Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park

chumash painted cave close up

In a cave near the city of Santa Barbara are a series of mysterious ancient cave paintings whose meanings are lost to time. Open from dawn to dusk, the Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park can be found 3 miles south of the San Marcos Pass.

chumash state park sign
Easily spotted sign from the side of the road.
chumash painted cave map
Map to the Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park.

Drive cautiously on the way to the cave. The road to the painted cave is narrow and curvy. It’s also prone to low clouds blanketing the mountainside in a thick fog.

road to chumash painted caves
The road to the Chumash painted caves is narrow, curvy, and prone to fog.

A steep rocky dirt path leads up to the cave entrance. Although the cave is protected by a heavy iron fencing to prevent further vandalism, it is still possible to get a good look at the historic art. There are other trails around the area, but mind your step and watch out for poisonous plants.

chumash painted caves trail
The short path up to the Chumash Cave platform.

Within this 7 acre park are hiking trails…somewhere. We had a hard time delineating the trails from the forest. It doesn’t look like they are used very often.

chumash painted cave erie trees
Walking through the fog and creepy trees added to the suspenseful visit.

Driving through the foggy winding road, the lack of noise from traffic, people, or forest animals all left an eerie feeling. Walking through dewed spiderweb filled trees with their branches reaching down as if trying to grab us added to that creepiness. This was exciting!

chumash painted cave sign
Information sign posted at the Chumash Painted Cave.

Carved from a massive sandstone cliff, this tiny cave houses some of the finest remaining cave art painted by Chumash Native Americans.

chumash painted caves inside
Preserved Chumash Painted Cave.

Anthropologists estimate the paintings could be several hundred or even thousands of years old. Even with the help of the remaining Chumash Indians, the meaning of this art is lost to the ages.

chumash painted caves
Image from Cyark conservation project.
chumash painted cave drawings
Up-close historic paintings by the Chumash American Indians.
chumash painted caves state park
The smallest California State Historic Park. Look closely at the greenery surrounding the sign and path…
chumash painted caves poison oak
Poison oak!

Stopping at this historic landmark of the Chumash American Indians was a nice addition to our adventure-filled day in Santa Barbara. Sometimes park rangers are available to share historic facts with visitors, but we didn’t see anyone while we were there. Our visit only lasted about 20-minutes.

Tips:

  • BEWARE of poison oak!
  • Bring a flashlight for better lighting.
  • Trailers and RV’s should not attempt driving these roads.
  • Be careful driving. Parts of the road narrows to a shared lane.
  • check out the CYARK conservation project for cool 3D models of the cave paintings.

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