Stonehouse and Piru Creek Trails
Los Padres National Forest
Highlights: The hike up Stonehouse Trail is an easy backpack of 4 miles (one-way) in the old Frazier and Alamo Mountain gold mining districts. The trail leads to a pine-shaded campsite on a bluff above a granite-rimmed creek with swimming holes. An alternate route heads up Piru Creek to the same campsite and returns via the Stonehouse trail for a moderate 10½ mile loop.
Directions: The drive takes about 1½ hours from Bakersfield.
- Head south on I-5, and take the Frazier Park exit before reaching Tejon Pass.
- Continue west (towards Mt. Pinos) for 7 miles on Frazier Mountain Road and turn left (south) on Lockwood Valley Road.
- Drive past the Chuchupate (Lockwood Valley) Ranger Station, and past Boy Scout Road (entrance to Camp Three Falls). If needed, you can obtain an Adventure Pass and fire permit at the Ranger Station.
- About 8½ miles from the freeway, turn left (south) off Lockwood Valley Road onto Road 7N03.
- Road 7N03 starts out paved and deteriorates into dirt. There are rough spots, but most cars should have no problem. Stay on the main road, ignoring side roads, for 7.5 miles and two creek crossings until a Y junction is reached. Take the left-hand road by crossing the creek and head towards Half Moon Campground and Mutau Flat.
- About 5 miles later go right at a junction towards Johnsen Ridge/Mutau Flat. (The left-hand road leads to Half Moon campground).
- On the right-hand road, 1.4 miles leads to a third junction. The trailhead is immediately on the left at a small parking area. The right-hand road leads a short distance to a locked gate.
Trailhead: Stonehouse trail is reasonably level with easy creek crossings. From the trailhead, a long half mile leads to a junction. Take the left-hand trail, which follows the north side of Mutau Creek before crossing to the south to reach a sandy, rocky area at 1½ miles. From here, head east on sandy trail on the south bank about one-hundred yards, recross the creek and head north up a short, but steep, sandy slope. The trail continues on the north bank, then crosses south, this time across Alamo Creek, at 3½ miles. A trail junction is reached after two- or three-hundred yards. Take the right-hand path, which by now is a dirt road, to a grove of pine trees. The best place to camp is on the far end of the grove, just before the trail drops steeply to cross Piru Creek.
The actual Stonehouse campsite, which is named for a now-vanished miner's cabin, is hidden in a pine flat on the south side of Alamo creek at about 3-miles. Don't bother with the bushwack to reach it, as it is essentially abandoned. Best stick with the campsite described above. Return to the cars on the same trail.
It is also possible to return to the cars via Piru Creek for a 10½ mile loop. However, the loop is more pleasant in the opposite direction. For this variation, start from the same trail head as above and hike 1½ miles of dirt road to Half Moon campground. Continue downstream on Piru Creek, crossing and recrossing the creek many times. Pass an old miner's cabin, the Kincaid Cabin, at 5½ miles. After another 3/4 mile, the trail crosses the creek and heads steeply up the south bank, passing the junction with Stonehouse Trail, before reaching the campsite at 6½ miles. Return to the cars via Stonehouse trail.
Maps: Lockwood Valley 7½ minute topographic quadrangle
- A National Forest Service fire permit (free) and Adventure Pass ($5.00/day) are required. These can be obtained at the Chuchupate (Lockwood Valley) Ranger Station (661-245-3731) mentioned above. Big 5 Sporting Goods also sells Adventure Passes.
- Giardia is a concern and a water purifier is needed at camp.
- Be wary of rattlesnakes. You may not see them, but they are there.
- From the trail campsite, it is possible to continue downstream 2 or 3 miles to Sunset campsite on Lockwood Creek. Although motorcycles make this journey, there is essentially no trail, and the trek, which runs up the middle of the creek in several spots, is more tedious than fun.
- Mutau Creek is said to have once flowed from east to west, but today flows west to east.
- This area is in an old gold mining district discovered in the 1850s, and several prospects are located downsteam from the campsite. In fact, placer workings dig into the north edge of the bluff that the actual campsite sits on. Rusted pieces of pipe in the creek below were used to sluice these workings.
- The conspicuous upright rocks in the middle of Mutau Flat (private property) are a sacred site to the Chumash Indians. The flat itself is named after a French-Canadian renegade of the 1860s named Will Mutah, who used the flat to move stolen horses between the San Joaquin and Santa Clara Valleys.