Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park consists of 5 of the 8 Channel Islands off the Santa Barbara coast. Although the islands are close to the shore, their isolation has left them relatively undeveloped.

The northern Channel Islands are Anacapa (1.1 sq mi), San Miguel (14.6 sq mi), Santa Cruz (96.5 sq mi) and Santa Rosa (83 sq mi) and the southern islands are San Clemente (57 sq mi), San Nicolas (23 sq mi), Santa Barbara (1 sq mi) and Santa Catalina (75 sq mi).

Channel Islands National Park includes the islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara. Anacapa is located in Ventura County while the other four are in Santa Barbara County. San Clemente Island, the southernmost Channel Island, is owned and operated by the U.S. Navy. Catalina Island as we know with its population of 3,700 is a popular tourist destination. San Nicolas Island in Ventura County is also controlled by the U.S. Navy. On a clear day you can see two of the five islands, Anacapa and Santa Cruz.

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Visitors to the islands may swim, snorkel, hike, camp, watch wildlife, sail and explore tidepools, beaches and canyons. There is no food service on the islands, so bring what you need. Take a commercial service to the islands like Island Packers, which has been servicing the islands since 1968. Landings at Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands are year-round while the more remote outer islands, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa and San Miguel are scheduled late spring through early fall.

Visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/chis to learn more about visiting Channel Islands National Park. The park is open year-round.

The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park is located in the Ventura Harbor at 1901 Spinnaker Drive (805.658.5730) and the Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center is located at the Santa Barbara Harbor at 113 Harbor Way, 4th Floor.

 On a clear day you can see two of the Channel Islands from Newbury Park and other Ventura County spots. Here's a view from the   Rancho Potrero Open Space   in Newbury Park.

On a clear day you can see two of the Channel Islands from Newbury Park and other Ventura County spots. Here's a view from the Rancho Potrero Open Space in Newbury Park.

 Anacapa Island seen from a whale watching boat.

Anacapa Island seen from a whale watching boat.

Hiking in the North Ranch Open Space in Thousand Oaks

The North Open Space is represented by several massive sections of nearly 2,600 acres located in the east side of Thousand Oaks. There is a section east of Erbes Road to Westlake Boulevard down to Hillcrest Drive on the west side (this area is referred to as the Hillcrest Open Space Preserve) as well as a section further east bounded by Westlake Boulevard on the west, Lindero Canyon Road on the east and Thousand Oaks Boulevard on south.

These hills are beautiful and quite prominent from throughout the Conejo Valley. Hiking, running and cycling these hills can be a challenge as they are quite steep in most sections.

A main trailhead into the North Ranch Open Space is on Bowfield Street, just east of the North Rancho Playfields. The trail is called the Saddle Pass Trail, winding up and down the hills south towards Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

There are various other neighborhood trail entry points throughout the vast area. One of these is located at Canyon Oaks Park, 6200 Hedgewall Drive, Westlake Village. There's a walkway and a small bridge that leads to a quite intense looking path up the hill. And indeed, it is a very steep path. Definitely not for everyone. This is a path into the Bowfield/Saddle Pass Trail, which is maintained by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency.

 Small COSCA sign at the bottom of the steep hill from Canyon Oaks Park leading into the North Ranch Open Space.

Small COSCA sign at the bottom of the steep hill from Canyon Oaks Park leading into the North Ranch Open Space.

 A view of Canyon Oaks Park from about a third of the way up the hill.

A view of Canyon Oaks Park from about a third of the way up the hill.

There are roughly 3 or 4 miles of trails up here, mostly the Saddle Pass north/south trail but other connector trails to nearby neighborhoods, such as the townhome complex on Via Colinas above Thousand Oaks Blvd and the new Westlake Village Community Park and YMCA.

These hills get quite dry and hot during the summer months but in the spring green up nicely. You may even get the opportunity to enjoy some wildflowers.

 Orange beauties can often be seen in the March time frame off the Saddle Pass Trail south section.

Orange beauties can often be seen in the March time frame off the Saddle Pass Trail south section.

 Here's another section of trail that connects homes off of Via Colinas into the North Ranch Open Space. Most of these connector trails are quite steep, though generally well maintained!

Here's another section of trail that connects homes off of Via Colinas into the North Ranch Open Space. Most of these connector trails are quite steep, though generally well maintained!

Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls in Malibu

 Trailhead on Winding Way

Trailhead on Winding Way

The Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls is located off of Winding Way in Malibu.  It also also referred to as Escondido Falls.

The most unique aspect to Escondido Falls is that it is home to the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains at over 150 feet, making it a wonderful place to visit. 

That said, in drought years, there is often no sign of waterfall, other than a sparse trickle into Escondido Canyon Creek. But even when that is the case, this is a wonderful, moderate hike, good for all ages. 

To get to Escondido Falls from the Conejo Valley/101, take Kanan south to PCH and turn left. You'll be driving just under 2 miles, past Paradise Cove, to the small parking lot on Winding Way and PCH. Turn left onto Winding Way and an immediate left into the parking lot. There's a sign; you can't miss it. The lot has spaces for only around 16 vehicles; it is full, you'll have to find a spot on PCH and make you way from there...but be careful and watch for the plentiful "no parking" signs on PCH.

(NOTE: Recently - summer 2018 time frame - an $8 per car parking fee was initiated at this parking lot. It takes both cash and credit cards. Parking fees contribute to the ongoing maintenance of the trails, including porta potty cleanings, graffiti and trash removal and partial staffing.)

 The parking area is on Winding Way and PCH. The initial section of the hike is along Winding Way is called the Winding Way Trail.

The parking area is on Winding Way and PCH. The initial section of the hike is along Winding Way is called the Winding Way Trail.

The hike is about 4 miles round trip and can be done in as fast as an hour (if you speed walk and don't hang out) or for most, a couple hours.

The first 8/10ths of a mile is along Winding Way to the trailhead. It has a moderate hill but is not that bad. Near the peak of the initial hill, you will need to cross from the left side of the street to the right side as you make your way up. There are signs that ask that you walk on the dirt trail rather than on the street, so try to abide by that. You will be treated to views of beautiful homes and ocean views along this portion of your trek.

After a short final downhill section, you'll reach the trailhead. After an initial left turn that takes you briefly west, most of the rest of the trail to Escondido Falls is a northeast to northerly direction. You'll be treated to lush oak woodlands and greenery year-round.  

 Much of the trail looks like this; canopied by oaks and shrub.

Much of the trail looks like this; canopied by oaks and shrub.

Hikers, equestrians and bikers are all welcome on the trail. Dogs too, on leash of course. I have not seen bikers on this trail, however. There are no restrooms, other than a porta-john at the parking lot. No drinking fountains, so bring water. There are trash cans at the trailhead. 

The waterfall is a treat to see but the rest of the hike is quite nice too, largely shaded and not too hilly or technical. There is a net elevation gain from 150' at the trailhead to 325' at the Falls over about a mile, which is not bad.

After the rainy season, you may have to cross the creek a few times as it criss-crosses the trail. There are a couple forks in the road where you may wonder which way to go. Generally speaking, turn left on your way to the falls and that will get you there.

 Believe it or not, this is the end of the trail, where the waterfall flows after the rainy season. In late August pictured here, there is a dribble of water flowing into the creek.

Believe it or not, this is the end of the trail, where the waterfall flows after the rainy season. In late August pictured here, there is a dribble of water flowing into the creek.

The parkland ends at the multi-tiered waterfall area and the trail basically ends. Except, there are paths that can get you to the upper falls. Technically you are not supposed to do this because you are no longer on public land, not to mention you are literally rock climbing your way up there and it can be dangerous. But (shame on me) yes, we did check it out and wow is it neat to see, even when there is zero water flow.

This is a fun, family-friendly hike that is worth a try. Quite popular, one could argue, too popular, on weekends.

 There's one side trail to the east that will give you views of the waterfall when it is flowing. The white-ish area in the upper right hand of this photo is where the waterfall resides.

There's one side trail to the east that will give you views of the waterfall when it is flowing. The white-ish area in the upper right hand of this photo is where the waterfall resides.

Why is it named after Edward Albert? Well, Edward Albert is the only son of actor Eddie Albert, well known for his role on TV sitcom "Green Acres." Edward died at age 55 in 2006. Prior to his death, he was a tireless advocate for preserving Escondido Canyon. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy named the area in honor of him several months prior to his death. (1)

Escondido Canyon Park map at THIS LINK. Visit the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy site at www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=12.

(1) Los Angeles Times obituary dated 9/27/06 at this link.

Old Boney Trail Hike in Pt. Mugu State Park

If you're looking for a hike of about 10 miles in the Rancho Sierra Vista/Boney Mountain Wilderness area, consider the Old Boney Trail loop from Newbury Park. You can park either in the National Park Service parking lot or at Wendy Drive where it meets Potrero Road.

You can do the hike clockwise or counter-clockwise since it is a loop course. I prefer clockwise, which starts by trekking through Rancho Sierra Vista to Danielson Road. Details of this path are at THIS LINK. This path gets you to a juncture where you can continue another 3/10ths of a mile to the Danielson Monument (which you definitely should do if you've never been there) or veer a sharp right up the Old Boney Trail.

 Sign at juncture of Danielson Road trail and Old Boney Trail in Pt. Mugu State Park

Sign at juncture of Danielson Road trail and Old Boney Trail in Pt. Mugu State Park

I love the Old Boney Trail. It is narrow and covered with growth on both sides. Kind of like running through a chaparral jungle. This makes the trail mostly shade covered for the first couple miles of this 3.5 mile stretch of trail. You'll be treated to some nice views of Boney Mountain along the way.

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Although the Old Boney Trail does not reach a peak for panoramic views, you'll still find several spots that reward you with views towards the Channel Islands and west Ventura County.

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About a mile or mile and a half into Old Boney Trail from Danielson Road, you'll see a turnoff sign to the right that takes you to the Fossil Trail, a mile or so drop back down to the bottom of Sycamore Canyon. The drop is about 1300 ft to 500 ft with plenty of rocky surfaces, so you'll have some fun going back down this way, for a shorter route. And of course, look closely and you'll be treated to surfaces covered with sea fossil imprints from millions of years ago.

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From the Old Boney Trail/Fossil Trail juncture, you have another 2.1 fun miles to the next juncture at Blue Canyon Trail at the bottom of the canyon. You'll get some more neat views of Boney Mountain during this stretch. At the juncture is the following sign on Blue Canyon Trail.

 Sign on Blue Canyon Trail at the Old Boney Trail juncture in Pt. Mugu State Park.

Sign on Blue Canyon Trail at the Old Boney Trail juncture in Pt. Mugu State Park.

You will turn right on Blue Canyon Trail, which will take you to the Danielson Multi-Use area and the paved Sycamore Canyon Fire Road. A left-hand turn will get you lots of fun for another day, onward to Chamberlain Trail that gets you up to some might nice peaks, and Serrano Valley.

 Sign at entrance to Blue Canyon Trail at the Danielson Multi-Use area (you of course will be looking at the back side of this sign if you're coming from the Old Boney Trail).

Sign at entrance to Blue Canyon Trail at the Danielson Multi-Use area (you of course will be looking at the back side of this sign if you're coming from the Old Boney Trail).

 I've never actually seen anyone using the Danielson Multi-Use area but here's the picnic area.

I've never actually seen anyone using the Danielson Multi-Use area but here's the picnic area.

So you run through the Danielson area to the main paved road to the right (turning left of course will take you to PCH in about 4-5 miles). In another 3 miles you'll be back in civilization; these miles include the 800 foot, 3/4 mile ascent into Rancho Sierra Vista, which can be a bit brutal...perhaps my (and maybe your) least favorite section of this course. But once you're up the hill, you're home free! Time for breakfast, lunch, dinner or all of the above!

 Sycamore Canyon Fire Road sign at the top of the hill in Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa.

Sycamore Canyon Fire Road sign at the top of the hill in Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa.

Of course, you can easily reverse this course and make your way DOWN Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, turn left onto Blue Canyon Trail, left on Old Boney Trail for 3.5 miles and then left on Danielson Road, back down into the canyon and up towards Satwiwa.

Sycamore to the Sea Hike, Run or Bike From Newbury Park to Sycamore Cove

Did you know that you can walk, hike, run or bike from Newbury Park to the ocean over 8 1/4 miles pretty easily, without dealing with automobiles? Park your car at the Wendy and Potrero trailhead or at the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa parking lot at Point Mugu State Park in Newbury Park and experience it yourself.

 The entry to the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa area.

The entry to the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa area.

 The   Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center   is a short walk from the parking lot.

The Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center is a short walk from the parking lot.

 From there, take the paved road, called the Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, towards the ocean.

From there, take the paved road, called the Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, towards the ocean.

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This is a nice, wide paved road with trails along the side much of the way. Generally cool in the early morning year-round as you head towards the ocean, plenty of rest/pit stop areas on the way down and nice and peaceful and beautiful, full of canyons, trees and wildlife (of course, the Springs Fire of 2013 took a major toll on the area, but it has largely grown back as of spring 2018).

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The steepest descent on this course is a roughly 800 foot drop over a 3/4 of a mile into the canyon on the paved road after you see this sign. Coming back up if you do the full round-trip circuit is a bit of a challenge.

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After you drop into the canyon, it is pretty much smooth sailing. The paved road stops right around the Danielson Multi-Use area (see image below for that juncture). After that, follow the wide, dirt fire road towards the beach.

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There are numerous water spigots on the side of the road going down, which comes in quite handy on warmer days. If you use them, just make sure to turn them off.

 About 3/4ths of the way down to the beach, you'll pass one of the most picturesque locations for a porta-john that I've ever seen.

About 3/4ths of the way down to the beach, you'll pass one of the most picturesque locations for a porta-john that I've ever seen.

A few miles after passing the above porta-john, you'll reach the Sycamore Canyon Campground, which has 58 campsites and is across Pacific Coast Highway from the ocean. Cross over PCH (be careful!) or find the underpass that takes you under PCH to the Sycamore Cove Beach area, with picnic tables, bathrooms, etc., and enjoy your day!

 Sycamore Cove Beach in Point Mugu

Sycamore Cove Beach in Point Mugu

From there, you either head back up or call your significant other to pick you up. Or perhaps plan it out in the morning to leave one car at the beach, drive another car back (obviously you can't do this alone), park the 2nd car at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa, hike/walk/bike down the canyon to retrieve car #1. Or do what I did once, which was drive down to Sycamore Cove via Potrero Road/Las Posas/PCH, park the car, run (or perhaps ride) up to Newbury Park, then ride down with the kids and enjoy the beach. Fun! 

For a map of the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa area with a portion of the Big Sycamore Canyon Trail, visit www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/upload/RSV-2-12.pdf (National Park Service pdf brochure).

Point Mugu State Park

Point Mugu State Park is located in the Santa Monica Mountains, stretching from Newbury Park on the north to five miles of ocean shoreline on the south. The park includes 14,000 acres of land with over 70 miles of trails popular with hikers, cyclists and runners.  It is truly an amazing place, with rocky peaks that include the prominent Boney Mountain State Wilderness that looks over the western Conejo Valley.

 The sign in Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa in Newbury Park indicating you are entering State-managed Point Mugu State Park.

The sign in Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa in Newbury Park indicating you are entering State-managed Point Mugu State Park.

You can actually hike, run or bike from Newbury Park, from the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa area managed by the National Park Service down to the ocean via Sycamore Canyon "Sycamore to the Sea," which is about an 8 mile trip one way. But do be aware - the initial 800 foot drop from Rancho Sierra Vista into the canyon via Big Sycamore Canyon Road is a bit more challenging coming back up.

 The paved hill drops into the canyon via Sycamore Canyon Fire Road.

The paved hill drops into the canyon via Sycamore Canyon Fire Road.

There are four main canyons in Point Mugu State Park. Sycamore Canyon is perhaps the most well known, stretching practically the entire north/south length of the park, where at the bottom of the canyon you'll find the 58 space Sycamore Canyon Campground at 9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway (make reservations at ReserveCalifornia.com).

 The Sycamore Canyon Campground connects to the Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, which is your access point to a day of fun and adventure in Point Mugu State Park trails.

The Sycamore Canyon Campground connects to the Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, which is your access point to a day of fun and adventure in Point Mugu State Park trails.

The La Jolla Valley Natural Preserve is on the western side of the park, with a main access point near Thornhill Broome State Beach at the Ray Miller Trailhead to the La Jolla Canyon Trail which connects with the Loop Trail. Another access point to La Jolla Valley is the Chumash Trail trailhead, a rocky, steep trail across from Point Mugu Beach. La Jolla Valley was purchased by the State of California in 1966 and was established as a Natural Preserve in 1972.

Wood Canyon is in the northwest section of the park, where you will find the north/south running Wood Canyon Fire Road, which connects to the Guadalasca Trail, among others.

Serrano Valley is accessible from the south off the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road/Trail about a mile north of the beach. A beautiful, serene, area, with a connection to the Old Boney Trail that takes you to the Danielson Monument in the Boney Mountain Wilderness.

The main beach areas in Point Mugu State Park, running southeast to northwest, are Sycamore Cove, Thornhill Broome and Point Mugu. Sycamore Cove is a fun day-use park popular with families for gatherings with BBQ grills and picnic tables. Learn more about beaches in the Malibu area at this link.

 This is the PCH overpass where on low tide you can walk underneath here to get from Sycamore Cove Beach to Sycamore Canyon Campgrounds and hiking in Point Mugu State Park. In higher tides, this area can be dicey, so be careful.

This is the PCH overpass where on low tide you can walk underneath here to get from Sycamore Cove Beach to Sycamore Canyon Campgrounds and hiking in Point Mugu State Park. In higher tides, this area can be dicey, so be careful.

If you are looking for beachfront camping, try Thornhill Broome Beach, with just over 60 spots available for RVs and tents. No hookups here and only porta-johns available, but can't beat the views! And across the street you can't miss the Giant Sand Dune!

Day use parking at the various sites is available for $12. There is very minimal street parking at Sycamore Cove but plenty of street parking adjacent to Thornhill Broome Beach.

Dogs on a leash are allowed in the Park's day use areas, campgrounds and beaches. Dogs are not allowed on the back country trails or dirt roads.

Keep driving northwest on PCH and you'll past the famous Mugu Rock and see Pt. Mugu Beach, which also has day use parking, with some parking on PCH. Learn more at the California State Parks website at www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=630.

 Mugu Rock up ahead, driving north on PCH from Thornhill Broome.

Mugu Rock up ahead, driving north on PCH from Thornhill Broome.

Lastly, let's cover some of the highest peaks in Point Mugu State Park. The Boney Mountain Wilderness Area, ever so prominent from the Conejo Valley, is located in the Park. But Boney Peak itself, at 2828 feet, is actually in the Circle X Ranch area managed by the National Park Service, along with Sandstone Peak, the highest spot in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3111 feet.

 Boney Mountain range overlooks the western Conejo Valley.

Boney Mountain range overlooks the western Conejo Valley.

Other peaks include Tri Peaks at 3010 feet, Laguna Peak (the peak which has equipment from Naval Base Ventura County below), La Jolla Peak and Mugu Peak

 Map of Point Mugu State Park courtesy of National Park Service.

Map of Point Mugu State Park courtesy of National Park Service.

Oak Park Campground in Simi Valley

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Located at 901 Quimisa Drive in Simi Valley, the Oak Park Campground is a rustic 100.5 acre open space park that is surrounded by gentle, rolling hills and an abundance of coastal sage scrub brush. This natural environment supports a multitude of California native wildlife species, such as a raptors, roadrunners, sagebrush lizards, and alligator lizards. The park is ideal for group RV camping in a secluded setting.

Day use is $2 per day ($4 on weekends) (as of July 2018). Camping is $32 per day.

Plenty of things to explore in this 100 acre space! Learn more or make reservations at www.ventura.org/inland-parks/oak-park-simi-valley or call 805.654.3951.

The video shot below was on a Sunday night around 7 p.m. in July 2010. There was for the most part nobody there! What a great opportunity to camp with your kids locally! I guess my only concerns about the location would be that the park is sandwiched between the 118 freeway and the railroad tracks...though I did not encounter any noise issues in my brief drive-by.

The Punch Bowls in Santa Paula

The Santa Paula Canyon Trail takes you to the "The Punch Bowls" in the Los Padres National Forest. This is a fairly challenging hike that is definitely not for everyone. But for many, it is quite an interesting, roughly 7 mile round trip exploration. Plan on at least a 4 to 6 hour excursion.

The trail begins in the hills behind Thomas Aquinas College at 10000 Ojai Road, Santa Paula. This is a private college and thus the public is not allowed access to parking on the campus. There is a small amount of street parking and several dirt lots nearby. Make sure though not to leave any valuables in your car.

Access to the trail takes a bit of a walk on the paved road that swings to the right of the college. There are signs that point the way to the trailhead and that asks hikers to stay on the paved roadway.

 The winding road to the trailhead

The winding road to the trailhead

You will be entering private property (continue following the signs), so be mindful of that as you veer left, then past an oil rig through an avocado farm. You will be walking past a large red gate, then continue on, until you reach another oil pumping rig. Go left along the path around the rig to the trailhead, where you will be greeted by the sounds of the Santa Paula Creek.

 You will be veering left after walking through this gate,  into private property. You will be walking past an oil pump then into an avocado orchard, then past another oil rig (veer left) to the trailhead.

You will be veering left after walking through this gate,  into private property. You will be walking past an oil pump then into an avocado orchard, then past another oil rig (veer left) to the trailhead.

Cross the creek (there are strategically placed stones) and you are on your way.

 Veer right around this., which would seem obvious but to me it wasn't. 

Veer right around this., which would seem obvious but to me it wasn't. 

From here, there are no signs that clearly say "trail this way." Perhaps the main thing to keep in mind is that for the most part, you will be following the creek to the area known as the Punch Bowls. But the exact path is not always clear, especially when you are like me and have a tendency of picking the wrong path at each fork.

 Some sections of the trail are perfectly flat and scenic. Most of the trail you will hear the Santa Paula Creek.

Some sections of the trail are perfectly flat and scenic. Most of the trail you will hear the Santa Paula Creek.

But one thing we generally found is that someone has sprayed orange arrows in the direction you need to go. That said, it is still not always clear. Unfortunately, there is graffiti and markings of various sorts much of the way up the trail. In fact this is probably the worst example of defacing of a public trail that I've ever seen. I will not post the images here.

In any case, we didn't let the graffiti bother us too much as the trails were so beautiful, interesting and challenging. In fact, aside from hiking up Boney Mountain, this is probably the most challenging trail I've tried in the local area. There are some "perfectly flat" sections but many sections of the trail are quite rocky, narrow, lined with poison oak and challenging.

Also, be prepared to cross the creek in various sections. It wasn't always clear if we should be on the left or right side of the creek. Make sure to wear good hiking shoes as you will be making some creek crossings, which can be slippery.

I don't usually hike with a walking stick, but it definitely came in handy on this trail. The higher up we got, the rockier and more "bouldery" the trail became. 

 The boulders get larger and there are more areas with loose rocks the higher you get up the trail. I don't usually use a walking stick, but it definitely came in handy for this hike.

The boulders get larger and there are more areas with loose rocks the higher you get up the trail. I don't usually use a walking stick, but it definitely came in handy for this hike.

In any case, after some crazy sections of rocks that, when we went (mid-June 2016), included sections of significant piles of rocks (including some fairly recent looking rock slide areas), you will reach the first of the Punch Bowls. This was our final destination, but there are additional pools of water higher up, on trails that appear increasingly challenging.

 This punch bowl was our final destination before heading back down. Beautiful to see, though the water was not particularly deep (blame it on the drought) or clean looking. But quite a great destination to hike to nonetheless and enjoyable to relax and take it in.

This punch bowl was our final destination before heading back down. Beautiful to see, though the water was not particularly deep (blame it on the drought) or clean looking. But quite a great destination to hike to nonetheless and enjoyable to relax and take it in.

I took 4th and 7th graders with me and they did fine. It was a lot of fun. Definitely not stroller friendly. Dogs are ok on leash, though I wouldn't bring my dog due to the proliferation of rocks.

Learn more about the Santa Paula Canyon Trail at www.hikelospadres.com/santa-paula-canyon-trail.html.

Lizard Rock Hike in Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks

Lizard Rock is just over a mile from the main entrance to Wildwood Park at the west end of Avenida de los Arboles. Walk/run/hike over Mesa Trail towards Lizard Rock and you will be treated to beautiful views of the surrounding spaces where shows like Gunsmoke and The Rifleman were filmed.

 The entrance area and dirt parking lot at the Wildwood Park main trailhead.

The entrance area and dirt parking lot at the Wildwood Park main trailhead.

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 Lizard Rock in the distance

Lizard Rock in the distance

 View from on top of the lizard

View from on top of the lizard

 Trail sign south of Lizard Rock indicating Lizard Rock Trail to Wildwood Canyon Trail

Trail sign south of Lizard Rock indicating Lizard Rock Trail to Wildwood Canyon Trail

You can make this hike a 4 1/2 mile loop past Paradise Falls and the Indian Creek Trail by reviewing the map on the Conejo Open Space Foundation website at www.cosf.org/website/html/lizard-waterfall-creek.html.

Ventura Botanical Gardens Demonstration Trail

NOTE: The entire 109 acres were burned in the Thomas Fire of December 2017 and the trail has been closed as a result. Anticipated re-opening date is late summer/early fall 2018.

The Ventura Botanical Gardens Demonstration Trail is a nearly 1 mile trail between Ventura City Hall and Grant Park. It opened in October 2012. The trail zig zags and meanders its way up to Grant Park, offering awesome views of downtown Ventura and the coastline. The trail is accessible behind Ventura City Hall, located at 567 South Poli Street. Take the driveway on the right side of City Hall (facing the building) and drive up to the parking area.

 Access to the trail is on the right (east) side of Ventura City Hall. 

Access to the trail is on the right (east) side of Ventura City Hall. 

 There's a parking area at the bottom of the trail behind Ventura City Hall

There's a parking area at the bottom of the trail behind Ventura City Hall

Funds continue to be raised to enhance the Demonstration Trail, provide for trail maintenance and augment it with a new trail and ultimately build a visitor center. Learn more at www.venturabotanicalgardens.com.

 The trail is decorated with pretty wildflowers and other California native plants

The trail is decorated with pretty wildflowers and other California native plants

 There are some neat rock walls on sections of the trail

There are some neat rock walls on sections of the trail

 A short walk will get you some pretty views!

A short walk will get you some pretty views!

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Angel Vista Peak in Newbury Park

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The 1,530' elevation Angel Vista Peak in Newbury Park may well have the most spectacular views of the Conejo Valley. You can see the entire Conejo Valley, stretching from the Conejo Grade to central Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Hidden Valley, Boney Mountain and beyond from here!

Angel Vista can most easily be accessed via the Rosewood Trail at the southern terminus of Regal Oak Ct, off of Lynn Road) Or for a much longer hike, take the Los Robles Trail (either the Thousand Oaks side accessible at South Moorpark Road and Greenmeadow Ave or Newbury Park side off of Potrero Road). The Conejo Open Space Foundation provides a useful map at www.cosf.org/website/html/los-robles-angel-vista.html. There's a bench as well as a picnic table up there with wonderful views.

The hike is about 3 1/2 miles round trip.

 You'll eventually see this sign if you make the trek up the Rosewood Trail.

You'll eventually see this sign if you make the trek up the Rosewood Trail.

 The bench is in sight!

The bench is in sight!

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 Fun to see at least a portion of Hidden Valley from up here.

Fun to see at least a portion of Hidden Valley from up here.

Potrero Ridge Trail in Newbury Park

The Potrero Ridge Trail in Newbury Park is an interesting ridgeline trail that runs west/east in three sections over approximately 2 1/2 miles one way. You can access the trail from a number of locations and neighborhood feeder trails, but the main sections are as follows (west to east):

Via Las Brisas in the Dos Vientos tract, just north of Paseo Santa Rosa to Reino Road, just north of Paseo de Leon and Lynn Road, is a little over a mile. This is one of my favorite trails in the area, providing panoramic views of the southern portion of Newbury Park, Boney Mountain and Dos Vientos. There are some switchbacks on the west end near Reino Road but they are not overly strenuous.

 Potrero Ridge Trailhead on Via Las Brisas, just north of Paseo Santa Rosa.

Potrero Ridge Trailhead on Via Las Brisas, just north of Paseo Santa Rosa.

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 Potrero Ridge Trail trailhead (and parking area) off of Reino Road

Potrero Ridge Trail trailhead (and parking area) off of Reino Road

The middle section of the Potrero Ridge Trail runs from Woodland Oak Place off of Reino Road to Wendy Drive between Felton and Peppermint, where there's a convenient dirt parking lot.  Only about a half mile to the top of the trail, where you'll see a water tank. The primary trail is a wide fire road to the water tank from Wendy Drive. There's a secondary single track trail that mostly runs parallel (south) to the main fire road that is accessible from several points. This trail treats you to wonderful, panoramic views of the area.

 Potrero Ridge Trail trailhead off of Wendy Drive.

Potrero Ridge Trail trailhead off of Wendy Drive.

 Views towards the water tank at top of Potrero Ridge Trail (middle section)

Views towards the water tank at top of Potrero Ridge Trail (middle section)

The east section of the trail runs from across the parking lot on Wendy Drive to another peak, then down towards Silas Lane near Grace Bible Church, about half a mile in total. There is no parking available for this section of trail, though you can park in the Wendy lot and find a crosswalk to cross over to the trailhead.

 View from east section of Potrero Ridge Trail.

View from east section of Potrero Ridge Trail.

So basically these 3 segments are split between Via las Brisas and Reino Road, Reino Road and Wendy Drive and Wendy Drive and Silas Lane.

If you'e like to extend your trail trekking on the west side, cross over Via las Brisas and take the Sierra Vista Trail west another mile to Rancho Dos Vientos.

This trail is maintained by the Conejo Open Space Foundation.

 Here's a view of the initial section of the western section of the Potrero Ridge Trail from the Wendy Water Tank section of the trail across Reino Road.

Here's a view of the initial section of the western section of the Potrero Ridge Trail from the Wendy Water Tank section of the trail across Reino Road.

 Views into the Dos Vientos section of Newbury Park

Views into the Dos Vientos section of Newbury Park

 Potrero Ridge Trail bench provide extensive views

Potrero Ridge Trail bench provide extensive views

 Views from the same bench on a cloudy late October day in 2013

Views from the same bench on a cloudy late October day in 2013

Oak Creek Canyon Loop Trail in Thousand Oaks

The Oak Creek Canyon Loop Trail is about a mile hike that is great to do with the kids near the Los Robles Trail in Thousand Oaks.

Get there by taking Moorpark Road south of the 101 until it ends at Greenmeadow Avenue. Turn right and drive about half a mile to the parking lot.

 Signs along the Oak Creek Canyon Whole Access Interpretative Trail are in braille.

Signs along the Oak Creek Canyon Whole Access Interpretative Trail are in braille.

The first .4 mile section of trail is called the Oak Creek Canyon Whole Access Interpretive Trail and is a mostly shaded oak grove area that is accessible by all, including equestrians, bicycles, hikers, wheelchairs, disabled and blind individuals. There is actually a "guide cable" along the fence as well as informational signs in braille.

 One of three picnic benches along the Interpretive Trail.

One of three picnic benches along the Interpretive Trail.

There is a restroom, drinking fountain and picnic bench at the trailhead as well as two other picnic tables and a bench on this portion of the trail. There is also abundant poison oak on the sides of the trails, so be careful to stay on the trail.

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At the end of the Interpretive Trail section of the loop, you reach a well maintained dirt trail through the chaparral that is a bit more challenging and ok for most kids. There's a few moderate hills to be aware of, making it somewhat of a challenge with a stroller but in my opinion, a do-able challenge. And of course, you can always turn around and take the Interpretive Trail back. 

 The loop trail continues on the left.

The loop trail continues on the left.

 One of the moderate hills on the trail.

One of the moderate hills on the trail.

You go about .4 mile back towards Greenmeadow. Before you get to the street you will see a bench on the west side of the trail. Do be aware that there is no sidewalk on this section of Greenmeadow as you walk back towards the parking area. More information and a map available on the Conejo Open Space Foundation website at www.cosf.org/website/html/oak-creek-canyon.html.