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Easy walk, completely flat. It just rained so the river is flowing, there is currently no way to cross. I walked down trying to find a path but to no avail. The trail is in fact closed to access the other side, I would try again in a month or so.

It was pretty crowded but it was a Sunday. Lots of horses and mountain bikers.

I love this trail. always enjoy doing it solo.

This will always be one of my favorites! The trail is easygoing with only a few moderate hills. It’s perfect for a first back packing trip or if you’re testing new gear. Only do this trail when water is flowing (usually during CA winter months). It can get pretty chilly at night so if you go, make sure to bring warm clothes for night. The hot springs are well hidden at the end of the trail, but there is a good spot to sit and enjoy the warm water that can accommodate around 5 people. Definitely a CA hidden gem :)

Love this hike!, but it wasn't until I was leaving that I was able to find the actual trail I was supposed to be on when going to the waterfall & punchbowl. Trail starts easy enough, then you get to a point, and this is Important!, where the trail seems to split, KEEP LEFT and look for a large boulder with colorful markings. You'll see a bunch of downed trees, go over them there isn't many and you'll see the trail continues. I posted pics of what you need to be looking for. Going this way does stray away from the creek, you can still hear the creek though, but so much faster. I got there originally trying to follow colored markings and rocky hiking through the riverbed, it took forever. Had it not been for finding the correct trail I probably wouldn't have come back. That being said, scenery is great, lots of areas that I imagine during the Summer months would be fun to hang out along the Santa Paula creek. Next will be another split where the trail looks it follows along the creek or you head up along the mountain side. Either is correct, more of a personal choice, I went up, great views looking down over the valley and you do reach 2 camps before the waterfall/ punchbowl, from this trail you see the waterfall from the camp nearest the edge. I can't speak for the creek route, but hear its better to do this route when its hot. I will also add that there are 2 times on the mountain route that are a bit cumbersome. A steep, rocky gully and exiting the trail right onto the creek, it's steep & narrow too. Once there, lots of exploring and water to play in!

I have hit this trail over 10 times and every time have made it to the bowls, even the hidden ones way up top in the back of the main ones. The arrows are very difficult to try and follow but become helpful if you are lost. All I can say is that if you follow the stream and keep an eye out for those helpful arrows, you'll have a blast! It eventually ends up at a split and you just want to make sure you stay to the right side once you get to that point, if you don't see the bowls after about 2 hours, double check with people you see or check a map!

Awesome trail! 3 day backpacking trip. ***Easy to Moderate***
Dont be afraid to take the boots off and cross the river. We wasted a lot of time trying to not get our feet wet.
Willett hot spring was a bit difficult to find the trail leading up to it. We asked for advice and found the trail straight to it. Not to be a downer, but he hot spring was a big metal tub on the mountain side. Still pretty awesome tho.

Incredible hike. The most amazing part was the sound dog the waves at the coves hitting the rocks

Follow the arrows, they said.
This works until the last 1/3 when it gets almost comical. Hard to find the arrows if you stay low/creekside. When the trail splits, I recommend you take the high road. All the climbing over and around rocks probably added an hour to the hike.
Feels like you’re a million miles away from town, so worth the long afternoon!

hiking
24 days ago

Hiked in November 2017. Great hike on a beautiful California day surrounded by ocean views.

Beautiful late day walk with my dog- Topa! Couldn't keep out of the water. She had a blast!

700 ft elevation gain, then down to the cove. Leave the same way you came in. Nice open trail. 75degree weather was perfect.

After reading the reviews I was prepared to see a lot of trash and graffiti everywhere and tons of people but I didn’t encounter much of that. People must be picking up after themselves!

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*

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!

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.

This was my first ever backpacking trip. Although backpacking way out of my league I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful trail. Taking the Santa Cruz trail just off a service road from Upper Oso Campground you follow a stunning shaded river bed through the canyon. After that the trail gets pretty scary, 90% of the trail you hike right on the edge of the mountain, zig-zagging on soft dirt (one wrong step leads to potential 800 ft fall). The trail was washed out in places, making for an even more adrenaline rushed hike. Incredibly stunning views, just make sure you’re up to the task!

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!

hiking
4 months ago

Went to the Channel Islands for the day and this was one of the 3 hikes we did. Cool views, but not quite as spectacular as we were expecting.

Super great trail a bit confusing at times really fun

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

A few friends of mine and myself made this trek in late August. Definitely a beautiful trail but the heat and lack of shade made it pretty rough. Coupled with the large amount of rattlesnakes and low amount of water it would definitely be better in a cooler month.

Great Trail. A bit confusing at times. Looking for green or blue arrows to remind you your goin correct way. Apparently there are multiple ways to get to first punch bowl. Tiring but so worth the hike when you take that jump in pool. Planning to go back but explore the other bowls.

Trail can be a bit confusing at times but as long as you follow the arrows you will get there. And it’s true, you have to park on the highway and walk up a steep paved hill through the college and some dirt road next to some job sites just to get to the trail head but it is worth it! Wear sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and a bathing suit if you want to jump in! It can also be a cool hangout spot if you want to bring lunch, drinks and some music to reward yourself at the top.

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful ocean views all around. Not much vegetation.

With high temperatures continuously soaring, the landscape hardly had any sort of vegetation. However, revegetation is being carried through to make sure Santa Cruz Island is abundant in life to ensure ecological restoration. Regarding the hike itself, the trail consisted mostly of going downhill. You’ll also be passing though Smuggler’s Canyon Trail. As a result of hiking past another trail, it was difficult to record the actual amount of time and distance it took me to get to Smuggler’s Cove.

The map displayed that the hike towards Smuggler’s Cove is 7.5 miles, but from my experience, it was half that distance. This indicates, to me, that the distance is the total hike of going there and going back, in other words, a round trip.

When you get there, there’ll be few vegetation and the shore is compiled of rocks.

I put three stars because lack of vegetation and good scenic views.

This trail is awesome. I went yesterday and had a great time. A few notes of caution though - it is very hot in the middle of summer. I went during August and the heat paired with the full exposure from the sun made it a pretty grueling task to even be out there. However, once I turned a bend and was able to dip down toward the river, I was amazed at how full the river was and how shaded some campsites were. Additionally the fishing was great. Every cast I would pull back some bluegill (catch and release of course). I also saw steelhead in the water but couldn't get them on the fly. That's probably for the best though because I'm pretty sure they're endangered. All in all, I recommend this trail for anyone who loves wide canyon views and hiking near streams. I'll add the caveat that it's probably only good to go in the cooler months.

5 months ago

Fun hike on mostly paved road. Water was nice to swim in at the cove. Great scenery and solitude.

5 months ago

There’s no marked parking area. You have to park on the highway and walk about 1.5 miles on a paved road before you even get to the trail. There is trash littered everywhere. Almost all the bigger rocks have been tagged-kids suck. The trails are marked with blue/green/red paint which is somewhat helpful if you ignore the colors and just follow the markings. I took my dogs with me and they played in the water a bit but they smelled like a sewer when we got home.

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