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Local News

Gaviota Coast Receives Designation as State ‘Scenic Highway’

State Department of Transportation recognizes 21-mile stretch of Highway 101 west of Goleta

Highway 101 at the Gaviota Curve is near the northern terminus of the newly designated Gaviota Coast State Scenic Highway. Click to view larger
Highway 101 at the Gaviota Curve is near the northern terminus of the newly designated Gaviota Coast State Scenic Highway. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

In an effort to protect its natural scenic beauty, a picturesque 21-mile stretch of Highway 101 along the Gaviota Coast has been designated a state scenic highway.

The State Department of Transportation announced to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors that the coastline along the Gaviota Coast — the route of Highway 101 from the city of Goleta’s western boundary to Route 1 at Las Cruces —is a scenic highway.

“The purpose is to recognize and promote its unique natural and visual qualities,” Caltrans spokesperson Colin Jones said.

The route travels adjacent to some of the longest remaining rural coastlines in Southern California. 

Northbound commuters leaving the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta on the South Coast view the Pacific Ocean and mountains.

Southbound drivers enter the Gaviota Coast State Scenic Highway through the Gaviota Pass, traveling out of Gaviota Canyon.

The scenic designation also borders three California State Parks; Gaviota and Refugio State parks and El Capitán State Beach.

Natural habitats include grassy rolling hills and the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Additionally, the highway features numerous parallel watersheds draining to the ocean from the Santa Ynez Mountains.

The destination was made possible by a partnership between the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department, Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr and the Caltrans Landscape Architecture Division.

“Official designation as a state scenic highway will preserve the natural scenic beauty of this stunning coastline for generations to come,” said Farr.

The Gaviota Coast State Scenic Highway follows the same route used by Gaspar de Portola and Father Junipero Serra on their journeys up the coast in 1769, and also by Juan Bautista de Anza in Spain’s attempt to find a route to populate California in 1774.

The location joins a handful of areas designated as a state scenic highway, including a 19-mile section of Cabrillo Highway near Lompoc and 78 miles of Big Sur Coast Highway in Monterey.

“The county’s coastal visual policies and California State Park’s natural and cultural preservation mandates have protected the scenic quality along the Gaviota Coast for decades, and will be further enhanced under this new designation,” according to a statement by the County Executive Office.

In 1963, the state Legislature established the California Scenic Highway Program through Senate Bill 1467, saying, “The development of scenic highways will not only add to the pleasure of the residents of this State, but will also play an important role in encouraging the growth of the recreation and tourist industries upon which the economy of many areas of this state depend.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A car travels on Highway 101 along the Gaviota Coast, where a 21-mile section of roadway has been designated a state scenic highway. Click to view larger
A car travels on Highway 101 along the Gaviota Coast, where a 21-mile section of roadway has been designated a state scenic highway. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)
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