Big Sycamore Canyon in coastal Ventura County’s Point Mugu State Park is famous for its miles-long promenade of magnificent California sycamore trees. Higher up and farther inland, hidden in that same drainage, you can find an intimate little waterfall. The falls merely whisper most of the time — but now, in the aftermath of recent rainfall, they resound resolutely.
To get to the trailhead, which lies on the edge of the Thousand Oaks neighborhood of Newbury Park, exit Highway 101 at Lynn Road and turn south. Drive 5.6 miles on Lynn Road to the Rancho Sierra Vista/ Satwiwa Park entrance on the left. Continue past a gate (open daylight hours) and arrive, after one-half mile, at a large trailhead parking area.
From the trailhead, head southeast on an unpaved service road to the paved Big Sycamore Canyon Trail, 0.2 mile away. Jog briefly right, then veer left on the Satwiwa Loop Trail, bypassing the Satwiwa Native American Culture Center and a Chumash Indian demonstration village. Following signs to the waterfall, aim southeast across a gorgeous meadow, more or less toward the toothy ridgeline called Boney Mountain. You pick up the Old Boney Trail (an old roadbed), which climbs to a small crest (1.0 mile) and then starts descending into the upper reaches of Big Sycamore Canyon. You’re now crossing from Rancho Sierra Vista Park into Point Mugu State Park.
At the bottom of the grade, Old Boney Trail swings across the Big Sycamore stream (1.5 miles) and then strikes uphill. That’s where you leave Old Boney Trail and turn left onto the narrow, rough Waterfall Trail. You work your way 0.2 mile upstream to the cascades, which lie in a north-facing grotto almost perpetually shaded from the direct rays of the sun. The falling and flowing water around you is framed by a wild and tangled assortment of oak and sycamore limbs overhead. Given that you’ve only spent perhaps 45 minutes walking in to this spot from the edge of the suburbs, the beauty, serenity, and splendid isolation of the place is a bit hard to believe. Don’t get too carried away — on a visit here a few months ago, we spotted two rattlesnakes, including one right below the falls.
This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.
Sycamore Canyon Falls
Discover a melodious canyon waterfall just outside the city of Thousand Oaks.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 165 miles
Hiking/biking length: 3.4 miles round trip