Geology on the North Fork Trail, Chumash Wilderness, Los Padres National Forest, CA

Lilly Meadows Campground via North Fork Lockwood Trail

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North Fork Trail, Los Padres National Forest, CA
Changing landscape on the North Fork Trail
Lockwood Valley, Ventura County, CA
View of Lockwood Valley from near the Chumash Wilderness Boundary

Lilly Meadows Campground via North Fork Lockwood Trail

    • Location: Camp Three Falls, 12260 Boy Scout Camp Road, Frazier Park, CA. From I-5, take the Frazier Mtn. Park Road exit (205) and head west for 7 miles. Turn left onto Lockwood Valley Road and go 8.2 miles. Turn right onto Boy Scout Camp Road and follow it 2.8 miles to its end and park where available on the side of the street. Alternately, from Highway 33 about 36 miles north of Ojai, take Lockwood Valley Road northeast for 18.6 miles and turn left on Boy Scout Camp Road. Note that the first quarter mile of this hike is on BSA property, so contact the camp first to make sure the North Fork Trail is accessible.
    • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Mt. Pinos Ranger District
    • Distance: 7.2 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season: Year round but hot during the summer; possible snow during the winter (check conditions before visiting)
    • USGS topo maps: San Guillermo Mountain; Sawmill Mountain
    • Recommended gear: insect repellent
    • More information: Trip description (different route with the same ascent and off-trail return for a loop) here; Map My Hike report here; Hike Los Padres page here
    • Rating: 8
0:00 - Start of the hike outside Camp Three Falls (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
0:00 – Start of the hike outside Camp Three Falls (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This great hike is yet another example of how the San Emigdio Mountains are an overlooked range. The North Fork Lockwood Trail (not to be confused with the Los Padres National Forest’s other North Fork Trail, in the Matilija Creek area near Ojai) is just over six miles long and is part of a popular 11.5-mile one-way route from Mt. Pinos. About half way up the trail, Lilly Meadows makes a good destination for a moderate day hike originating from Lockwood Valley, exploring the southeastern slope of the San Emigdios. Hikers will experience a transition from a high desert landscape of pinyon pines and cottonwoods to a mountain environment of Jeffrey pines and black oaks. Panoramic views of Lockwood Valley and a seasonal waterfall are also among the eye candy. Bugs are the only drawback.

North Fork Trail, Chumash Wilderness, Ventura County, CA
0:08 – Start of the North Fork Trail at the camp boundary (times are approximate)

Begin by walking a quarter mile through Camp Three Falls (remember, this is private property so act accordingly) and pick up the signed North Fork Trail, a narrow fire road. It leads through a pine-dotted meadow with good views of the San Emigdios straight ahead to the north. You pass by some interesting granite formations after a mile and gradually ascending into the mountains. At 2.3 miles, you reach a junction where a single-track trail branches off to the right. The road continues a few dozen yards before ending at a canyon mouth where you can scramble upstream to see seasonal North Falls, the biggest of the three waterfalls that give the camp its name. While the waterfall is currently a mere trickle, it has been known to put on quite a show following rains.

Geology, North Fork Trail, Los Padres National Forest, CA
0:27 – Geology on the North Fork Trail

The single-track ascends steeply, taking in wide-ranging views south as it climbs above the valley. There’s one easy to miss switchback; soon afterward you reach the Chumash Wilderness boundary marker and begin a brief descent toward the creek, above the waterfall. Parts of the trail are eroded so exercise caution as you make your way up canyon.

Waterfall, North Fork Trail, Ventura County, CA
1:05 – North Falls

More climbing brings you to Lilly Meadows, a pleasant campground shaded by pines and incense cedars. Note that the Google Maps location for Lilly Meadows is wrong; if you are tracking your hike, you will appear to pass to the south of the campground’s location and continue heading west. A picnic table and fire ring are available for hikers to use for a quick meal and rest before heading back–or, for the ambitious, continuing another 6 miles to the summit of Mt. Pinos.

Lilly Meadows Trail Camp, Los Padres National Forest, CA
1:35 – Lilly Meadows Trail Camp

Text and photography copyright 2015 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.

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