Gaviota Tunnel

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Gaviota Tunnel
LocationNear Gaviota State Park, California
Coordinates34°29′20″N 120°13′34″W / 34.4888°N 120.226°W / 34.4888; -120.226
RouteNorthbound lanes of US 101
Length420 ft (130 m)
Tunnel clearance14.75 ft (4.50 m)

The Gaviota Tunnel (officially known as the Gaviota Gorge Tunnel) is a tunnel on U.S. Route 101 (US 101, most portions between San Francisco and Los Angeles follow the old El Camino Real) completed in 1953 in the center of Gaviota State Park,[1] 33 miles (53 km) northwest of Santa Barbara, California. It is 420 feet (130 m) long and 17.5 feet (5.3 m) tall. Only the northbound lanes of US 101 pass through it, as the southbound lanes descend from Gaviota Pass through a narrow canyon to the west of the tunnel. Because it is the only major route between the Santa Barbara County South Coast and the Santa Ynez Valley, bicycles are allowed through it. There is a rest area for both southbound and northbound lanes on the southern end of the tunnel, the southernmost one along U.S. Route 101.

There are frequent rockslides in the area, especially during and following rain. Some of the hillsides and road cuts are covered in netting to prevent erosion. There are also fences made of netting along the roadway to stop rocks that do fall.

An alternate bypass to this section of US 101 between Santa Barbara and Los Olivos is provided by State Route 154 (SR 154) capped by the Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge near the summit of San Marcos Pass. SR 154 cuts directly between Santa Barbara and Los Olivos in a northwestern direction, whereas US 101 runs along the coast of the Pacific Ocean about 25 miles (40 km) west before turning north passing through Buellton to meet up with SR 154 near Los Olivos.


Gaviota Pass is registered as California Historical Landmark #248. On this site during the Mexican–American War on Christmas Day 1846, the Mexican Army waited to ambush the American forces of John C. Frémont. Fremont learned of their plans and instead crossed the San Marcos Pass to capture Santa Barbara.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

The Gaviota Tunnel was featured in The Graduate, Wayne's World 2, and Sideways. But in the first two films, Dustin Hoffman and Mike Myers respectively travel the wrong way through the tunnel. In those movies, they are supposed to be going southbound, but go through the tunnel in the northbound direction (the tunnel does not have any southbound lanes). In Sideways, Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church are heading north, and therefore pass through the tunnel in the correct northbound direction.

In Grand Theft Auto V, the tunnel is known as the "Braddock Tunnel" and connects the town of Paleto Bay with the town of Grapeseed.

See also[edit]

Aerial view of Gaviota Tunnel


  1. ^ As can be seen on this map the tunnel lies in the middle of the state park, though strictly speaking, US 101 is not actually part of the park.
  2. ^ "Gaviota Pass". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-14.