31 October 2011

06 October 2011

Upper North Fork of the Matilija Creek

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

I opened up my Forest Service map for the Los Padres NF and picked a trail. There were actually two trails out of the trail head I was looking at, but one was along a larger blue line so looked more attractive. It followed the north fork of the Matilija Creek up for quite a ways starting just a few miles behind Ojai. A little research indicates that the trail up the main fork is the more popular one with a waterfall or swimming holes before it as destination, but there is a private property dispute along it. This dispute does not affect the north fork at all. Signs at the trail head make it clear where the dispute is although the public trail was well established and used for decades before they purchased it and they cannot actually bar the public from using the trail. Other entry, yes, but trail use, no. There's some indication that people can get permission to pass, if one wanted to go that direction without any worries. Trails leading along the north fork and southward branch off before the disputed path, so there are options that unambiguously require no permission.

Looking at the USGS topographical map of the area, mostly the Wheeler Springs quadrangle, the trail looks pretty easy and the one trail log I found seemed to confirm that. Especially notable was the wide, flat valley it proceeds through. I also noticed that a short way up a tributary that was also a somewhat narrower wide, flat valley there was a waterfall marked. I thought I might make the attempt to see what this waterfall was like. It might be a trickle over what is really more like a cascade or it could be something impressive, but I wouldn't know unless I got there. I got a map together and printed it out and took off for the trail head. Then hanging out the Adventure Pass (the parking is in a fee area of the forest), I took off up the trail.

The trail initially is really a road. It passes immediately into a developed piece of private property via a gate, so felt a little weird to be hiking there. There are no issues with passing on the road through this particular property except that it is "at your own risk" and they ask you not to frighten the animals. There are lots of animals including dogs, horses, and an aviary of ducks, geese, and peacocks. After passing the buildings, much of the land on either side of the road is private all the way to the turn off for the trail. The pavement ends and there are a couple of water crossings before the trail after a particularly wide crossing. The trail is well marked with another sign detailing the locations of private property.

The valley is wide open and green as the trail starts. The trail crosses over the main fork as it starts, then quickly crosses the north fork as it turns to follow it. It is a slow climb throughout. As the canyon seems to be coming in tightly, the trail forks with the lower fork dropping into Matilija Campsite, the first of many camping areas along the way. The canyon really does narrow significantly just after the campground and the trail makes several crossings. Just as soon as it closed up, the canyon opens back up.

Matilija Valley
The big, green valley that the Matilija flows through.

the upper north fork
Looking up along to the north fork from along the road just before the trail turns off.