Santa Paula Canyon and Punch Bowls Trail

MODERATE 255 reviews
#1 of 163 trails in

Santa Paula Canyon and Punch Bowls Trail is a 6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Santa Paula, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
6.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
744 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

birding

camping

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

washed out

Although there are several trails in Santa Paula Canyon, the most popular is the Punch Bowls hike. Beginning at St. Thomas Aquinas college, one may travel along creekbeds and across streams surrounded by inspiring forested mountain facades to several waterfalls, rock slides, and swimming holes. Santa Paula Canyon is one of the best hikes in Ventura County. The trail takes you through picturesque St. Thomas Aquinas College, then along the shady banks of Santa Paula creek with plentiful swimming holes, capped by a spectacular 25 foot waterfall just past Big Cone Camp.

nature trips
20 days ago

Close,Water, and beautiful

hiking
20 days ago

We went last week. Lots of vegetation, but the trail disappeared on us, and we didn't get to finish.

hiking
21 days ago

Go early to avoid the crowds and noisy party animals that like to hike to the punch bowls to swim, drink and play loud music. Winter is a much more pleasent time to do this hike. I prefer to take the marked trail up to the campground and drop into the bowl, rather the follow the trail shown on the map which turns into a lot of boulder hopping.

It is nice to see the changes occurring after the Thomas Fire, and to see southern California fire ecology at work. Some interesting wildflowers can be see right now (June 24, 2018).

hiking
26 days ago

The first time we went on this hike we took the more common route (I think it’s the more common route?) and it started off nicely with plenty of shade but it eventually progressed to a more exposed route. The vegetation is charred from an obvious past fire—really sad. I imagine that before this fire, this route was probably shaded and pleasant. We made it to the first punch bowl after a pretty warm walk. The second time around we started our hike earlier in the AM and we took a different route which was shaded 90% of the way and required lots of scrambling/water crossing—waaaay more fun than our first trip~! But be very careful with slippery rocks and careless climbing. We were hoping that we would make it to a different punch bowl while on the second route but it only led us to the same/main punch bowl. Very fun/active hike if you take the right route but so So Very Sad to see lots of graffiti and trash left behind at the punch bowl(s)~!! Please clean up after yourselves and your pup~!
We will most likely return and try to find the other punch bowls soon~!

1 month ago

Went two weeks ago. Started at 10:30 am and came back at 5:30. Of course there were lots of breaks taken a good amount of time spent at the first punch bowls. There isn’t an obvious trail but there are orange and blue markers on the trees and arrows on the rocks. As long as you hear the water you will be ok. It was a real fun time and we thought we brought a lot of food and water for two but we barely had enough lol. Every chance we got we splashed water on our legs to keep fresh the whole way through!

1 month ago

Beautiful trail but must start early and take plenty of water and walking stick or it helped me.. ..at end of trail it’s all well worth just for the amazing punch bowl..

1 month ago

Awesome hike!

1 month ago

Amazing hike! It’s now open. Got to the first punch bowl at 10am with no one around and it later got crowded. Had a hard time finding the other punch bowls so just swam around the first one!

hiking
1 month ago

The trail is actually open. Mostly shaded. You crossed a couple streams. Pay attention to the trails. Like people said followed the arrows would be okay however, not really reliable since some faded away. Today we also found someone purposely blocked the arrow, which was really upsetting. Luckily we caught us on the wrong trail fairly quickly. When you go up there, the stream shall be "mostly" in your right hand side sometimes aren't. It is opposite on the way back, the stream shall your left side. I felt taking a dog can be hard on dog if the dog isn't trained. Some parts require you to climb on big rocks.

3 months ago

Came back to see the Punch Bowls. We were unaware of a sign saying it was closed, but we were allowed in. Lots of groups and families were out on the trail. It was sad to see all the damages the Thomas Fire left on and in the surrounding areas of the Punch Bowls. Despite that the Punch Bowls was still there alive and beautiful as before. A lot of scrambling on the hike due to the fire. If you’re familiar with the trail then it shouldn’t be difficult to get to the falls. The green arrows on the rocks should lead you there. Otherwise, you can follow the creek.

3 months ago

We arrived March 24, 2018 after several days of heavy rain. The security guard was turning people away as the trail was closed. No idea when they will reopen.

4 months ago

I couldn’t find anywhere about the condition of this hike after the fire. So I went and checked it out. Same easy access to it gate is open and no one stopped us from going in and also no posted “area closed” signs. For the most part the trail along the river bed was untouched by the fire, lots of mud and rock slides Have happened though and saw a few times rocks come tumbling down while we were up there. The water is dingy and cold so we didn’t go in. The trail up the hill away from the river was also slightly washed out by mud slides and lots of fire damage that way, cool sight to see plus right now there is new green growth coming through the black and ash. I recommend it. Wear boots.

4 months ago

Very sad to hear that this trail has been destroyed by the Thomas fire. This was one of the best hikes I've ever found. I hope that it will be restored within my lifetime so I can go hike this majestic trail again...

hiking
6 months ago

They only just lifted the restrictions in the non burn areas of the Los Padres, it's going to be a good time before they start allowing people back into the burned trails. Press release announced the fire was officially 100% contained, but all burn areas are still closed as they attempt to clean up. You can always call your local forest service office to inquire about trail closures prior to setting out.

hiking
6 months ago

Great and very extraneous hike. Waaay too much damage to the trail from the Thomas fire and landslides from last weeks rain causing a lot of the trail to be hidden under all the mud and fallen trees.

hiking
7 months ago

Great hike, lots of scenery, nice creek, a few small waterfalls, jumped in one of the punch bowls. Trail is not entirely obvious if you’re a new hiker. Overall would go again. Bring water

hiking
8 months ago

Great trail, challenging enough. The second punch bowl is even more impressive. When almost reaching the destination and when you get back to the stream, turn left and follow the stream until you see the falls on your right. To see the second punch bowl, climb up the canyon from the right side of the falls. Enjoy the view!

hiking
8 months ago

Wouldn't say it's "heavily trafficked," but you'll definitely see people here...some of the natural slides have been washed out by heavy rainfall and debris from last year. Wondering if anyone has an update on this from recent visits?

hiking
8 months ago

Parked on side on the road and walked up through college to the trail head. Trail went along the stream the whole way till you get to the bowl. Nice and easy hike. Not many views other than looking at the waterfall at the end where the bowl is. Lots of shade the whole time. The water level was only about 5' at the bowl so no jumping in, other than that the water was nice and cool.

8 months ago

Went with my best friend today, and I didn’t expect it to take quite so long to get to the punchbowls, but it was well worth the wait! We were a bit lost on the trail a handful of times as it disappears over boulders and the stream, but if you just follow the stream up, you’ll eventually get there. We also ran into a medium rattlesnake and 2 smaller garden snakes. I would bring bug spray if you can (lots of annoying gnats during this time of year), and drink a lot of water.

9 months ago

I liked the variation on this trail: college campus, some oil rigs, avocado trees, canyon views, and some punch bowls and waterfalls at the end. An out and back that's interesting enough that it doesn't matter you're walking the same path back.

I was really disappointed that me and my dog could not make it to the punch bowls. The further you went the more rocks you had to climb, which was almost impossible with my dog. I especially wanted to go on this hike because it says ok for dogs. However, in my opinion it is not unless you don't mind making it all the way. Please ensure if you check a hole as ok for dogs that it doesn't Include climbing rocks and carrying the dog to the. Find out the way gets more and more difficult and you need to have both hands free to make it, therefore carrying him wasn't even an option....

hiking
9 months ago

So good! A little bit of "rock climbing" and loose gravel on steep climbs make this a moderate hike. Try to time your arrival at the punch bowl with the sun. It was cold when we went.

9 months ago

If you go up to the second punch bowl, 1 person on the guide rope at a time!

10 months ago

easy. kids can do it. worth the cool down at the first bowl.

10 months ago

Not so easy for pretty awesome.

10 months ago

Amazing hike if you're going during the hot season, take lots of water!! Little bit of everything on this hike, there was open areas in straight sun, then you get into the creek area with shade and its much cooler, after you get to the first punchbowl, you can climb up and around to the top punchbowl and the view is amazing!! I'll def come back *please pick up your trash/pick up trash if you see it

hiking
10 months ago

One of the best hikes I have done lately. The only park that kinda sucked was waking up the road to access the trailhead. The hike is solidly moderate but nothing too crazy. We took our 2 year old gold retriever/German shepherd and he made it all the way to the water fall and punch bowl. Best part of this hike is the punch bowl. There is a rope to climb up and jump off ledge. Make sure to bring plenty of water as it can get hot when not shaded. We picked up about a dozen plastic bottles so make sure to take your trash with you and maybe pick up a little something extra along the way.

hiking
10 months ago

Excelente lugar para pasar un buen rato 9 millas asta la última posa nada mal

hiking
10 months ago

Did 6 miles today, the shade was at a minimum to and from the stream areas. Lots of rocks to traverse but a good hike! Park across the roadway from the college and walk in following the paved road to the right for a little over a mile. There are some arrows to guide you along the hike

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