Santa Paula Canyon and Punch Bowls Trail

MODERATE 604 reviews
#1 of 186 trails in

Santa Paula Canyon and Punch Bowls Trail is a 7 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: 7.0 miles Elevation Gain: 787 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

camping

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

walking

running

forest

partially paved

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

over grown

rocky

scramble

washed out

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-feet waterfall just past Big Cone Camp. Although there are several trails in Santa Paula Canyon, the most popular is the Punch Bowls hike. Travel along creekbeds and across streams surrounded by inspiring forested mountain facades to several waterfalls, rock slides, and swimming holes.

hiking
over grown
private property
2 days ago

Seems like almost every rock had an arrow spray painted on it. This used to be a great hike, now it’s like walking through rival gang territory

hiking
private property
rocky
scramble
12 days ago

Took longer then we were expecting to get there. The last part is scrambling over rocks but the waterfall is pretty. Not my favorite hike I’ve ever been on but it was nice

hiking
rocky
13 days ago

This space was the best trail I have been to and would definitely recommend this trail for anyone who wants an adventure and anyone who just likes to be around nature

hiking
17 days ago

Lots of graffitis, really ruined the view

hiking
flooded
muddy
private property
1 month ago

Decent trail but gets flooded around winter time so you have to cross a river 3 times in knee deep water. Recommend extra pair of clothes as the river crossings are not possible to walk around. Also the entire trail is running along barbed wire fences that say PRIVATE PROPERTY and KEEP OUT so it’s not the most inviting place. Combined with all the construction noises from the nearby rigs, and you don’t quite get the “nature” feeling.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

Beautiful trail full of diverse habitat. Parallels and crosses the stream the whole way, so it gets slow going at times. Beautiful scenery and plentiful wildlife. AllTrails glitched our distance - our actual distance was 7.2 miles.

hiking
muddy
over grown
1 month ago

This hike is pretty cool. However, I would say to make it to the top you do need good balance and some upper and lower body strength. Especially if it JS just rained and the ground and rocks are slippery and the water is high

hiking
1 month ago

Really nice swimming holes.

hiking
1 month ago

Nice hike up to a waterfall. The water is super clear and would be great to swim around in during the summer. It was too cold when we went. Decent mileage; easy to park - if the lot near the trail head is full there is a lot across the street.

hiking
private property
rocky
scramble
2 months ago

A fun hike - requires a decent level of balance and mobility. Hiked on a Friday afternoon in November. The creek is still flowing nicely and the waterfall was beautiful. Would love to try it in the summer as it seems like a great place to swim. There isn’t much elevation gain but there’s lots to do. You start the hike by navigating near and through private property areas. There are highly visible signs to keep you on the hiking path. The main portion follows and cris-crosses the rocky creek. You are balancing on rocks and logs to cross, and you’ll do this frequently. The path becomes less obvious as the rocks take over about halfway in but there are a ton of helpful arrows drawn to help you along. The last little bit is a scramble, you need to get up and over larger boulder piles. The reward is a gorgeous waterfall and pool.

hiking
2 months ago

Magical magical magical. I love this trail. Hike along the creek for the most part, so lots of opportunities to get in and float for a bit before cruisin on your way up to the falls. My fav is the last 20 or so minutes before the falls of rock hopping/bouldering. Majority of trail is fairly flat and easy. It’s really only the last aforementioned bouldering section that is strenuous. I am an active person who is fairly strong, so factor that in when deciding if this is a physically compatible trail for your current level of fitness/limitations, etc.

hiking
private property
2 months ago

I can only speak to the first 3/4 mile as we didn’t make it any further. Came on a Tuesday around 9am with my pup. Only car in the parking lot so I was skeptical from the start. After 3/4 of a mile alongside barb wire fence and oil drills, we arrived at the gate of the ranch where we faced a choose your own adventure between an unrestrained guard dog who seemed poised to attack our pup, and a trail blocked by farm equipment/fallen trees. Decided to turn back. Certainly made for a memorable Halloween. Unless others have inside knowledge on how to make this hike better I recommend avoiding as this seems unsafe, particularly with dogs.

Nice trail! It takes the whole day to get to the falls. Make sure you pack enough water and a light lunch. Also dogs can go on the trail but be prepared to carry out the bag of dog poo no trash cans on the trail nor at the entrance. Also make sure your dog likes to climb, there are a lot of rocks just before you arrive at the water fall. We also saw a rattle snake so keep an eye out.

hiking
3 months ago

I wasn’t very impressed with this trail. There were some great spots where you walked near a beautiful flowing stream yet it didn’t make up for the metal fences, pumping machines right next to the trail and section of road you walk on. I really like hiking and prefer a moderate to difficult skill level hike, this was easy and slightly boring.

hiking
over grown
rocky
3 months ago

Hiked the trail over the weekend. You can no longer cut through the campus of St. Thomas Aquinas College. The trail head is just north of the gates of the college. The trail at the bottom and half way up is well marked. The higher you go, and the more boulders/rock/granite there is on the trail, the harder it is to follow and there is no signage. Thank goodness there are spray painted arrows from past hikers to point you in the right direction. This was my first time on this hike and I was flying solo so I got about 3/4 of the way up and then could not find the rest of the way which was a bit frustrating. Rather than risk getting into a situation I couldn't get out of, I turned around. Aside from that, this is an easy to moderate hike (not very steep at all) and it was a beautiful hike. Plenty of shade following the creek. I'll be going back!

hiking
rocky
3 months ago

Started at 9:30 am on a Sunday , the parking lot was full but I didn’t see to many people on the trail. There’s a lot of shade , you will definitely get your feet wet.unfortunately there’s a lot of graffiti on rocks. The place is amazing .

hiking
over grown
rocky
scramble
4 months ago

This trail description is a little misleading... it’s actually more like 8 miles. The hike around the campus is not shaded so got pretty hot but then you finally make it to the shaded and cool river after 1.5 miles or so. The map also doesn’t show this but the punch bowls are north a bit... there is a second stream coming into the main river right near the punchbowls and it becomes easy to lose the main trail. For me, I went to the 2nd and I think third punchbowl and on the way back thought I was following the main stream but it was a different stream! The one that continues east. Once I realized I was walking upstream not down it became clear I was not heading back down the canyon. It looks the same tho so be careful! The main canyon has spray painted arrows. The secondary one only has tree flag markers. And if you hike to the second punchbowl be sure to head back down to the first one before hiking back. All in all though the water and punchbowls are unparalleled in this region! So refreshing and fun. You can do some clif jumping in P1 and there’s a fun rock slide at the 3rd one too!

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