Goddard Campground: The Lost Jewel of West Camino Cielo

A barrier and "No Motor Vehicles" sign alongside West Camino Cielo at the old Goddard Campground site.

According to the old man, there was once a drive-up campground along the crest of West Camino Cielo, south of the road, called Goddard. Today a few rusty barriers and signs testify to the fact that there was indeed something there at sometime. North of the road, atop the mountain just above where the campground was located, a short trail leads into the forest and to the site of what was indeed, as per a USGS map from 1988, Goddard Picnic Ground. Yet, in contacting the USFS I was unable to obtain confirmation or any information at all about either the campground or picnic ground. The people I spoke with had never heard of Goddard.

Clint Elliott remembering (sorta) Goddard as it was:

“Oh do I have some fond memories of Goddard. As you know, when passing the cluster of mailboxes to your left as you make that right sweeping turn up past the huge boulder, you get an insight into the beauty of West Camino Cielo.

But the true majesty is when you finally break out of the Chaparral on the rim and are treated to the sweeping vistas of Goleta, Santa Barbara and Campus Point almost directly below.

Goddard Campground was the Jewel of West Camino Cielo. I spent many, many Friday and Saturday nights up there partying.  Sometimes just for a few hours before heading back down into town and out to Isla Vista or staying until the wee hours of the morning. It was a spectacular place to party—unbelievable place to drop acid or mescalin on a summer evening.

You can just imagine how mystic it was on a warm night when the Santa Ana winds were blowing. Eighty some degrees at 2:00 a.m. and the city lights twinkling below like a jewel encrusted serpent hugging the coast.

It was very popular back when I was in high school. During the week the word would spread about a party up at Goddard and everyone would get so pumped and start preparing all their favorite party favors, lining up dates with the cuties, passing the hat for a keg, tracking down some hash—you get the picture.

Obviously most of my fondest memories revolve around these hedonistic adventures. There is no more spectacular setting than Goddard for a Bohemian night around the camp fire.”

Hat tip to Craig R. Carey for providing the following excerpt from the campground guide authored by Bob Burtness (1963 edition), which describes the now defunct Goddard Camp as follows:

“Goddard Camp

Overlooking the coast and Channel Islands, Goddard Public Camp features the following: 1 double pit toilet, 1 garbage pit, 3 klamath stoves, 1 barbecue pit, 5 tables, 1 entrance sign, and 1 bulletin board. Situated at 2,500 feet elevation, the camp is open all year, but there is no nearby water supply. Goddard can be reached by Camino Cielo, just off Highway 150 (sic). The 1.2 mile stretch into camp is mostly paved, though sometimes narrow and winding. Total distance from Santa Barbara is 15 miles; and from Santa Maria and Lompoc, 55 miles.

This camp was part of a 40 acre parcel, deeded to the U.S. Forest Service for recreational purposes. The donor, a Mr. Goddard, was a prominent member of a Buddhist colony in the area. Yogi was also practiced there at one time.”

The hilltop where Goddard Picnic Ground was located.

Remnants of the old picnic grounds.

Goddard Campground noted here by the red dot.

The flat under the oaks where Goddard Camp once existed.

There are numerous dates carved into the sandstone at the lower Goddard site, such as the header photo showing “1977” and this marking here which appears to have once read “1962.”

The view from Goddard overlooking Goleta and the Pacific Ocean with Santa Cruz Island in the distance.

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11 Responses to Goddard Campground: The Lost Jewel of West Camino Cielo

  1. Wow… this is quite breathtaking! I had no idea there was a campground there. Thanks for the post!

  2. craig says:

    Thanks for this post, Jack.

    I had always assumed this old site was named for George H. Goddard (after whom Mt Goddard was named), but after double-checking Burtness (1963 edition) this morning that appears to not be the case.

    “Goddard Camp

    Overlooking the coast and Channel Islands, Goddard Public Camp features the following: 1 double pit toilet, 1 garbage pit, 3 klamath stoves, 1 barbecue pit, 5 tables, 1 entrance sign, and 1 bulletin board. Situated at 2,500 feet elevation, the camp is open all year, but there is no nearby water supply. Goddard can be reached by Camino Cielo, just off Highway 150. The 1.2 mile stretch into camp is mostly paved, though sometimes narrow and winding. Total distance from Santa Barbara is 15 miles; and from Santa Maria and Lompoc, 55 miles.

    This camp was part of a 40 acre parcel, deeded to the U.S. Forest Service for recreational purposes. The donor, a Mr. Goddard, was a prominent member of a Buddhist colony in the area. Yogi was also practiced there at one time.”

    I believe the site was closed in the late 70s; I somewhat suspect it was on the ‘88 quad only because that map was the photorevision of the ‘52 series.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      Heheh. Thanks, Craig, for the insight! I was in fact actually hoping you would have some information to add and I almost contacted you prior to posting. I knew you had a copy of the Burtness 1963 edition, something I have not been able to locate for myself, and figured that it was old enough to include something about Goddard, which the ’80s editions do not have. I’m going to include your entry here in the post itself. Thanks again.

  3. craig says:

    Okay, final bit. It was Dwight Goddard — and he left a long legacy of Buddhist-related writings and influences. The web is rife with anecdotes, history, and books by his hand.

  4. bajaranger says:

    I had no idea about the origins or the history of the campsite. But it is truly remarkable and not at all surprising that Mr. Goddard was a Buddhist. The location and stunning vistas from the campground lend themselves to the introspection and enlightenment that Buddhists seek. I can’t imagine a more perfect setting to contemplate the universe and one’s place in it. Thanks to you Jack for this post, and your friends who added some valuable historical insight.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps it’s high time to throw another Goddard party, circa 2012? Sounds GOODard to me.

    • Anonymous says:

      In the late 60’s we used to go to goddard and smoke a little herb and drink some cheap red mountain wine. Take our girlfriends and get lucky now and then. We used to go down to the large boulders on the west side, climb the rocks and play a little music. Guitars, bongo’s a harmonica. It sounded pretty good the way things echoed. Never saw anyone camping or bird watching. It was a place that not too many people knew about. If you continues on the road, it turned into a gravel or dirt road. It went all the way to refugio beach. Those were the good old days. I’m 66 now.

  6. John says:

    On Jan 28th 1966, I met a young lady on a blind date. We sat on top of the rock pile at Goddard Camp overlooking the Goleta Valley most of the night talking and cuddling. Four years later we married and to this day are still together happily ever after. Thanks for the pix of our “special” place.

  7. Thomas La Barge says:

    I am 55 years old and remember my parents in the late 60’s , early 70’s, taking my sisters and I to the Location for a picnic. My parents were outdoors type people and we were always camping somewhere. There used to be a church just up the hill from “Goddard” and I have home movies from that time showing it. Bikers took over the campsite and broke bottles, etc. Hooligans and the like would damage everything they could, thus the closure. The large rock that is there still has the hand and foot holds I remember as a child. Sure brings back old memories. It’s been many years since I have been there, but the only thing that changes is the height of the trees. TTFN.

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