushable toilets and coin-operated showers - the bathrooms and showers are kept clean. I prefer to shower in the showers located in the upper-level campgrounds, as they are in their own individual, lockable stalls, rather than the locker-room type set up in the bathroom in Mohawk. There are multiple dumpsters available for trash AND recycling around all of the campgrounds.
Caution: There is a lot of poison oak around the park!
We have rented a yurt a couple times, and hope to do so again soon. The yurts have bunk beds inside (bring your own bedding!), an overhead light, and a heater. Outside each yurt is a picnic table, charcoal barbeque, a firepit, and a water spigot.
We will often bring an easy-up to use in the day-camp areas in the upper-level of the park. There are oak trees all over the park, but if day use site with a table under a tree gets snagged, it’s nice to have the easy-up for shade - if you have one, I would recommend bringing an easy-up if you are going to camp in the upper level campgrounds, not all of the sites have shade.
A small but well-stocked general store is available, as well a small (expensive) gas station. Cachuma also has a pool (for an additional fee), gameroom, playgrounds/jungle-gyms, and disc golf courses available.
Cachuma Lake is a great place for wildlife viewing and birding. I am a photographer, and love seeing all of the birds that hang out around Cachuma - ducks, coots, Western and Clark’s grebes, loons, osprey, hawks, turkey vultures, turkeys, quail, American white pelicans, cormorants, etc. I have gotten my best birding photos at Cachuma Lake. Deer can often be viewed on the shores of the lake, and we have even seen bobcats and foxes. Pontoon boat tours to view wildlife launch every day from the marina.
Keep in mind that you CANNOT SWIM in Cachuma Lake. Silly, I know, but they justify it because Cachuma lake is Santa Barbara’s drinking water source. You are allowed to boat, kayak, and fish on the lake, but no swimming! Motor boats and pontoon boats are available to rent, and now they even have kayaks to rent hourly! My dad has a small 14 ft fishing boat, and we enjoy taking the boat out on the lake to fish and sightsee.
There are endless trails around Cachuma Lake in Los Padres National Forest. There are some mellow hikes around the perimeter of the lake itself, offering nice views of the lake and the surrounding Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountains.
Figueroa Mountain is near Los Olivos - Grass Mountain and Figueroa Mountain are both beautiful hikes, especially in the spring when the wild flowers are in bloom. Both are strenuous, steep hikes, but the views are totally worth the effort.
Cachuma lake is about a half an hour from the city of Santa Barbara, 15 minutes away from Santa Ynez (if you like to gamble check out the Chumash Casino), 20 minutes away from Solvang, and 20 minutes away from Los Olivos. There is fantastic wine tasting available in any of these small towns, and everywhere in between - you are in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country! There are endless tasting rooms available inside the towns, and countless vineyards that you can visit to wine taste. A popular wine trail is on Foxen Canyon Road - it is a lovely drive on a country road with some really beautiful and quality wineries and vineyards.
Solvang is a fun town to visit - it was originally a community full of Danish immigrants, so the Danish theme has stuck. It is very touristy, but even as a native, I still enjoy going to Solvang. There are a lot of shops, antiques, candy stores, restaurants and tasting rooms to visit. We are partial to the Solvang Restaurant, and for more than just their Danish Aebleskivers. If you don’t know what an aebleskiver is - its DELICIOUS. Aebleskivers are round Danish pancakes that are shaped like a ball - they serve them with amazing homemade raspberry jam and powdered sugar. Everything at the Solvang Restaurant is good, from their traditional breakfasts to their Scandinavian offerings to their sandwiches.
More Food Recommendations:
Cold Springs Tavern is a historic site dating back to the 1880s when it was a stagecoach stop. Cold Springs Tavern has a full bar and serves some quality meat selections, including famous Santa Barbara style tri-tip. If you are there on a Sunday, they start serving traditional tri-tip sandwiches around 11am - BEST tri-tip sandwiches around! They cook up the meat on giant barbeques outside, and serve the sandwiches hot off the grill - just tri-tip and fresh garlic bread, YUM. They have homemade salsa and homemade BBQ sauce to dress the sandwich with. Sundays at Cold Springs Tavern is a popular spot for locals to go have a beer or a drink with tri-tip, and there’s always a fun atmosphere.
If you are in the mood for some quality Mexican food, Dos Carlitos in Santa Ynez is a favorite spot.
Los Olivos Grocery has a great deli with delicious sandwiches - both hot and cold - and a good selection tasty deli side dishes. The store also has a good selection of local wines.
**Plumbed Toilets: Yes
**Drinking Water: Yes
**Showers: Yes (coins needed)
**Picnic Table: Yes
**Cooking Grate: Yes
**Cell Service: Yes - Limited
Animal Bins/Food Lockers: No
This a a very nice campground nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara county. The sites for dry camping are the largest that I have every come across in 50 years. The full hookup sites are your standard size that you see at most rv parks. The lake is nice but is at an all time low water level because of the ongoing drought. The Danish town of Solvang is 12 miles away and there must be 50 places that you can go wine tasting in the area if that is your thing.
The campsites are close together, but almost every spot has a tree to hang a hammock and for shade. Super kid friendly, with shows, events, daytime activities. They have showers, water, and also a pool. Minutes drive to wineries in the area. Nice views of lake Cachuma (although no swimming). Also disc golf course is cool and challenging
Last time I was here was years ago for a soccer tournament. My family and I went a couple times. It was an awesome campground and literally right next to the Lake. Bathrooms were clean and staff were very helpful at providing directions of nearby stores if we needed anything.
I have been coming to this campground annually since around 2009, and I've loved every trip. The campground is on the larger side, filled with grassy and shaded sites all throughout it. There is a general store, clean bathrooms, and showers.
The campground is based on a peninsula that juts into the lake, therefore it has waterfront campsites on both sides, and all the sites in the middle are only a matter of 2-3 campsites from a water's edge. When you first enter the campground, there are a few day use only spots near the general store. All campsites at the base of the peninsula are the ones that families tend to stick to, as there is a pool, its close to the store, and that is the only area on the campground with full and partial hookups. As you travel up the peninsula, limited Yurts and Cabins are along the waterfront. Most yurts have a foot trail down to the water. The Yurt I stayed in (we camped 3 nights and had a yurt the last two) slept 4-6 people, 6 if you have kids. Yurts do not have bathrooms. It has electricity and heat, two bunk beds, a view of the lake, a wrap- around patio with chairs, picnic table, fire pit, water source, grill, and ample parking space. I have never stayed in a cabin here before but they look really nice.
The general store is filled with pretty much anything you could ask for. About 3 rows of dry grocery goods, 1 refrigerated section including a very impressive selection of local craft beers, ice machine, firewood, smores stuff, fishing poles/ odd's and end's, candy, trinkets and gifts, propane, camping supplies, cooking supplies, stationary, etc. The wine selection, on the other hand, is sub-par; so a stop in SB on the way up is a must if you need wine! Keep in mind the store closes week days at 4 and weekends at 5 if i'm not mistaken.
I think the main thing that keeps this campground so peaceful (other than their strictly enforced quiet hour from 10pm-7am) is the fact that NO SWIMMING, speedboats, wake boarding or waterskiing is allowed in the lake because is is a source of drinking water in the area. That being said, you are more than welcome to rent a 4 or 6 person fishing boat or 6-10 person pontoon boat for the day or hourly at the marina fishing store. The lake is open to fish until 6pm if you have a vehicle or are on a boat- a park ranger will come around at 6 and let everyone with a car know its time to go. However, if you walk to the marina, you could fish all night for all they care. You can also purchase fishing licenses for the day, 2 days, or year, at a reasonable price (I got a year pass it was $53.74) along with endless fishing lures, bait (including live), hooks, line, and poles. In regards to actually catching fish- In the past years I always rented a boat and i caught a lot of bass and carp, an occasional rainbow trout. This time I had plenty luck from certain parts of shore! Tons of beautiful 3 lb rainbow trout and 2 lb crappie! The limit was 10 per person, and people around us definitely caught their limit, but we were conservative and only caught what we needed for the day. Some fish bite more in certain areas of the lake than others, if you don't mind to hike a mellow/ moderate journey you'll find plenty of little coves within a reasonable distance of the campground. If you're looking for a bit more strenuous of a journey word has it there is a trail that goes all the way around the perimeter of the lake- I, however, have not hiked the trail, as my husband and I were backpacking into the campsite and that was an adventure in its self and I was exhausted!
Like I mentioned before, the bathrooms and showers are very clean. No mirrors in the bathroom, there are multiple bathroom buildings throughout the campground along with the showers. Showers are individual rooms that have a locking door. Showers are pay showers, so bring a lot of quarters if you plan to stink pretty. I think it was $1.50 for 3 minutes.
Another note: This campground is near the water (the lake and the ocean) and you're in the mountains; which means it will be generally pretty windy (bring chapstick!). The wind dies down midday and at night. If you're trying to light a fire when the sun is setting- good luck. 20 minutes later- you're golden. It also gets very cold at night! I'm form Southern California, so by cold I mean mid to low 40's, then add wind- yikes. On the contrary, bring sun screen for the day- cause it gets pretty warm! I'm still suffering the repercussions of not wearing any after fishing all day lol.
Overall the campground is aesthetically pleasing on many levels. From the abundance of grass (no dirt sites), trees, rolling hills of knee high grass, blooming flowers, wildlife (ground squirrels, birds including california condors, blue jays, hawks, etc.), and, of course, the gorgeous cascading mountains plummeting straight into the lake, there's not a thing about this campsite I couldn't love.