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Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria State Beach, 1/28/2011

Carpinteria SB is located in Santa Barbara County just North of Ventura and 12 miles South of Santa Barbara in the City of Carpinteria.  The park features beach camping, coastal trails, a restored creek mouth, interesting geological features, tidepools (a must see during minus tides), a harbor seal sanctuary and an interpretive themed playground for the kids.  You can walk the beach for miles from Carpinteria, either down the coast to Rincon Point or up the coast to Carpinteria Salt Marsh.  The trails are easy and mostly flat, suitable for the entire family.  If you are looking for more strenuous hikes check with Santa Barbara Hikes—the California State Beaches in Santa Barbara County are great places to camp while exploring the area trails.  Click any picture on this page below to enlarge and click the blue underlined text for more info. 

The Beach
(Click any picture to enlarge)

Carpinteria Sunset, 1/28/2011

Carpinteria, view down the coast during a minus tide, 2/18/2012

Carpinteria State Beach during a minus tide on 2/18/2012





Best viewed during a minus tide (see tide charts at the end of this page), Carpinteria has beautiful tidepools full of a good variety of tidepool sealife.  For some great pictures of some recent finds (2/18/12) see Friends of Channel Coast State Parks tidepool photo gallery on Facebook.  The tidepools are down the coast from the park entrance, walk along the beach past the creek mouth.  During low tide a large rock formation extends straight out into the ocean and is the best place for tidepooling, during higher tides it's not very visible.  Use caution out on the rocks and make sure to leave the least impact on this beautiful resource. 







Creek Mouth
Carpinteria Creek as it enters the ocean.  Some campsites in Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa campground loops are situated along the creek mouth.  A number of birds visit the small estuary that forms here.  A creek mouth restoration project was recently completed, more pictures (before and after) and project info at



Two examples of beach facing campsites (next to the sand) below.  There are four camp loops named after the 4 major Channel Islands just off the coast:  Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel.  Anacapa is the first loop near the entrance (here you will find the campfire interpretive programs & Visitor Center).  Heading "down coast" next is Santa Cruz loop.  Crossing Carpinteria Creek next is Santa Rosa loop and finally San Miguel loop. To see pictures of each campsite click here.  For a campground map see California State Parks website at:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/599/files/CarpinteriaCampgroundmap.pdf  

Santa Cruz Loop site next to the creek along the beach

I believe this site is in Santa Rosa Loop

Tar Pits Park and Carpinteria Beach Trail
One of the lesser known tar pits, like La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, Tar Pits Park is a natural tar seep or asphalt lake caused by oil seeping up through a fault. There are only about 5 (give or take a few) known tar seeps in the world, one of which is found at Carpinteria SB.  The tar at Carpinteria was used by Native Americans to seal boats, later mined to build roads and is now preserved as Tar Pit Park on the bluffs above the section of Carpinteria SB before the pier also known as  “Jelly Bowl” beach.  You may see tar oozing from the ground or the cliffs in this end of the park.  From the stairs nearby the tidepools and San Miguel campground loop, continue walking down the coast on the bluff top trail (Carpinteria Beach Trail) which passes thru Tar Pit Park.

Tar Pit Park & Carpinteria Beach Trail on the bluff tops, "Jelly Bowl Beach" below

Carpinteria Beach Trail in Tar Pit Park



Tar oozing from the ground on the trail

Click picture to enlarge, interpretive sign, facts about Tar Pit Park

Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary and Coastal Vista Trail

At the end of Tar Pit Park near the pier and oil operations (called by various names such as "Chevron Oil Pier", "Venoco Pier" or "Carpinteria Pier") the trail will take a turn around the parking lot and you will see the sign designating the trail as "Coastal Vista Trail" and Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary.  This is one of only four Harbor Seal rookeries in Southern California and only one of 2 accessible to the public.  The seals are protected, the beach is closed to human use within so many HUNDREDS of feet (750 I believe) and heavy fines/legal actions are involved for those who ignore this.  The seals and their pups are easy viewed from the bluff tops, binoculars not required but I'd bring them just to get a better look.  You will find interpretive guides on the bluffs who can tell you a lot about the seals and other facts about the area. 



Trail from Tar Pit Park, "heading down coast" passes oil operations to the seal sanctuary

Coastal Vista Trail/Carpinteria Bluffs Trail just past the seal sanctuary

View of the beach from the trail

Beach access trail, the next "point" down the beach is Rincon

Carpinteria Bluffs Trail to Rincon Point & County Beach

Continue on the trail past Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary down the coast, the trail soon comes to the train tracks picking back up on the other side of the tracks (cross with extreme caution).  This area is outside of Carpinteria State Beach and is known as Carpinteria Bluffs or Carpinteria Bluffs Trail.  Additional trails turn off "inland" bordering a flower farm, this area is Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve.  Continuing down the coast the trail ends at Rincon Point which includes Rincon County Beach and Surf Beach--one of the top surf spots in California.  It is about a 6 mile round trip from Carpinteria SB to Rincon and back.



Rincon Beach

Nearby Park & State Beaches:

McGrath State Beach (to reopen May or June 2012)
San Buenaventura State Beach
Emma Wood State Beach
Rincon County Beach
El Capitan State Beach
Refugio State Beach
Gaviota State Beach
Also see Carpinteria Salt Marsh (about 1 block up the coast from Carpinteria SB). 

Did you know when you pay for day use or camping at any one of the California State Beach parks listed above your receipt allows you to visit other California State Beaches nearby (for day use) without paying again? 


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