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.