29 March 2012

Lion Canyon (and Rose Valley Falls)

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

I decided to go out and see the waterfalls shown on the map behind each camp on the east and west fork of Lion Canyon and while I was there, visit Rose Valley Falls, too. I hadn't quite decided to make it all one hike in a big loop by the time I had started. I did know the loop without the extra treks out to the various falls has been reported to be about 5 miles and since the extra wasn't all that much, I felt I could do it. And, sure, it is a much shorter single hike if parking at Rose Valley Campground and just using the connector, but I had decided I wanted to hike the lower canyon as well as the connector. Really, the only question was loop or out and back. Doing the loop, it would have made sense to park somewhere up the road like at the information sign, but I drove down to Middle Lion and started off from there.

a nice, wide creek crossing with very few stones
Starting off with a creek crossing that took advantage of the waterproof boots on a row of placed stones that were largely underwater. The swift water tried to push in, but didn't make it.

The campground was full as I started and one person had actually camped a little down the trail away from the campground. The trail dumped into the creek and came out the other side but there were no rocks for crossing. Upstream a little, there were stones placed for stepping, but many of them were underwater. I took it anyway, and the swift flow threatened to wash up and into my shoes but my socks stayed dry.

sign on the trail
Trail 22W06 (Lion Canyon Trail) with 2.5 miles to either Fork Lion Camp and 6 miles up to road 5N08, which follows the ridge back down to Rose Valley Campground.


The trail follows a gentle upward slope along the side of the canyon. Climbing a little way up, I saw some unfamiliar ducks, which really just means they weren't mallards. They were paddling pretty quickly around the pools. As the trail climbs, the narrowness of the canyon and height of the walls is striking. With a slight corner, there are suddenly many pine trees instead of leafy things. Then the canyon opens up.

a pair of ducks paddling away in the creek
Paddling away and being very aware of where I was trying to be sure they kept some tree branches between me and them were a pair of ducks.

exposed vertical rocks showing layers
The cliff walls are tall and close for a bit.

lots of pine trees
Mainly pine trees poking up as the canyon opens up a little bit.

pools far below
Now high up on the canyon wall, the opposite wall is steep, mostly bare rocks eventually becoming a cliff. The pools are beautiful green things.

wide open canyon
The canyon opens up into a wide valley.

As the canyon opens up, the trail drops down near the canyon floor again. The connector trail comes in from the right and the valley gets so wide that although the trail is down low, the gurgle of the creek sometimes becomes inaudible in the distance. Then it comes back loud and strong only to leave again. Soon, I was at the junction for the various listings at the start of the trail.

junction with the connector trail
Lion Canyon Trails ahead and Rose-Lion Connector to the right.

junction with forks and ridge trail
East Fork Lion Camp to the left, West Fork Lion Camp to the right and Nordoff Ridge going up.

Someone had made a use camp at the junction even though the actual camps are so close at hand. They even used an old sign post for a bench for the fire ring. I turned to the right to go up to the West Fork Lion Camp and try to find the falls beyond it.

stove at West Fork Lion Camp
West Fork Lion Camp is a developed camp, so it has a metal stove for use.

From the camp, a tunnel through the brush leads to the creek and a few smaller use trail head up and island in the middle of it. The use trails are difficult to follow and vanish pretty quickly. However, it was not too much trouble to get up to the waterfall. Walls and large boulders made of naturally cemented rocks abound. One of those walls is the one the waterfall is coming down over.

the west fork
A bit of the west fork of Lion Canyon, which has a bit less water than was below.

approach to the waterfall
The last challenge to getting to the waterfall is the concrete wall below the pool.

West Fork Lion Falls
The very cute little waterfall found up the west fork of Lion Canyon.

I climbed back down the use trail and made my way back to the junction to follow the second trail up the east fork. This trail is a little longer and there are more use camps along the way, first a large one next to the trail then one on the far side of the creek. The trail sometimes seemed like a use trail and sometimes jumped up the side of the canyon to get around growth although plenty of it had been cut away too. Then I got to the proper camp which has a few stoves.

East Fork Lion Camp
Stoves at East Fork Lion Camp.

The use trail out the back of the camp was larger, but the approach to the falls was far more challenging. I left one trail going right up the side of the dirt on the opposite side of the creek and followed a larger one on the side I was on, eventually coming to a pool where I could not continue on my side. With a creative crossing, I got to the dirt on the far side and went up a shorter dirt trail that was somewhat less directly up. That brought me to a spot where I could go down to the falls.

wide fall with some four sections
This waterfall on the east fork of Lion Canyon is certainly larger, but is it better?

closer to the falls
Getting closer to the falls, there's a bit of flow stone on this one. There are little caves near it with more flow stone, too.

the valley from the waterfall with a little moutain peeking over
The view from the waterfall shows a little bit of the mountains beyond.

Leaving the falls, I was ready to go down, but a bit of hose caught my eye. I'd seen some of this hose in the camp, in a big mess down a little trail behind the stoves. This hose was going somewhere, though. I decided to try to find why it was there. This lead me up to the next little waterfall and then to a cascade. At the top of the cascade, it was getting a bit steep and narrow on both sides and one has to say enough eventually, so I did. The hose wrapped around a little cliff and kept on going.

a little waterfall above the previous one
This little waterfall with a skirt is above the fall with four gushing points. Most of the water probably bypasses this somewhere.

rampaging down the rocks
A cascade above the waterfalls. There may be more to see, but this is where I stopped.

deep green pool above the falls
The pools are beautiful and green up here.

I made my way back down the way I had come up, this time skipping the expeditions down the hillside to the various waterfalls. Some trail went up and over a rock at one point, presumably to meet the very steep trail I had first seen. I went down and braved my crossing by the pool again. I followed the use trail back to the camp and the maintained trail back to the junction and then continued back to the connector trail.

a perfectly serviceable crossing, as it turns out
My crossing of the creek was a careful climb down to the rocks by the tree, then around it hanging onto the old wound to get onto a rock on the other side. There is a ledge along the big rock about three feet up that I progressed along, then over to the large rock and over the log to a bit of easy rock hopping.

rocks piled loosely far up a tree stump
Getting back to the campground, the slightly snowy mountains are still visible. Someone must have tossed many stones up the tree, though you would think that they would fall with the impact of the next one tossed.

very yellow butterfly
This butterfly seemed to have big purple and black eyes on its wings, but refused to open them back up once it landed.

Coming to the connector trail, I made my way up it to Rose Valley to see the falls there.




©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 31 March 2012

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