Phillip Anthony Lopez, 41, was apprehended about 8 a.m. at a home in Lompoc by investigators from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said Lt. Peter Spoto.
Spoto speculated that Lopez was staying with friends or family.
Lopez disappeared from the minimum security facility about 1 a.m. Monday. Guards noticed him missing during a head count.
Spoto said it was unclear how Lopez managed to travel nearly 160 miles from Soledad to Lompoc.
"I really couldn't tell you if he hitched a ride or had somebody pick him up," he said.
Lopez could have been eligible for release in about a year, but will now face escape charges, Spoto said. He will not be allowed to return to the camp and is custody at a prison facility near Lompoc, he said.
Lopez was serving time for weapons and drug charges and like other inmates at Gabilan Camp was considered a low-level offender.
Spoto said Lopez's escape likely was the first from the camp in more than 12 years. Camp inmates work on wildland fire crews and do other outdoor cleanup jobs.