Guadalasca Trail via La Jolla Canyon (Point Mugu State Park)

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Old Boney Mountain from near the top of the Guadalasca Trail

Old Boney Mountain from near the top of the Guadalasca Trail

Old and new growth in Wood Canyon

Old and new growth in Wood Canyon

Guadalasca Trail via La Jolla Canyon (Point Mugu State Park)

  • Location: Ray Miller Trailhead in Point Mugu State Park between Malibu and Oxnard.  From Highway 101 in Oxnard, take Highway 1 south for 13 miles.  The Ray Miller/La Jolla Canyon trailhead parking lot will be on your left, about two miles past the Chumash Trailhead.  From Santa Monica, take highway 1 north for 34 miles.  The trailhead parking lot will be on the right, about two miles past the Sycamore Canyon Campground.  From the San Fernando Valley, take Highway 101 to Highway 23 and head south to P.C.H.  Parking is $8.  Automated machines accept exact cash payments, MasterCard and Visa.
  • Agency: Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance: 10.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • Recommended gear:  sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
  • USGS topo maps: “Point Mugu”
  • More information: Trail map here; Everytrail report here; video shot by a mountain biker on the Guadalasca Trail (opposite direction from description below) here;  Point Mugu State Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - Start of the hike, La Jolla Canyon Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike, La Jolla Canyon Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The long but easily graded Guadalasca Trail is one of Point Mugu State Park’s more enjoyable routes. It’s popular with mountain bikers (expect to see a few on the trail) but due to its remote location within the park, it can be tricky to do as a day hike. The easiest way to hike the Guadalasca Trail is the trip described here; a “balloon” type hike consisting of a 2.6-mile out and back segment and a 4.9-mile loop.

0:18 - Steps by the seasonal waterfall (times are approximate)

0:18 – Steps by the seasonal waterfall (times are approximate)

Starting at the Ray Miller Trailhead, take the La Jolla Canyon Trail north. As of this writing the park is still recovering from the effects of the 2013 Spring Fire. New growth is starting to take place but the area is still largely dry and burned.

0:30 - Keep right at the fork

0:30 – Keep right at the fork

At about 0.7 miles, you pass by a small, two-tiered seasonal waterfall. Unless there have been recent heavy rains, don’t expect much from the waterfall, although at this point, where a tributary joins La Jolla Canyon, the trail starts to feel more rugged and remote. You climb into the narrow canyon, clinging to the east wall. A few burned stumps of coreopsis plants can be seen poking up through the rocks; hopefully future wet seasons will help bring them back into bloom. Sadly, graffiti and trash take away from the appeal of this section of the trail; while most people come to Point Mugu and other parks to enjoy nature, keep an eye out for those who might not have such a worthwhile reason for being here.

0:41 - View of La Jolla Valley

0:41 – View of La Jolla Valley

At 1.2 miles (and almost 600 feet of elevation gain) you reach a Y-shaped split. The left fork heads toward Mugu Peak, but our route heads right, toward La Jolla Valley. Things get a little easier here as the trail grade levels out considerably and chaparral and scrub oaks provide shade. At about 1.7 miles, you get a nice view of La Jolla Valley to the left, pleasantly green with spring rains, contrasting the burnt hills around it.

1:02 - Descending Hell Hill with Boney Mountain in the distance

1:02 – Descending Hell Hill with Boney Mountain in the distance

Soon after you reach another split where you stay right. At 2.4 miles, turn right on the La Jolla Fire Road and follow it uphill 0.2 miles to a four-way junction; the start of the loop. Hiking the loop counter-clockwise, as described here, will spare you having to ascend the appropriately nick-named Hell Hill (650 feet elevation change in 0.8 miles.)

1:10 - Turn left on to the Wood Canyon Fire Road at the bottom of Hell Hill

1:12 – Turn left on to the Wood Canyon Fire Road at the bottom of Hell Hill

As you descend Hell Hill, you’ll get a nice view of Boney Mountain and the northern end of Sycamore Canyon. At the bottom of the steep road, turn left on the Wood Canyon Fire Road and head north for a pleasant 0.3 miles beneath the shade of some oaks to the lower end of the Guadalasca Trail.

1:20 - Start of the Guadalasaca Trail

1:23 – Start of the Guadalasaca Trail

The first part of the Guadalasca Trail follows a wooded tributary of Wood Canyon; then it climbs into an open area. At 4.5 miles from the start, bear left at a fork. You cross the shallow canyon and start a long, gradual ascent. A solitary oak marks the approximate halfway point of the hike and makes a good rest spot.

Past the oak, the trail makes a few long switchbacks, providing good views of Boney Mountain, the Ventura coastal plain and the northern end of the park. If visibility is good, you may be able to see Ojai’s Topatopa Mountains.

1:50 - Bear left to stay on the Guadalasca Trail

1:50 – Bear left to stay on the Guadalasca Trail

At 6.2 miles, the trail becomes an abandoned fire road. Bear left and continue ascending briefly to a vista point (the high point of the hike) at 6.5 miles, where you can get a nice aerial view of La Jolla Canyon and a little slice of ocean. From here, the trail gradually descends a mile back to the junction with the Overlook Fire Road. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the Ray Miller Trailhead.

2:10 - Loan oak on the Guadalasca Trail

2:10 – Lone oak on the Guadalasca Trail

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

2:36 - Ocean view from the high point of the Guadalasca Trail

2:45 – Ocean view from the high point of the Guadalasca Trail

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Big Sycamore/Overlook Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

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Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

Looking north from the Overlook Fire Road

Looking north from the Overlook Fire Road

Big Sycamore/Overlook Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

  • Location: Point Mugu State Park between Malibu and Oxnard.  From Oxnard, take highway 1 south for 17 miles.  The Sycamore Canyon trailhead is on the left (if you reach the Sycamore Canyon Campground,  you’ve come too far.)  From Santa Monica, take highway 1 north for 32 miles.  The Sycamore trailhead will be on the right, about a mile and a half past Deer Creek Road.  From the San Fernando Valley, take highway 101 to highway 23 and head south to P.C.H.  Parking is $12.  Checks or cash are accepted and change is not available.
  • Agency: Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance: 9.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance)
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • Recommended gear:  sunblock; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: California Hiking
  • USGS topo maps: “Point Mugu”
  • More information: Trail map here; Everytrail report here; Point Mugu State Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - Start of the hike at the day area parking lot (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike at the day area parking lot (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This trip is basically a mirror image of the Big Sycamore/Serrano Canyon loop, trading scenic Serrano Valley for panoramic views of La Jolla Valley.  Both hikes feature great ocean and mountain views. The damage from the recent Springs Fire is sobering, but this is still a very enjoyable hike and seeing the aftermath of the fire is a good reminder of how precious a natural resource Point Mugu State Park really is.

0:07 - Start of the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road (times are approximate)

0:07 – Start of the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road (times are approximate)

From the day parking area, head past the entry station, follow the service road for a quarter mile past the campsites and pass by a gate, accessing the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road. Almost immediately you’ll notice the Scenic Trail branching off to the left; your return route. Continue heading north into Big Sycamore Canyon, passing several turnoffs for other trails.

0:51 - Live oak shortly past the picnic area

0:51 – Live oak shortly past the picnic area

At 2.3 miles, a picnic table beneath a large oak makes a nice rest spot. You continue almost another mile to a junction with the Wood Vista trail (which is also the Backbone Trail.) Turn left and begin the only major ascent of the hike, climbing steadily for the next two miles, making long, looping switchbacks. As you climb higher, you get a nice view not only of Big Sycamore Canyon but of Boney Mountain.

1:06 - Left turn on the Wood Canyon Vista Trail/Backbone Trail

1:06 – Left turn on the Wood Canyon Vista Trail/Backbone Trail

At about 5 miles from the start, you reach the Overlook Fire Road; this is the approximate half way point of the hike, a good spot to take a break and enjoy views of La Jolla Valley. Turn left and head south on the Overlook Fire Road, which follows the ridge that divides Big Sycamore Canyon and La Jolla Canyon. Keep your eyes peeled for Anacapa Island, visible between two hills.

2:10 - View of La Jolla Valley from the Overlook Fire Road, top of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail

2:10 – View of La Jolla Valley from the Overlook Fire Road, top of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail

The trail reaches a high point of about 1,100 feet at 6 miles and begins its descent, with wide-ranging ocean views. Stay straight as the Ray Miller and Fire Line Trails branch off, and at about 8.5 miles you reach another junction. The Overlook Fire Road heads left but for a more scenic (and shorter) return, head straight on the Scenic Trail. You reach an overlook where you get an aerial view of Pacific Coast Highway, 350 feet below.

2:50 - Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

2:50 – Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

After enjoying the view, continue following the trail downhill, staying straight at a junction with some other trails, and make your descent back into Big Sycamore Canyon. At the bottom of the Scenic Trail, turn right to head back into the campground and follow the road to your car.

3:30 - The overlook

3:30 – The overlook

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

3:50 - View from the Scenic Trail, descending back into the canyon

3:50 – View from the Scenic Trail, descending back into the canyon

Hidden Pond Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

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View of Boney Mountain from the Hidden Pond Trail

View of Boney Mountain from the Hidden Pond Trail

Sycamores on the No Name Trail

Sycamores on the No Name Trail

Hidden Pond Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

  • Location: Thousand Oaks.  From highway 101, take the Lynn Road exit and head south (left if you’re coming from L.A.) for 5.6 miles.  Turn left into the Rancho Sierra Vista park and drive to the second parking lot.  From the north, take highway 101 to Wendy Drive.  Turn left, go 0.8 miles and turn right on Borchard Rd.  Turn right, go 0.5 miles and turn left on Reino.  Go 1.2 miles and turn left on Lynn, and drive a mile to the park.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area & Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance: 9.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain)
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo maps:  Newberry Park; Triunfo Pass
  • Recommended gear:  sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: Trip reports (slightly different routes described) here and here; trail area map here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 8
Beginning of the trail at Rancho Satwiwa

Beginning of the trail at 0:00 – Rancho Satwiwa (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

It’s hard not to enjoy Point Mugu State Park.  With about one hundred miles of trails over its 16,000 acres, elevation ranging from sea level to almost 3,000 feet and scenery including canyons, geology, meadows, ocean and mountains, it’s possible to do many different routes here.  This double-loop, featuring the Hidden Pond Trail, travels through the secluded northwest corner of the park.  It’s like a slightly easier version of the Old Boney Loop, with which it shares a few miles.

0:08 - Top of Big Sycamore Canyon Road (times are approximate)

0:08 – Top of Big Sycamore Canyon Road (times are approximate)

If you’re looking for a pond, you may be disappointed; you’re probably better off at Nicholas Flat, a little ways east. The “pond” is really a small vernal pool that often does not have any water. However, there are still a lot of scenic highlights on this route. There are many possible variations, including both longer and shorter versions of the hike described below. Whichever route you take, keep in mind that much of the trail is exposed, and make sure you save your energy (and water) for the long ascent on the paved road out of the canyon that concludes the hike.

0:16 - Looking down into Big Sycamore Canyon

0:16 – Looking down into Big Sycamore Canyon

From the Rancho Satwiwa area, follow the trail past the restrooms on the east end of the lot and turn left on the fire road. This brings you to Big Sycamore Canyon Road, the main artery through Point Mugu State Park. Turn right, pass the Satwiwa Cultural Center and enter the park’s boundary at 0.5 miles from the start. (Dogs are allowed only on the paved road).

0:34 - Beginning of the Hidden Pond Trail

0:34 – Beginning of the Hidden Pond Trail

Past the Danielson Fire Road, the road makes a dramatic descent into the canyon, taking in great views of Old Boney Mountain’s western flank. The scenery, distance and grade are similar to that of “Cardiac Hill”, the road leading back to Chantry Flats from popular Sturtevant Falls.

At 1.3 miles, you cross a bridge and enter the shade of wooded Sycamore Canyon. Shortly after the Upper Sycamore trail comes in from the left, look for the Hidden Pond Trail branching off to the right. At the first junction, stay left (the right fork leads to private property); and continue to a usually dry stream bed. Turn right and follow it for a few yards, picking up the trail and beginning an ascent out of the canyon.

0:46 - Canyon on the Hidden Pond Trail (stay right)

0:46 – Canyon on the Hidden Pond Trail (stay right)

At 2.4 miles from the start, you reach the top of a ridge, where you get nice views southwest toward La Jolla Valley. At 2.6 miles, you reach an intersection with Ranch Center Road. Turn right to continue on the Hidden Pond Trail. You make your way through an attractive meadow, staying left at an intersection (2.9 miles.)

1:04 - La Jolla Valley from the Hidden Pond Trail

1:04 – La Jolla Valley from the Hidden Pond Trail

Now you begin your first major ascent, climbing 200 feet in the next 0.2 miles. You are rewarded for your efforts with some nice views to the south; if you look over your shoulder, you’ll get a panoramic look at Boney Mountain.

1:11 - Approaching the fire road (stay right)

1:11 – Approaching the fire road (stay right)

At 3.1 miles, stay right as a trail heads down to the fire road. (You can use this route to shorten the hike if you’re low on time.) The Hidden Pond Trail continues its ascent, clinging to the wall of the canyon, making switchbacks up to the top of a ridge. At 3.7 miles, the trail bends to the left and follows a fence that marks the northern boundary of the park. Soon after, you reach a meadow that sometimes retains water (the pond.)

1:33 - Looking west on the Hidden Pond Trail (turn right at the next junction)

1:33 – Looking west on the Hidden Pond Trail (turn right at the next junction)

If you’re disappointed by the lack of water, the descent from the ridge is a good consolation prize. Great views to the west, including Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands, open up, and you also can see the Oxnard/Ventura coastal plain. At 4.8 miles from the start, you arrive at the Ranch Center Road.

1:52 - Site of the pond

1:52 – Site of the pond

You can cut a few miles off by turning left and following Ranch Center back to Big Sycamore Canyon (1.9 miles), but if you have time, take the longer and more scenic route farther down into the canyon. After a few yards, turn right on the dirt Ranch Center Fire Road, which heads downhill. The next mile is a pleasant, easy stretch, shaded by oaks and sycamores; the only downside are the phone lines that run overhead, but they’re easy enough to ignore.

2:03 - Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands from the Hidden Pond Trail

2:03 – Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands from the Hidden Pond Trail

Shortly before the Danileson Multi-Use Area, you’ll turn left on the single-track No-Name Trail (shortly after the Sage Trail.) You travel through a pleasant meadow lined with sycamores, with nice views of Boney Mountain to the right. After only 0.2 miles, bear left on the No Name Trail’s Spanish counterpart, the Sin Nombre Trail.

2:30 - On the Ranch Center Fire Road

2:30 – On the Ranch Center Fire Road

After traveling almost a mile through attractive rolling terrain, the Sin Nombre Trail dips into a wooded canyon and meets up with the paved Ranch Center Road, at a point you’ve already visited, where the Hidden Pond Trail intersects. Turn right and follow Ranch Center Road for 0.3 miles to Big Sycamore. Turn left and begin the long climb out of the canyon. At 0.8 miles, you return to the intersection with the Hidden Pond Trail. A big log next to the bridge makes a nice place to sit and rest before making the big climb out of the canyon.

2:40 - Approaching the Danielson area (turn left on the No Name Trail)

2:40 – Approaching the Danielson area (turn left on the No Name Trail)

Whether you follow the route exactly or do your own variation of it, odds are you’ll get to experience the scenic variety of Point Mugu State Park. Although it’s a bit of a drive for most L.A. residents, it’s worth it.

3:10 - Woodlands near the end of the Sin Nombre Trail

3:10 – Woodlands near the end of the Sin Nombre Trail

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By

3:40 - Back at the junction with the Hidden Pond Trail, about to start the climb out of the canyon (take a rest on the log!)

3:40 – Back at the junction with the Hidden Pond Trail, about to start the climb out of the canyon (take a rest on the log!)

reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

La Jolla Valley Loop via Chumash Trail (Point Mugu State Park)

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Entering La Jolla Valley, Point Mugu State Park

Ocean view from the top of the Chumash Trail, Point Mugu State Park

La Jolla Valley Loop via Chumash Trail (Point Mugu State Park)

  • Location: Western end of Point Mugu State Park, in Ventura County. From the end of I-10 in Santa Monica, take the Pacific Coast Highway for 36 miles.  The Chumash Trail is on the north side of the road (right), across from an orange lookout tower, past the other two entrances to the park (La Jolla and Big Sycamore).  From the San Fernando Valley, take Highway 101 to the Lewis Road/Route 34 exit (35 miles west of I-405).  Go south for 5.4 miles on Lewis (it changes to Hueneme Road on the way) and turn left on Las Posas.  Go 3 miles and turn left onto Pacific Coast Highway.  Go 2.3 miles and look for the parking lot on the left.  From Santa Barbara and Ventura, take highway 101 to exit 62/Pacific Coast Highway and follow it southeast for 13 miles.
  • Agency: Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, distance, elevation gain)
  • Best season: October to May
  • USGS topo maps: “Point Mugu”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
  • More information: Chumash Trail info and photos here and here; alternate route through the loop (including Mugu Peak) here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 8

This challenging and scenic route is like several smaller hikes rolled into one: a trip through a meadow with panoramic views, a pleasant walk through a quiet, shaded canyon–and an extremely steep climb and descent. There are several possible variations to the route; it can easily be shortened or extended.

The Chumash Trail is the westernmost trail in Point Mugu State Park, cutting through an area that could be described as the Santa Monica Mountains’ last stand before dropping to the ocean and the coastal plain of Ventura and Camarillo.  It’s closer to Santa Barbara than L.A., but can still be reached in about an hour from Santa Monica along P.C.H. The small parking lot that provides access to the Chumash Trail is the westernmost of Point Mugu State Park’s three Pacific Cost Highway entrances. It’s the only one too with free parking – although the steepness of the Chumash Trail could be seen as a price of sorts.

From the parking lot, the Chumash Trail ascends at a grade that may make you question the presence of a benevolent higher power. The good news is that as you climb up the hill, you’ll get great views of the ocean, and the Channel Islands. Expect to spend at least half an hour on this 0.7 mile stretch, which climbs nearly 900 feet. Several false trails branch off but the main route is usually pretty clear. About half way up, the trail splits but soon comes back together. At this point, the grade lessens slightly, but you’ll undoubtedly be huffing and puffing by the time you arrive at the juncture with the trail to Mugu Peak.

This route heads left, up to a saddle where another trail to Mugu Peak branches off. Stay straight, and begin a slight descent into La Jolla Valley. Here, you get a payoff for your earlier efforts. La Jolla Valley is true example of a land that time forgot. When you’re walking through the wide meadow, it’s hard to believe you’re in So Cal. Rolling hills dominate the foreground, while Boney Mountain lurks off to the northeast. Other than some satellite equipment on the hills and an occasional aircraft overhead, there are virtually no signs of civilization.

At 1.1 miles, the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail (your return route) comes in from the right. Stay straight; pass through a grove of oaks and make your way northeast. Another path branches off to the right, but you stay straight and soon arrive at the La Jolla Valley Campground. Just before you get there, you’ll cross a footbridge that may look unstable, but the plywood surface is backed up by more
solid beams underneath.

The La Jolla Valley Campground has a few shaded picnic tables. This can be a nice place to stop for a break before continuing (2.5 miles from the start). Shortly past the campground, you’ll turn right on the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail. (You can extend the trip by continuing northeast, where several other trails soon intersect.)

The La Jolla Valley Loop Trail heads south, through a canyon and past a small pond. Here you get the first real shade of the hike, mainly from tall chaparral, and a few oaks. After 1.2 miles (4 miles from the start), you’ll come to a split. The La Jolla Canyon Trail heads south toward Pacific Coast Highway, while our route heads west (right), cutting alongside the hill. You get a few glimpses of the ocean during this stretch (which is also part of the route to Mugu Peak described on this site.)

After 0.9 miles, the Mugu Peak trail branches off to the left (it’s a more challenging alternate to this route; it also eventually leads back to the Chumash Trail). Another trail heads right soon afterward, but we continue straight on the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail. It crosses a small canyon which may have some water if there’s been rain, and re-enters La Jolla Valley. At 5.7 miles from the start, you complete the loop. Head left, up the hill and out of the valley, and back toward the Chumash Trail. This is a good place to take a break and admire the scenery; it’s best to make the steep descent with fresh legs.

The variety and quality of the scenery on this trip is more proof that while Point Mugu State Park might not be terribly convenient, it’s one of the best places to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, and well worth the effort to get there.

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Old Boney Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

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View from the Old Boney Trail

On the Blue Canyon Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved.  Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability.  All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here.   Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Old Boney Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

  • Location: Thousand Oaks.  From highway 101, take the Lynn Road exit and head south (left if you’re coming from L.A.) for 5.6 miles.  Turn left into the Rancho Sierra Vista park and drive to the second parking lot.  From the north, take highway 101 to Wendy Drive.  Turn left, go 0.8 miles and turn right on Borchard Rd.  Turn right, go 0.5 miles and turn left on Reino.  Go 1.2 miles and turn left on Lynn, and drive a mile to the park.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area & Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance:  10.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
  • Suggested time: 5.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain, trail condition, terrain)
  • Best season: November- June
  • USGS topo maps:  Newberry Park; Triunfo Pass
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
  • More information: here; trip report for a similar but slightly shorter route here
  • Rating: 8

The Santa Monica Mountains aren’t nearly as tall as some of the other ranges in Southern California, but their sharp rises and falls provide for some dramatic views, especially in the western summits.  Hiking at 1,500 feet above sea level might not sound that dramatic, but when there’s a 1,000 foot drop off just to the side, it’s not hard to believe that you are higher than the top of the Sears Tower.

This challenging loop hike takes in a huge variety of scenery and terrain in the northern half of Point Mugu State Park, notably the Boney Mountain State Wilderness.

The route begins with an easy descent along the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, the park’s main north-south running artery.  This northern portion of the road is paved, making it a nice way to warm up for the work ahead.  Taking in great views of Big Sycamore Canyon as it descends, the road has an attractive rustic feel to it, although you are likely to have plenty of company (watch out for mountain bikers).  Stay straight as you pass turnoffs for various other trails, and in 3.1 miles you arrive at the Danielson Campgrounds.  This is a semi-developed campground where you can get water and take a picnic break before beginning the next leg of the trip.

Here, the route becomes more interesting, and challenging, as it winds through secluded Blue Canyon.  In just under a mile, you’ll arrive at an intersection and take a hard left on the Old Boney Trail.  You begin a steep climb (if you’re off to an early start, the chaparral and the side of the mountain should give you some shade).  As you ascend, you get great views of the valley below, and higher up, a glimpse of the ocean.  The climb is broken up in a few places by some nice flat stretches, where you can see Boney Mountain’s characteristic sandstone formations on the right.

After almost two miles of climbing, you make a descent and then begin another climb, passing a junction with the Fossil Trail on the left.  Stay right and continue your ascent, through open areas and stretches covered with chaparral, before finally arriving at a viewless summit.  You get nice views on the way down, however, both of the mountains and the Thousand Oaks/Simi Valley areas. Be careful on this stretch, which is steep and tends to be a little loose.

Soon you come to a split, where a detour of 0.3 miles takes you to an old cabin.   This short trail goes to a pleasantly secluded area, where you can see the ruins of…well, an old cabin, which might remind some people of the burned-out buildings in Malibu’s Solstice Canyon.  There’s also a nice monument to the Danielson family, which donated a lot of land to the park.  The monument’s setting, at the edge of a nice overlook, makes a good spot to rest before making the final stretch of this hike.

Returning to the trail, you head downhill.  Soon you get a nice aerial view of Rancho Satwiwa and the parking lot, but it amounts to a mirage of sorts, as the trail switchbacks away and down into Sycamore Canyon.  You pass the trail for the famous waterfall on the right, cross the stream and come to another junction.  Bare right and begin one last ascent, rising out of the canyon to hook up with the Satwiwa Loop Trail.  A bench allows you to sit and rest for a minute before making your last descent.  You cross the meadow (stay straight at the junction at the bottom of the hill) and make your way back to the parking lot.

The nice thing about both Point Mugu State Park and Rancho Satwiwa is the sheer number and variety of hiking trails that run throughout.  If you are pressed for time, you can easily do a shorter version of this loop, and with several campgrounds throughout the park, it’s also easy to extend it.

Big Sycamore Canyon Waterfall

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Big Sycamore Canyon Waterfall

Big Sycamore Canyon Waterfall

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved.  Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability.  All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here.   Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Big Sycamore Canyon Waterfall

  • Location: Thousand Oaks.  From highway 101, take the Lynn Road exit and head south (left if you’re coming from L.A.) for 5.6 miles.  Turn left into the Rancho Sierra Vista park and drive to the second parking lot.  From the north, take highway 101 to Wendy Drive.  Turn left, go 0.8 miles and turn right on Borchard Rd.  Turn right, go 0.5 miles and turn left on Reino.  Go 1.2 miles and turn left on Lynn, and drive a mile to the park.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area & Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance:  3.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 350 feet
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season: December – June
  • USGS topo maps:  Newberry Park
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information:  here; trip reports here and here (slightly different route)
  • Rating: 8

There aren’t many hikes that provide great mountain views, wide meadows, historical buildings, a deep canyon – and a waterfall – but the hike to Big Sycamore Canyon Falls is just such a trip.  It begins on National Park Service property (Rancho Sierra Vista, part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area) and visits Point Mugu State Park.  The trip can easily be expanded upon (see the above links for more details.)

From the parking area, pick up a dirt road leading southeast toward the meadow.  After crossing a paved pathway and a bridge, head right at the fork (or, if you have time, pay a visit to the Chumash interpretive center, which includes a stick house).  You cross the meadow, taking in dramatic views of Boney Mountain straight ahead, and soon arrive at another split.  Head straight and begin a climb uphill.  Stay left at the next to splits, and begin heading downhill into the canyon.

After 0.4 miles, the trail reaches the bottom of the hill and takes a hairpin turn and a spur branches off, signed for the waterfall.  After a stream crossing that can be challenging if the water level is high, you climb briefly, arrive at another hairpin turn and again head straight, deeper into the canyon.  A short, but somewhat tricky walk along the creek takes you to the waterfall.

Big Sycamore Canyon Falls cascades down several levels of rocks for a total of about 50 vertical feet, not unlike a smaller version of Yosemite’s Chilnualna Falls.  With a little scrambling over rocks, you can get a nice view of the waterfall – but be careful, especially if the rocks are wet.

After enjoying the waterfall, you can head back by the same route, or extend your trip.  Either way, Rancho Sierra Vista and Point Mugu State Park’s extensive network of hiking trails and scenic variety is sure to make for an enjoyable time.

Big Sycamore and Serrano Canyon Loop in Point Mugu State Park

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Ocean view from Serrano Valley, Point Mugu State Park

On the Serrano Trail, Point Mugu State Park

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Big Sycamore and Serrano Canyon Loop in Point Mugu State Park

  • Location: Point Mugu State Park between Malibu and Oxnard.  From Oxnard, take highway 1 south for 17 miles.  The Sycamore Canyon trailhead is on the left (if you reach the Sycamore Canyon Campground,  you’ve come too far.)  The daily parking fee is $12.  From Santa Monica, take highway 1 north for 32 miles.  The Sycamore trailhead will be on the right, about a mile and a half past Deer Creek Road.  From the San Fernando Valley, take highway 101 to highway 23 and head south to P.C.H.
  • Agency: Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance: 9.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance)
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • USGS topo maps: “Point Mugu”; “Triunfo Pass”
  • More information: here; trip report (8-mile round trip to Serrano Valley) here.
  • Rating: 8

This big, looping hike through Point Mugu State Park is really like six little hikes one after another.  Even if you don’t have the time or energy for the whole thing, there is a lot to see by just going part way.

From the parking lot, take the Big Sycamore Canyon trail, which is a fire-road heading north into the valley.  The first mile-plus is virtually flat, making it a great warm-up.  You get nice views of the hills and of the huge sycamore trees that give the canyon its name.

After a little over a mile, look for the Serrano Trail branching off to the right.  The progress becomes a little more challenging here, as the trail is over-grown in places and dips in and out of Serrano Canyon. There is a lot of interesting geology here, and the area is lightly traveled.

At about three miles from the start, the trail rises to a big meadow, with great views of the western end of Boney Mountain.  Stay left at each of the junctures you come to as you make your way across the meadow.  At the second split, look for some abandoned farm equipment.

There are a couple of steep ascents, followed by flat stretches, and eventually you end up on a ridge where you get nice ocean views to the south and can see Thousand Oaks and farther up the coast toward Ventura.  From here, you start heading down hill, passing an intersection with the Backbone Trail.  A small grove of trees makes a nice stop for a picnic.  The trail descends rapidly, hooking up with Big Sycamore Canyon a several miles north of where you left it.  On the way down, you get great aerial views of the park’s northern valleys.

When you finally get to the dirt road, the hard part is over, and you can coast down the last 3.5 miles back to the trail head.  As with the lower part of the road, look for some great sycamore trees that will give you some shade.  If the route sounds a little complicated, just think of it kind of like a giant “P”, and remember to stay left at each junction (except the first).  Point Mugu State Park is, granted, the farthest (from everywhere except Ventura) part of the Santa Monica Mountains, but there’s a reason people make the extra effort to get there.