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Lake Cachuma

Santa Barbara, California, United States


Lake Cachuma is a peaceful place to visit. It's nice to sit on the shore and look out on the blue water and the white cliffs. If the water level is high enough you can walk down to the shore and skim rocks with your kids. Kids like to play on the new playground which has shade triangles over it and unique climbing areas. There is plenty of grass everywhere for running around and pretty spots to picnic. In summer there is a center with swimming pool, video games, and miniature golf but we've never tried it. Swimming is not allowed in Lake Cachuma because it's a water source for Santa Barbara. Camping isn't so great because there is no one patrolling to make sure people are quiet during the night.
The Nature Center is always the highlight for us. It is designed in a really fun way! There are exhibits about all kinds of things: touchable feathers, fossils, plants, cones, and rocks, arrowheads and Chumash grinding stones, a tree slab with rings you can count, animal fur and a game to guess which animal it comes from, skulls and jawbones, a tiny bird's nest with blue eggs, and a feeder outside swarming with hummingbirds. Everything is hands-on and designed for kids!  There's a funny historical poster: the Ten Commandments for Stagecoach Passengers.
For a nice view of Lake Cachuma, check out the two lookouts at Bradbury Dam Vista Point, just west of the entrance to Lake Cachuma.
There are some cute towns nearby to check out: Solvang, a colorful Danish-themed town where you can buy a viking sword for your child, and Los Olivos, a hip wine-room town where you can enjoy a sandwich on a sunny patio. For an amazing medieval playground in Solvang that will keep your kids happy for hours, check out Sunnyfields Park.
Other natural places to explore on Highway 154 are: Playgrounds, a hiking and rock-climbing spot up in the mountains with huge boulders and panoramic views of Santa Barbara, Lizard's Mouth, a short hike to little caves overlooking a gorgeous view of Santa Barbara and Goleta- very fun for kids to wonder around with you and explore, and Santa Ynez River, a quiet river where you can skid rocks and swim!

Photo Gallery

Peaceful Lake Cachuma.

A picnic at Lake Cachuma.

Lake Cachuma in the distance, as seen from the vista point on Highway 154 (now closed due to budget cuts).

The new playground.

Having a blast on the new playground.

Picnic spot over the lake.

The blue, blue lake and chalky cliffs.

The Nature Center.

Bird feeders behind the Nature Center.

Autumn at the campground.

Beer print, fox print, deer print: plaque behind the Nature Center.

A cute place to sit outside the Nature Center.

The lake is very dry and low lately as the California drought continues.

California poppies along the side of Highway 154 in March.


This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.

The Cachuma Lake Nature Center is located at 2265 Highway 154, Santa Barbara CA 93105, call (805) 693-0691.
From Highway 101, take State St/Highway 154 and follow the signs to Highway 154. You will head up the mountain with spectacular views over Santa Barbara. After 17.5 miles, turn into the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area driveway. Cost is $5 per car.
There are restrooms.
The Nature Center is free- yeh! It is open Wed-Fri 12-4, Sat 10-4, and Sun 11-2 (despite the phone message that says Sun 10-2. We found this out the hard way!). Closed Mon and Tues.
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