Enjoy the Outdoors from the Comfort of your Yurt
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of the camping trips my family took every year. Some years we went with other families, some years we went alone. No matter who went, we always had such a special time as a family.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that my parents booked an annual camping trip because they didn’t have enough money to stay in a hotel and eat in restaurants for several days with a family of five. What I know now is that you can have an amazing family adventure on a budget by taking a camping trip.
When I had my first child, I was looking forward to taking my son and his future sibling on family camping trips. It turns out, my husband is not a fan of the outdoors or camping. Even though my husband isn’t a fan of camping, I couldn’t imagine raising two boys in the city without the experience of camping in the outdoors.
To be clear, even though I love camping, I’m not exactly outdoorsy. My family always camped at sites that had bathrooms and showers. I can’t go a day without a shower. What I do love is spending days outdoors, eating food cooked over a fire and roasting marshmallows over a fire.
While my first childhood camping trip was when I was 7 years old and my youngest brother was 18 months old, I decided to table the discussion with my husband until my youngest was at least 2 years old.
Camping at Cachuma Lake
Since my husband was not interested in camping because he didn’t want to sleep in a tent on the floor, I researched campsites that had some comforts of home without being too much of a glamping experience. Enter Cachuma Lake.
We had passed Cachuma Lake many times on our way to Solvang and the view from the highway was spectacular. I figured it would be a good intro to camping since we could always sneak off to Solvang or Santa Barbara if my family hated camping.
What I like about Cachuma Lake is that it provides the best of both worlds. You can rent a simple yurt for shelter but you don’t have many other indoor amenities. The yurt simply provides shelter. It is rustic, but it does include bunk beds, a small heater, a lamp sun shades over the windows and a door that locks. There is no kitchen or bathroom. While rustic, it was incredibly clean and well-maintained. Outside the yurt, you have your basic camping amenities. A spigot with cold running water, a picnic table, a barbecue and fire pit.
We chose a yurt that was not too far from the bathrooms, although there are port-a-potties near each group of campsites. We were also not far from the showers and just above the lake.
I was worried that my kids who get quite a bit of screen time at home would not be OK with a zero screen trip (especially my 3 year old) but I was completely wrong. In fact, neither of my boys asked for screens once during our three day camping trip. My husband and I didn’t touch our phones (except to take pictures) during the trip either!
Cachuma Lake Pros
- You can camp in a yurt. If your family has never gone camping, you should consider camping in a yurt for your first trip. You won’t need to spend money on a tent before you know if your family will enjoy the experience. You’ll also get to sleep on a foam mattress which is much more comfortable than the floor! If you want to jump in head first, there are a ton of campsites at Cachuma Lake.
- You won’t be totally roughing it at Cachuma Lake. If you are concerned about amenities, you will not be disappointed at Cachuma Lake. The bathrooms were really clean (really!) and the showers had hot water and were also very clean. The campground also has a grocery store where you can buy your fire wood, ice and anything you forgot as well as a gas station and boat rentals if you want to get on the water. While you can’t swim in the lake, there is a pool on site. We didn’t use it since our youngest wasn’t potty trained and swim diapers aren’t permitted.
- It is easier to keep the dirt out when you camp in a yurt. Did I mention that while I like camping I don’t like being dirty? My kids were constantly running in and out of the yurt and playing on the beds, but I wasn’t bothered since I stored our sleeping bags on a top bunk and was able to sweep our sleeping area before we went to bed. That would not be so easy to do in a tent.
- The views are spectacular. Cachuma Lake is flanked by the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountains. Since the lake is used for drinking water, it is incredibly clean.
Cachuma Lake Cons
- You can’t swim in the lake. This is both a pro and con. It would be nice to swim in the lake since it can get quite warm at Cachuma Lake (it was nearly 100 degrees in late June). Fortunately, there is a swimming pool if your kids are older. If your kids are too young for the pool, you can do what we did – have many many many water gun fights.
- Cachuma Lake is popular so you need to book early. I book our June camping trip in January. The yurts go pretty quickly so you need to book well in advance to get a yurt. I imagine there is less of a lead time for the regular campsites if you want to try that route.
- Noise violations are not monitored. We happened to be camping next to a very large group that stayed up until 2 a.m. each night. They were extremely loud. The noise ordinance states quiet hours are after 10 but there wasn’t anyone enforcing those rules so the group kept everyone in the surrounding area awake. That being said, both of my kids slept through the noise so I wasn’t too upset. I was really the only one in my family who couldn’t sleep with the singing and talking.
- Yurt camping isn’t cheap. While camping in a yurt is less expensive than staying in a hotel, it still isn’t cheap. We spent $180 for two nights in the yurt and since it was our first time camping, we had to buy all of the camping supplies (minus a tent). At least we won’t need to buy all of the supplies when we go camping next time!
Overall, our experience at Cachuma Lake was wonderful. The boys had an amazing time and are excited for our next camping trip (which is already booked). They got to eat food cooked over a fire and play outside all day with their parents – what could be better?
If you’re in Southern California and thinking about camping, definitely give Cachuma Lake a try!
2225 Highway 154
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Pricing – Rates vary by yurt size or type of camp site. A small yurt starts at $65 per night.