Filed under: Activities & Attractions, Family Camping, Family Day Trips, Historic Places & Landmarks, Kid-Friendly Trips, Roads & Routes, RV Home School, Scenic Byways/Historic Routes, The Road Less Traveled
Painted Cave, Just a short drive out of Santa Barbara, California
I’ve always thought Santa Barbara, California was a tourists’ dream with its art galleries, museums, theaters, shopping and warm sunny beaches. I see Santa Barbara in the movies, read about it in books and I’m sure I’m not alone in the fact that I secretly hope to run into a movie star while at the local grocery store. But over the years, after numerous visits to Santa Barbara, I learned that this city has more to offer just up the hill, including rock art by the Chumash Native Americans.
If you are in for a short scenic drive on a winding mountain highway you can enter the Los Padres National Forest from Santa Barbara easily. (Note: that there is an abundance of RV camping and tent camping available if you want to make more than a day trip out of it!) We took the 101 Freeway to Santa Barbara than took highway 154 toward Lake Cachuma. The highway is slow and steep in the first stretch, but there are lots of passing lanes so just be patient if you are following a slow truck or RV. I found them to be very courteous about pulling over and letting the cars pass. The scenery is magnificent and the road is full of curves and narrow. Personally, I almost got so caught up with the breathtaking views that I nearly ran off the road! So I caution you to be careful! From some spots we could see the Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara!
The next turn we took was a right on Painted Cave Road. This road is not advisable for RV travel, so take the car.
Now here’s the treasure – this is what you’ve been waiting for.
About two miles in this narrow canyon is a real “Painted Cave”. It is estimated that the Chumash Native American cave drawings date back to the 1600’s and earlier! This is one of the best preserved examples of Chumash rock art partly due to the heavy iron gate that keeps people from actually entering the cave. There is a pull out at the edge of the road that is big enough to hold 2 or 3 cars at one time. After getting out of the car Painted Cave is right there up a few steps beside the road. There is no fee to park or visit Painted Cave Historical State Park.
My Kids were fascinated and so was I. We also learned that it can be chilly in the shade of the canyon. Next time we go up to Painted Cave to admire the Chumash rock art we will dress in layers. Another tip, we discovered that Painted Cave is a dark cave. To get a good look at the Chumash rock art you need a flashlight.
If you are camping at Ocean Mesa Campground and need a break from beach life take the 101 Freeway South to Santa Barbara, about 20 miles, to get to the 154 Highway. If you are staying at the Santa Barbara Sunrise RV Park take the 101 North to the 154.