Finding a freshwater lake around Los Angeles is nearly impossible, which is a usable reservoir. Before moving to L.A. many people don’t realize that southern California is a complete desert. Seriously there’s practically no nature made freshwater lakes, except for ones in the mountains.
There’s a little exception to the rule – the Cachuma lake in Santa Barbara. Given that the lake is located almost 3 hours away from LA consider staying overnight in Santa Barbara county.
You have pretty at least 3 towns to stay at while exploring the region. Santa Ynez, Solvang and the city of Santa Barbara. We, however, opted outside to stay at various camping sites around the Cachuma lake.
Side note: Keep in mind, however – the lake is almost half full at this point and you probably won’t be able to swim in the dirty water.
Things to do at lake Chauma with kids.
Surrounding hills offer some of the unusual hiking trails with sharp drops and treacherous paths. Probably best for parents with older kids. Of course, you might want to go boating and fishing on the lake; however, we won’t advise swimming in the lake – the water doesn’t seem to be saturated (clean) enough. Given the dry climate of the past decade, the lake has almost shank to a level halve of the original volume.
Fortunately you’ll have a great staying overnight at the Lake’s vast campground which is open all-year-around. In case all the spots are taken by the lake, there are several more auxiliary campgrounds off of Paradise rd. located 15 min from the lake. If you want to try something unusual they even have yurts for rent – we haven’t seen anything like it in California so far.
There are a ton of hiking trails located around the lake as well as off of Paradise rd. along the Santa Yanez river. Additionally, if you’d like to see the Chumash Indians painted cave, you can swing by the caves off of 154 (San Marcos Pass). Was it worth it? not really, but if you’re going to go there might as well check it out… Also, keep in mind there are road restrictions since a piece of rock is hanging over the path and your trailer, camper might not make it through. See the photo below.
Under any circumstances do not go to Solvang, unless you have to. A perverted version of European/Hollandish/Denmark/??? town is located about 20 min west of the lake. It looks amazing from the pictures, in reality, it is a total souvenir-facade tourist trap. The prices are way elevated for no reason.
The food is terrible and there’s just a weird sense of decay about this town. There’s nothing authentic about it. On the first approach, the town somewhat reminds of Carmel by the sea, although on the second look you realize how fa]ke it is. The only worthy thing there is an ice cream shop.
We recommend bringing a tent and a fishing pole to enjoy a sunset on the lake Cachuma before it completely dries out. The place looks amazing at night during the full moon. Given the dangerous terrain and distance of any hospital, perhaps Santa Barbara being the closest – consider extra precautionary measure while venturing our into the wild. This trip would be ideal for parents with older children.
Camping Address: Cachuma Lake Park225 California 154, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Road to Painted caves: 2225 Highway 154, Santa Barbara, CA 93105