El Canyon Capitan – Rustic and Glorious

When I was younger my dad took me and my brother on a fishing trip in Canada. The proprietor of the place we stayed described it as rustic, but the ragged nature of the place left me with a longstanding trepidation of anything considered rustic. I am now able to change my description of rustic.

My wife had been angling for us to visit El Canyon Capitan north of Santa Barbara for years. We arranged a visit on the weekend before Thanksgiving, and we were sad to depart after our stay.

capitan1capitan2I had some trepidation as I pictured it being a rough and tumble rustic camp site, but the cabins, platform tents and yurts are comfortable, spacious and well-appointed.

The area is rich with history; the Chumash lived among the creeks coursing their way to the ocean, an area they call ’the dancing place of celebration near the sea.’ Indeed, El Capitan Beach is a stroll away, and the Los Padres National Forest rings the grounds. As a two hour drive north of LA, El Canyon Capitan is a great stop on a road trip to San Francisco. Once we unloaded our car, we tucked it away in a lot with all the other cars, such that the campground is thankfully free of vehicles.

The Canyon Suite was perfect for our family. Our daughters slept on the pullout sofa. A kitchenette separated them from our room, which had a comfortable king sized bed and high ceilings.

capitan3Bikes are available for free, and we jumped on beach cruisers for a ride along the ocean. Had we not come equipped with a nice Pinot Noir, we would have had a large selection at the Canyon Market, which also offered sundries, food and other merch. We had preordered our dinner kit, which was delivered to our cabin: burgers, salad, beans, s’mores and firewood. The firepit outside our cabin became our kitchen. We city slickers relied on a second helping of the firestarters to get our blaze underway (isn’t there an all natural more effective firestarter available from a kid somewhere?)

capitan4Bring your own longer handled grill implements if you are relying on their equipment; the fire gets hot and the handle seems to get shorter as you try to flip your burgers. But as with all cooking, it tastes better if you do it yourself.

The porch outside our cabin was a great spot from which to watch the shadows grow longer. A deer ventured through the meadow at dusk, and our Pinot Noir tasted even better.

There were many amenities on offer at El Capitan Canyon, such as a heated pool and a spa which we will need to enjoy on our next visit. The latter apparently leverages the indigenous cedar, oak and sycamore among the botanical garden setting. In-cabin treatment is also available.

El Capitan Canyon falls into my definition of glamping. It is certainly the perfect balance of comfort and rustic.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.