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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.