Set amidst acres of wilderness flanked by the picturesque Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains, lies glimmering Cachuma Lake. Here you will find practically everything you need for a relaxing getaway in the great outdoors. Mild temperatures, typically sunny skies, and celebrated fishing conditions make camping here during winter months exceptionally rewarding. The County entered into a long-term lease with the Federal Bureau of Reclamation in 1953 to manage the 9,000 acre Cachuma Lake Recreation Area. Cachuma Lake was formed by the construction of Bradbury Dam in that same year. Located off scenic Highway 154 in the Santa Ynez Valley, Cachuma Lake is midway between the beaches and bustle of Santa Barbara and the Danish Community of Solvang. At any age… in any season… you'll find that the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area offers a fun and relaxing getaway.
If you’re up for a trek through weeds and thick mud, then you’ll love this place. We’ve gone cat fishing here so many times, it’s a fun place to have a drink with some friends, take the pups, turn on some music and enjoy the view by the lake. There are fees depending on your reservation, we did not reserve a day use spot just fished, so we did not pay a fee. We just parked and walked to a good place to fish at the lake. If you’d like to use the designated grills though, there is a fee. There’s a lot of passing boats on the lake and other fisherman, especially near the visitors center so be sure to find a spot away from the action if you really want to catch some fish. They will check your fishing license while on property and patrol the lake area regularly. It’s an enjoyable place to go for the day and sunsets are a beauty! Just don’t forget to hike back to your car before the sun sets as it gets very dark, very quickly. Happy fishing!
Beautiful lakes and fishing was awesome. Will be back for sure.
It gets very hot in the summer. So we choose spring and fall/winter camping. Less people, quieter. Rv camping is on top of one another. Not really a campng feeling. I would never RV camp here. Tents, yurts and cabin areas are very nice and some are very private. Great fishing.
As with many southern California lakes, there is no human contact with the water due to it being a reclamation center. Unlike many other southern California lakes, this one has a pool!
The bathrooms are well maintained and there are flush toilets and coin operated showers. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring. I tent camped, like always, but they have cabins, yurts and rv spots. The guys enjoyed the fishing.
I still have a problem paying $25+ for a place in the dirt, but families love it.
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
IT'S A BIG CAMPGROUND AND THERE ARE VERY FRIENDLY PEOPLE AROUND YOU AS WELL. MY FAVORITE SPACES ARE 68, 55, 133, AND 534. I GO 3 TO 4 TIMES A MONTH. I LIKE TO TRAVEL ALL OVER DOWN THE COAST, I WENT AS FAR AS VENTURE, CA THIS YEAR ALONE. HAPPY CAMPETS I WOULD SAY!!
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.