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Beautiful 5.5 hour round-trip hike through four different ecosystem levels. First section goes through big rock formations -- several false trails though, which I mistakenly followed on the way up and the way down. Next, level section goes thru lovely treed meadows with red and blue and silver shrubs and passes the first shaded campground. Third section begins the main climb thru bright red manzanitas and small boulders and pine trees, and you start to see the amazing view open up all the way to the coast. The final section is the steepest part and passes thru huge old pine trees and boulders and becomes much cooler than the lower sections (bring layers) -- also passes by Chorro Springs campground but zero water running. The Channel Islands now come into view on the far horizon -- wow! Had enough daylight to check out the Reyes campground off the road at the top -- great views and the one-lane paved road seemed surprisingly well maintained. What I appreciated about the trail is how you can see the ridge you're hiking to from the start -- no false summits -- and that the trail was well trodden and easy to follow except at the rock formations at the bottom. Came across poopy toilet paper strewn around the trail near the bottom and packed it out. Come on folks. Birds and lizards abound and lots of scat on the trail but no other wildlife sightings. Logged 13.8 miles and 280 stories. 3 liters of water was just right with temps in the low 70s.

Our journey into the Sespe Wilderness via the Sespe RIver Trail began at the Piedras Blancas trailhead at approximately 9:08 am on November 10. There were eight of us in our party all destined to go to Willet Hot Springs. With the help of some enlightening paper squares, we journeyed into, across, and within the magnificent rivers of our minds and the valley. Clarification: the river of the valley was dry, but the rivers of our minds ran bountifully. The trail profile is no lie, in both directions you ascend and descend a series of crests which we named in order: Robin's Cut Ridge (bring band aids), Lonely Oak Ridge, Rattlesnake Ridge (ps there are danger noodles), Creepy Creek Cliff Face, Helipad Landing, Up-side-down Spirit Rock, Limbo Cave, and finally Trip Stick Hot Springs (named after a spiritually significant agave stem plucked by Macro the wizard). All jeans will be jorts. Mandatory knifing of jeans is hereby instituted. It was hot, so it happened. There is minimal shade on the trail so while I think we could have made it all the way to Sespe Hot Springs if we had more daylight, I do not think we could have tackled the trail with the same fervor if we had gone in the summer. The hot spring is a bit hard to find, in fact we got a bit lost and did a 25-mile round-trip, but if you follow the cairns/elves you will be successful (also maybe ask some people if you see them, the trail is moderately trafficked). The hot spring is actually up, not down as we had thought. All together a truly awakening and rejuvenating experience. This trail was exactly what was needed to reignite the bonds of our friendship and our spirits. 10/10. Will be returning in 10 years. Here is a list of the wildlife we bore witness to: a family of zards, two rattlesnakes, one coyote, a hawk, lots of sheep scat yet no sheep, a graceful deer, a troop of boyscouts (identified by the size 3 Converse footprints), lichen, blue jays, sparrows, quail, a prospective Cal Poly student, and our deepest true selves. *Bonus: There is one camp uphill from the giant rock stack right adjacent to the spring. Bring your packs up there with you and you shall be rewarded as we were with privacy and easy access to a sunrise soak*

Beautiful hike!

Great hike on the main trail into Sandstone Peak- gradual ascent, some minor scrambling, not too many rocks. Wonderful views across to Channel Islands from Sandstone, but a lot of scrambling and sharp rocks to get there- great for the experience, but not something to repeat often.

hiking
20 days ago

it takes longer to drive here. Beautiful hike but stop at Potrero John on the way down for a more full filling day.

Was excited to do this hike and it was definitely different considering the scenery and that you are right along the stream. But that being said, we didn’t make it to the punch bowl. The arrows were less clear at the end and we were with our pup and the rocks were getting bigger and it had become more dangerous than was comfortable for us. It sounds like there are multiple ways to get to the end - we tried to stick to the red line on the All Trails app Esther than the dotted line. Thinking the dotted line could have actually gotten you there and been easier than the red line, which was right along the creek. The dotted line seemed to be out in the hot sun, which some people were referencing in their reviews. We likely won’t do it again but if we did, we would go the dotted trail route. Would be cool if someone else could confirm that for others using the app!

New to Southern California and couldn't seem to find a hike comparable to those in Oregon. However, this trail changed everything. I did the whole loop and took the detour out to Tri peaks (which i'd highly recommend). The trail is diverse and has the most amazing views almost the entire time. Loved every second of this trail and I'd HIGHLY recommend it to anyone looking to get out on a good hike.

Loved every step of this hike! Gorgeous views.

This was an interesting hike. We were headed for the falls but seemed to have taken a wrong turn. The trail is very off and on. It seems to have been washed out starting around the 2.5 mile mark and then continues off an on if you can find where it picks up again. If you make it to the metal sign with arrows pointing up to maple camp and upper matilija make sure you stay to the right as there are two canyons and water flowing down each. We went left and eventually stopped after no signs of trails or upper matilija, go right. Poison oak and the rattlesnakes are out there as well.

Did this hike on Sunday morning. The weather was just perfect! once you reach inspiration point, it's all worth it. the Fog added to to adventure. so much to see and to do! I recommend this hike early morning.
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Skyhighhiking

Just did this trail Oct 14 and really enjoyed it! I loved the scenery, there's some creek side walking, which to still have some water this time of year is great. The elevation gain in minimal, so taking kids is no problem and plenty for them to explore. At the first camp, the creek is right there with a nice little waterhole. I'm sure in the late Spring/ early Summer the water is really great to dip into, even now it reached the knees, just enough to cool off. There are certain spots where the trail gets washed out, but as long as you keep walking parallel to the creek you're good, it would actually be hard to get lost. Of course the Thomas Fire came through the area, but it's regrowth is amazing to see and you can imagine what it once looked like. Towards the 2+ mile area, there is less shaded area, so plan accordingly.

Did this trail at 8am this morning and the weather couldn’t have been better. It was a moderate hike that took us about 3 hrs but that was with a couple stops to take pics and to sit and relax at the top for a snack. I forgot to set the gps until .27 miles in. My watch tracked it as 6.32 miles back to the parking lot.

Definitely go counter clockwise. Amazing hike. Would do this again. The view from sandstone peak is incredible! Actually closer to 6.4 miles.

Great hike! Not sure why this is rated moderate. It's definitely easy. It's flat the whole way. The trail gets a little messy sometimes and you have to go over rocks and cross the river but nothing crazy. This was absolutely lovely.

Completed the hike today with my dog. The first portion of the hike is very easy, almost flat. Once the trail splits, stay to the right. If you go to the left, you'll end up at Haddock Peak.
After the trail split, it leads you up several switchbacks that are relatively steep. The soft ground coupled with fallen pine needles could make it easy to slip. Next time I will bring a hiking stick for extra footing.
Once you get to the peak, you'll see large boulders that you can climb on and get an amazing 360* view. It is absolutely worth the hike. You can see the US Geology markings, and there is a red can with lots of paper in it where people sign and date when they completed the hike, as well as share thoughts, poetry, etc. Make sure you plan this hike with some time to relax on the rocks and soak in the scenic views.
The only other thing I would mention is that there's several paths. If you're a novice, pay attention and make sure you go back the way you came up.

backpacking
1 month ago

A good time. The first .5 miles is along a road. You then turn onto the trail and head up the canyon following the creek. The next mile the path is very clear as you meander along the creek to camp one. Beyond camp one the trail is a bit washed out and there are a few sections where you lose the trail a bit. As long as you follow the creek you should be able to head the right direction and find the trail again. There is a STUNNING camp site about three miles in. Chirping birds and crickets, the sound of the flowing creek, a lovely breeze, a big oak tree and a nice flat camp spot. THERE IS A LOT OF POISON OAK ON THIS HIKE. SO MUCH POISON OAK. IT IS EVERYWHERE. But minus the poison oak it is a really good time and super beautiful.

Loved this trail arrows are everywhere make side to make it to the back pool where there is a waterfall and rope to climb

I have done this trail twice! Both times it was pretty hot out so make sure you bring plenty of water with you. You can hike two main ways through santa Paula canyon, or along the water to the punch bowls. I preferred going along the water the second time because there was more shade and I enjoy an occasion splash when I get hot but that’s just me! However stunning views overlooking the canyon if you follow the main trailhead/orange and green markers! There is trash unfortunately so be a handy earth lover and bring a trash bag with you, it made me feel better cleaning up as I went. But the Punchbowl was awesome! Fun area to have a picnic and say hello to fellow travelers!

We hiked from the southern trailhead. Trail is good to a short distance beyond Matilija Camp. However, after the canyon turns sharply right, the trail effectively ends - all paths are blocked by large amounts of fallen tress, brush, etc. So total in and out hike is about 3.5 mi.

Great hike and views. Wasn't very crowded either.

Great hike, bring and carry water though.

Great hike. Lots and lots of snakes guys. Be careful

Nice views. Go early.

2 months ago

I thoroughly enjoyed this hike. Challenging but doable with spectacular views. Looking forward to doing this hike again!

Super great trail a bit confusing at times really fun

hiking
2 months ago

2.5 months back this was my 1st Back Packing trip since 1973. I was diagnosed with heart failure so I am training for the PCT. :-) Great hike in and nice campground. Found that rock arch on the creek. Plenty of Poison Oak....have fun. Going again manana so I will report back on agua !

Great place to go hike and spend time with friends and family. Highly recommended to those who love to hike and admire nature. Also great cliffs to jump off if you are into that!
!!!GO CHECK OUT MY VIDEO ON THE SANTA PAULA PUNCH BOWLS!!!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3na2KTAzXSw

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