Santa Paula Canyon (Echo Falls)

Los Padres National Forest

 

Highlights: The hike up Santa Paula Canyon is a moderate backpack of 7 to 9 miles (roundtrip distance) that vists waterfalls, swimming holes, rope swings, and water slides in a tree-lined canyon with sunny rock slabs and rock-walled side canyons.

Directions: The drive takes two hours from Bakersfield. Head south on I-5 over Tejon Pass. Just before Magic Mountain, take Route 126 towards Ventura. In Santa Paula, take the 10th Street Exit and follow Route 150 north to the entrance to Thomas Aquinas College, which is midway between Santa Paula and Ojai. Park in dirt lots on either side of the bridge that crosses Santa Paula Creek, but DO NOT DRIVE ONTO THE COLLEGE CAMPUS.

Trailhead: The hike begins at the entrance to Thomas Aquinas College. Walk through the front gate and up the paved road for half a mile to a gate at the top of the hill. Please stay on the road as you pass through the college - the security guard is quick to reprimand you if you stray from the road. Continue through the gate, past several oil wells to where the pavement ends. The trail then winds along the south side of the creek, crossing to the north side when the foot path vanishes. The trail reappears on the opposite side of the creek where it eventually becomes a road again. A long mile on fairly level ground leads to another creek crossing, after which the road heads up a very steep hill for half a mile to a wonderful oak glen at Big Cone Camp, about 3 miles and 850 feet elevation gain from trailhead. The elevation of Big Cone is about 1800 feet. A more secluded camp is found at Cross Camp, another mile up the trail, which is reached by dropping to the creek, crossing it immediately, and taking the left-hand trail at a Y junction midway up the first hill.

Maps: The 7-minute topographic quadrangle is Santa Paula Peak.

Cautions:

  • U.S. Forest Service fire permit is required and can be obtained at the Ranger Stations in either Ojai (805-646-4348) or Lockwood Valley (805-680-7937).

  • Creek crossings require sandals or boating shoes in the spring.

  • Giardia is a concern and a water purifier is needed at camp.

  • Also, there is lots of poison oak.

More Attractions:

  • The nearby Union Santa Paula Oil Museum on 10th Street in Santa Paula is well worth a quick stop. Be sure to check out the working replica of a wooden pumping jack in the back of the museum. It has a great video on early methods of drilling oil wells.

  • Check out the active oil seep under the bridge at the trailhead. There are more oil seeps at Sulphur Mountain which is two or three miles farther up Route 150 towards Ojai. A historic marker on the right (east) side of the road in the Sulphur Mountain area commemorates the 1865 completion of the first successful oil well in California to be drilled with a steam-powered drilling rig.

  • A nice waterfall with a swimming hole at the base is just north of Big Cone Camp at a joining of two streams. You need to drop to the creek and follow it downstream a short distance to get to the base of the falls.

  • Upstream from the waterfall is a swimming hole with rope swing. It is located on the upstream side of a huge rock slab that is perfect for sun bathing.

  • There is a natural water slide in a narrow rock gorge, called Devils Punchbowl, which is a few yards upstream from Cross Camp. The slide goes down a 15-foot waterfall that drops into the Punchbowl.

 



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