Wild Camping Near Santa Barbara, California

Los Padres National Forest

Coordinates: 34.5149761, -119.8013448

As we headed south on Highway 1, we were finding less and less places to appropriately camp or park overnight. Fortunately, we found Los Padres National Forest.

From Santa Barbara, we took California 154 into the mountains, which was a smooth, and easy uphill. We then took a right on East Camino Cielo. This is a curvy road but our 2-wheel drive short bus did just fine. We saw even longer RVs already up here! There are multiple pull-offs on this road and the one that we chose was about two miles up and on the left.

When we first saw this location on a satellite map, we could see that it was surrounded by greenery. To our surprise, we arrived to find that the greenery is just shrubs that drop away from the elevated pull-off. This meant a few things: (1) awesome views, (2) no shade, and (3) less privacy from the road.

However, another major pro was that we got service! Service means a lot to us when we spend time in a national forest and don’t want to be worried about staying too long. We like to keep in contact with family and be productive if we can.

As with most of our wild camping spots, there are no amenities here. It is pack in and pack out. We spent most of our time during the day trying to stay cool in the shade of our bus. We later ventured out in the evenings when the temperature cooled and the sun was less intense. You can walk up and down the road or choose one of the many paths up the hills or along the mountain ridges.

On our second day, the clear skies and mountain views gave way to thick fog that made it impossible to see past about 20 feet. Foggy days are not ideal for coming or going to this spot as driving in fog on the curvy mountain road would be quite the hazard. We actually really enjoyed the fog for lowering temperatures and creating a mysterious experience.

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