Santa Paula Canyon Falls (Santa Paula Canyon Punch Bowls)

Santa Paula / Fillmore / Los Padres National Forest / Sespe Wilderness, California, USA

About Santa Paula Canyon Falls (Santa Paula Canyon Punch Bowls)


Hiking Distance: 7.6 miles round trip (to main falls); 10 miles round trip (to waterfalls beyond Cross Camp)
Suggested Time: 4-8 hours (depends on how far up the canyon you want to go)

Date first visited: 2021-02-05
Date last visited: 2021-03-05

Waterfall Latitude: 34.44931
Waterfall Longitude: -119.05654

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The Santa Paula Canyon Falls (better known as the Santa Paula Punch Bowls) consist of several waterfalls, cascades that act like water slides, and the namesake “punch bowls” that make for popular swimming holes.

Even though we’ve been aware of these waterfalls from our Ann Marie Brown book, it wasn’t until early 2021 that we finally had the opportunity to visit them, and I guess you can say we’re late to the party.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_393_02052021 - Santa Paula Canyon Falls (or the Santa Paula Punch Bowls)
Santa Paula Canyon Falls (or the Santa Paula Punch Bowls)

Indeed, the Santa Paula Punch Bowls have been a well-known and very popular spot because people love to play in and swim around waterfalls, especially when it gets hot in Southern California.

As a result of its popularity, this place has had a bit of a bad rap when it comes to graffiti and litter.

When I spoke to some Fillmore locals during my first visit, they mentioned that the trail to larger waterfalls on nearby Tar Creek were bulldozed as a result of the litter that threatened the condor sanctuary there.

However, they expressed surprise at the noticeable clean-up of graffiti and litter at Santa Paula Canyon Falls, which you might have noticed in the photo above (the walls flanking the waterfall used to be all tagged up).

Santa_Paula_Canyon_355_02052021 - Looking down at more punch bowls beyond the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Looking down at more punch bowls beyond the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls

This might have to do with a recent trail re-route, which I’ll describe shortly.

In any case, with this excursion, I had to earn my visit with a bit of a fairly long hike that would take most people the better part of a day.

Heck, I even needed a second visit to the Santa Paula Canyon Trail to fully experience the spots that I had missed the first time around.

That said, I did notice campsites that opened up the possibility of overnight backpacking treks deeper into the Sespe Wilderness (and possibly even more waterfalls).

Santa_Paula_Canyon_271_02052021 - A tall unnamed waterfall further beyond the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls
A tall unnamed waterfall further beyond the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls

Nevertheless, the reward for the effort were a series of swimmable punch bowls starting with the main 30ft waterfall which I believe is called the Santa Paula Canyon Falls though the locals I met called it the “Lower Punch Bowl”.

I’m under the impression that most people would be content to stop at this waterfall, play for a bit, and then turn back.

That said, there were even more punch bowls and waterfalls further upstream.

How far you’re willing to go to pursue them really depends on how much time and energy you’ve got as well as your tolerance of off-trail scrambling and wading.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_220_03052021 - The so-called 'Big Punch Bowl', which was an elusive spot further upstream on Santa Paula Creek
The so-called ‘Big Punch Bowl’, which was an elusive spot further upstream on Santa Paula Creek

In this write-up, I’ve given a range for the hiking distance and time.

The lower end of the range is just to the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls, but the upper end of the range reflected how far I would have to go to pursue the rest of the punch bowls and waterfalls further upstream.

Therefore, the overall difficulty score encompassed my overall experiences which exceeded the bare minimum effort required to reach the “Lower Punch Bowl”.

Trail Route Changes and The Early Part of the Santa Paula Canyon Trail

The Santa Paula Canyon Trail used to pass through the Thomas Aquinas College.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_008_03052021 - The Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead
The Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead

Then, it would go by a handful of oil extraction spots and through an avocado ranch before reaching the actual National Forest trail itself.

However, during my 2021 visits, the trail was re-routed around the college before rejoining at a paved section of road by the Rancho Recuerdo entrance (which owned the avocado farm that the trail passed through as of the time of this writing).

The official Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead is now about 100 yards north of the entrance to the Thomas Aquinas College (see directions below).

Once starting off the Santa Paula Canyon Trail, it pretty much crossed Santa Paula Creek three times in relatively short succession.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_021_03052021 - The third crossing of Santa Paula Creek on the re-routed trail going around the Thomas Aquinas College property
The third crossing of Santa Paula Creek on the re-routed trail going around the Thomas Aquinas College property

Regarding the crossings, the creek had surprisingly healthy flow during my early February 2021 visit, which was on a dry year for much of Southern California.

So I actually found my trekking poles to be quite helpful on these crossings (heck, they even helped on my second visit a month later after minimal rainfall).

After the third crossing, the trail then meandered through a grove of some trees recovering from recent fires before veering to the right (all the while flanked by fencing and private property signs probably belonging to the Thomas Aquinas College).

At about 3/4-mile from the trailhead, the path coincided with a paved road right in between an oil derrick (or “oil-drilling grasshopper” as Ann Marie Brown called them) and the entrance to the Rancho Recuerdo avocado farm.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_495_02052021 - Context of some oil-drilling derricks (or 'grasshoppers') in the context of Santa Paula Canyon
Context of some oil-drilling derricks (or ‘grasshoppers’) in the context of Santa Paula Canyon

The path then passed through the farm before following the paved road alongside some oil pipelines.

Eventually after another 1/4-mile, the trail left the pavement to go around another field of oil derricks before ultimately reaching the 4th crossing of Santa Paula Creek (roughly 1.3 miles from the trailhead).

Beyond this creek crossing, the Santa Paula Canyon Trail then resembled more of a back-to-Nature path as it would follow Santa Paula Creek for the next 0.3-mile before reaching another man-made contraption.

Beyond this contraption, the signs continued to keep me on the correct path as the trail then meandered through a more wide open part of Santa Paula Canyon for the next 3/4-mile.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_070_03052021 - The Santa Paula Canyon Trail traversing a bit of a wide and dry section that I'd imagine can be brutal later in the year when the temperatures rise quickly in this area
The Santa Paula Canyon Trail traversing a bit of a wide and dry section that I’d imagine can be brutal later in the year when the temperatures rise quickly in this area

This dry stretch was noticeably more sun-exposed and warm on the morning of my hike, so I could imagine how much more draining it would be on hotter days later in the year.

Anyways, after this dry, sun-exposed stretch, the canyon would then start to narrow again as the trail encountered the fifth stream crossing, which was signposted.

Beyond this crossing, the trail would then follow the eastern side of Santa Paula Creek for about the next 1/4-mile before the official trail would then start to veer to the right away from the creek.

From here, there was a choice of where to go next.

Santa Paula Canyon Falls: The Easy Way Versus The Hard Way

Santa_Paula_Canyon_455_02052021 - This was the false trail where beyond this line of rocks was the trail that followed Santa Paula Creek, which was the harder way to reach the Santa Paula Punch Bowls
This was the false trail where beyond this line of rocks was the trail that followed Santa Paula Creek, which was the harder way to reach the Santa Paula Punch Bowls

The signage on the official Santa Paula Canyon Trail pointed the way on the wider and well-maintained path that started a moderate climb.

However, I also noticed an unsigned but well-used path that stayed with Santa Paula Creek.

I’ll first describe the official trail before briefly talking about that path that stayed with the creek.

So the climbing section of trail ascended about 400ft for about a mile.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_331_03052021 - Looking down at the context of Santa Paula Canyon Falls from the Big Cone Campground
Looking down at the context of Santa Paula Canyon Falls from the Big Cone Campground

It went around what Ann Marie Brown called the “Hill 1989” (likely referring to its elevation) before ultimately leading up to the Big Cone Campground.

The campground basically consisted of about three (maybe four) fire pits with one of them accessing a steeply climbing “trail” with a distant top down view of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls.

Continuing beyond the Big Cone Camp, the trail then steeply descended towards a tributary of Santa Paula Creek (I believe it’s called the East Fork Santa Paula Creek).

Then, the trail actually went upstream (away from Santa Paula Canyon Falls) before crossing it.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_120_03052021 - Mom and Dad going upstream (away from Santa Paula Canyon Falls) along the East Fork Santa Paula Creek before crossing it
Mom and Dad going upstream (away from Santa Paula Canyon Falls) along the East Fork Santa Paula Creek before crossing it

On my first visit, I actually made the mistake of scrambling downstream here towards a tiny waterfall and then past some dicey ledges before finally reaching the base of the main waterfall and its punch bowl.

With hindsight being 20/20, I didn’t make that mistake again on a subsequent visit as I followed the trail (now the Last Chance Trail), which then steeply climbed the other side of the ravine before veering downstream.

However, judging from how many other people I’ve encountered at the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls that didn’t even know about the proper trail, this seemed to be a very common mistake.

Finally, the main trail then reached a trail junction, where the path on the left steeply descended towards the base of Santa Paula Canyon Falls.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_186_02052021 - Someone tied up some rope at this steep descent from the Santa Paula Canyon Trail leading down to the base of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls though I didn't find the rope to be necessary
Someone tied up some rope at this steep descent from the Santa Paula Canyon Trail leading down to the base of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls though I didn’t find the rope to be necessary

During my 2021 visits, someone had put a rope on that descending trail though I didn’t find that it was necessary.

Overall, reaching this waterfall and the “Lower Punch Bowl” was about 0.3-mile of hiking from the Big Cone Camp (or roughly 3.9 miles from the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead or 7.8 miles round-trip).

As for the other path that stayed with Santa Paula Creek, it too would eventually reach the Santa Paula Canyon Falls.

However, it required a more difficult stream and boulder scramble.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_105_03052021 - Mom and Dad ascending the trail leading up to the Big Cone Camp. This was the easy way to reach Santa Paula Canyon Falls, whereas the harder way involved stream scrambling directly within Santa Paula Creek
Mom and Dad ascending the trail leading up to the Big Cone Camp. This was the easy way to reach Santa Paula Canyon Falls, whereas the harder way involved stream scrambling directly within Santa Paula Creek

Even though I didn’t do this scramble, more than 75% of the visitors that I encountered on my visits actually went this way (whether intentionally or not).

The Fillmore locals that I chatted with on my first visit told me that they generally go up this way and then back the sanctioned way.

However, other people who didn’t know any better appeared to have struggled to reach the main waterfall, and a couple of them actually asked me to guide them on the sanctioned trail to the Big Cone Camp on the way back.

As a result, it was quite clear to me that this unsanctioned creekside trail didn’t save any time, and it yielded minimal benefits (i.e. the additional waterfalls along the way were said to be very puny).

The Next Series Of Punch Bowls And Water Slides Beyond Santa Paula Canyon Falls

Santa_Paula_Canyon_269_03052021 - Looking down at the context of the 'Upper Punch Bowls' from the Last Chance Trail. If you look closely, you might notice a rope dangling on the steep cliff facilitating access to that pool for those with a propensity for risk
Looking down at the context of the ‘Upper Punch Bowls’ from the Last Chance Trail. If you look closely, you might notice a rope dangling on the steep cliff facilitating access to that pool for those with a propensity for risk

Most people may be content with the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls and its punch bowl.

Thus, I can totally see why it can get crowded here, but there were actually more waterfalls and punch bowls to explore further upstream.

So backtracking up to the trail junction just above the steep rope-aided section and the Last Chance Trail, we’d then continue to follow it around a bend to continue further in the upstream direction.

Around the bend, there were precarious top down views of the “Lower Punch Bowl” at the foot of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_343_02052021 - Looking straight down at the pair of waterfalls or cascades feeding the 'upper punch bowls' just upstream of the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Looking straight down at the pair of waterfalls or cascades feeding the ‘upper punch bowls’ just upstream of the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls

However, shortly past this were more ledges overlooking another series of attractive punch bowls and cascades.

Although I was content to view them from above, the locals pointed out to me that I could have crossed the creek above the uppermost of these immediate waterfalls, then backtrack downstream to a rope-aided descent.

That descent would have taken me down to the level of those punch bowls, which were essentially immediately upstream from the brink of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls.

However, despite the rope being there on my visits, the verticality of the cliffs combined with the smoothness of the surface made me rethink taking on further risk by going down there.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_334_02052021 - Looking down over the brink of the next series of waterfalls dropping into the plunge pools just above the Santa Paula Canyon Falls. Further downstream along this side of the creek, someone tied a rope to make the pools down at the 'upper punch bowls' more accessible
Looking down over the brink of the next series of waterfalls dropping into the plunge pools just above the Santa Paula Canyon Falls. Further downstream along this side of the creek, someone tied a rope to make the pools down at the ‘upper punch bowls’ more accessible

The locals also showed me a tiny series of “water slides” further upstream from top of the upper punch bowl waterfalls.

While at first glance they didn’t look like anything significant, I’m sure under higher waterflow than during my visits that they’d be a fun spot to slide from one pool to the next.

Scrambling To The Tall Unnamed Waterfall

The Santa Paula Canyon Trail (also seemingly referred to as the Last Chance Trail at this point) continued further up the canyon on an increasingly narrower trail.

After another 0.15-mile past the upper punch bowls and cascades, the trail weaved among some boulders on a drier part of the Santa Paula Creekbed.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_311_02052021 - This was the view into Santa Paula Canyon from the trail as it ascended towards the Cross Camp
This was the view into Santa Paula Canyon from the trail as it ascended towards the Cross Camp

Then, the trail veered right (ignoring the false fork on the left) as it made another moderate 150ft climb eventually reaching the fire rings within the Cross Camp, which was another primitive backcountry campsite.

Although there were trails (most of which were false) around the Cross Camp, it appeared that the continuation of the Last Chance Trail crossed Santa Paula Creek around here before continuing on.

That said, the remainder of the waterfalls and punch bowls in this write-up didn’t require continuing on the elusive Last Chance Trail at this point.

Thus, we’d eventually continue on the trail that kept to the right of the Cross Camp fire rings until thhat trail became even more faint as it steeply descended to the confluence of a side creek joining up with Santa Paula Creek.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_261_02052021 - Looking upstream at the sloped sandstone that I had to cling onto on the left of this side creek that eventually led up to a tall unnamed waterfall
Looking upstream at the sloped sandstone that I had to cling onto on the left of this side creek that eventually led up to a tall unnamed waterfall

This confluence was about 500ft from the Cross Camp, and any further exploration from here pretty much degenerated into an unofficial off-trail scramble.

At this point, I had a choice of which stream to follow, and I wound up following the stream coming in from the right first.

While there were some faint trails (attesting to how much foot traffic had been this way before despite its unofficial nature), it quickly degenerated into me hugging the potentially slippery slope on the left side of this side creek.

I wound up following it for about 0.2-mile upstream with a few hand-over-feet scrambling spots and one creek crossing before I eventually found myself at the base of an attractively tall waterfall.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_283_02052021 - Looking right up at the tall unnamed waterfall right from its base
Looking right up at the tall unnamed waterfall right from its base

To my knowledge, this light-flowing 150ft waterfall didn’t have an official name, but it was definitely the tallest of the waterfalls in this write-up.

Despite the fact that early 2021 had a disappointingly dry Winter season, I thought it said something about its longevity that this unnamed falls still had pretty satisfactory flow.

That said, I did wonder how much longer this waterfall would flow before it would eventually trickle or go dry.

Anyways, after having my fill of this unnamed falls, I then backtracked to the confluence of this creek with the Santa Paula Creek.

Waterfall and Pool Obstacle Beyond Cross Camp

Santa_Paula_Canyon_175_03052021 - Mom trying to stay dry while doing some rock and branch hopping with the aid of trekking poles right before an overhanging alcove fronting a hidden waterfall and pool obstacle
Mom trying to stay dry while doing some rock and branch hopping with the aid of trekking poles right before an overhanging alcove fronting a hidden waterfall and pool obstacle

Keeping left at the confluence to stay on Santa Paula Creek, I’d eventually reach a section with some smooth rocks protruding above some deeper sections of where Santa Paula Creek stagnated into small pools and crevaces.

Using those protruding rocks, I found a way to stay dry by clinging onto rock slopes and using the protruding rocks in the stream as stepping stones.

This was definitely one spot where having my trekking poles really helped to both maintain balance and to keep dry.

Shortly beyond the immediate obstacles, that was when we encountered another large pool with a hidden waterfall around a bend.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_260_02052021 - This was the hidden waterfall and plunge pool on Santa Paula Creek that was just beyond Cross Camp, but I wasn't prepared to wade further from here in pursuit of the large Punch Bowl on my first visit so I turned back here
This was the hidden waterfall and plunge pool on Santa Paula Creek that was just beyond Cross Camp, but I wasn’t prepared to wade further from here in pursuit of the large Punch Bowl on my first visit so I turned back here

Opposite the plunge pool, the creek fanned out making it shallow enough to cross towards an overhanging alcove yielding a frontal view of that hidden waterfall.

When I first came to this spot, I suspected that any further progress would involve wading in the pool and scaling the waterfall.

So it caused me to turn back and come another day when I was better prepared to get wet and have a little more time to figure out the obstacles.

The Big Punch Bowl

When I came back to this hidden waterfall and pool obstacle a month later, I noticed that someone had set up a rope to the left of the waterfall.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_183_03052021 - On my second visit to Santa Paula Canyon, someone had set up a rope to make it easier to scale this intermediate waterfall and pursue the Big Punch Bowl further upstream
On my second visit to Santa Paula Canyon, someone had set up a rope to make it easier to scale this intermediate waterfall and pursue the Big Punch Bowl further upstream

That rope ultimately made it easier to cling to a sloping ledge above the waterfall’s deep pool and ultimately to the brink of that waterfall obstacle.

Without that rope, it was quite easy to slip and fall into the deep pool below given how smooth and slippery the surface of the ledge was (which also sloped towards the dropoffs).

Above the waterfall, there was another pool as well as more ropes set up (which may or may not be there in the future) on the opposite side of Santa Paula Creek.

This was the part where I had to get wet to proceed any further because the narrowness and verticality of the cliffs were too dicey to try to stay dry without a misstep and nasty spill.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_186_03052021 - This was the pool obstacle immediately above the hidden waterfall obstacle that had spilled into a plunge pool of its own beneath an overhanging alcove
This was the pool obstacle immediately above the hidden waterfall obstacle that had spilled into a plunge pool of its own beneath an overhanging alcove

By the way, this pool obstacle might have also been the reason why any further progress in high water would be too risky (at least to anything that couldn’t get wet like my phone or camera).

Beyond the pool-and-rope obstacle, there was then another potentially difficult obstacle of stacked boulders wedged in a configuration where there weren’t any natural footholds to climb up.

During my second visit, I actually had to use the ropes tied here as shaky footholds (there was even a loop tied in such a manner to act as a stirrup of sorts).

At the same time, there was a second, shorter rope tied to the top boulder that I had to use to pull myself up.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_187_03052021 - Approaching the difficult bouldering obstacle where I actually had to use this rope as a shaky foothold in order to get past it
Approaching the difficult bouldering obstacle where I actually had to use this rope as a shaky foothold in order to get past it

Without these ropes, I couldn’t see a way for any solo hiker to get past this obstacle.

Even with a second person, there would definitely have to be a sort of push and pull teamwork dynamic where the second person would have the push the first person up and over the stacked boulders while the first person would then have to pull the second person up.

Once above this tricky rope-assisted obstacle, I proceeded past the next group of pools and dropoffs by keeping right on a ledge that allowed me to keep going further without needing to swim.

Eventually, the canyon widened a bit more revealing a couple more attractive intermediate waterfalls, which were easily bypassed.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_200_03052021 - This waterfall and colorful plunge pool was one of the rewards that awaited those who would persist past the hidden waterfall and the pool with bouldering obstacles just above it
This waterfall and colorful plunge pool was one of the rewards that awaited those who would persist past the hidden waterfall and the pool with bouldering obstacles just above it

Finally, I then reached another large jumble of boulders where I had to ascend onto a ledge on the left side of the canyon to bypass them.

Once beyond those boulders, I then found myself at the base of a very large pool.

In order to keep going, I had to scramble to my right to cross the creek, which then brought me to more ledges and large boulders.

From there, I finally went far enough to witness a sloping cascade feeding the huge plunge pool, which I then realized to be the so-called Big Punch Bowl that the locals had told me about on my first visit.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_209_03052021 - Following a ledge on the left side of the canyon towards the base of the Big Punch Bowl surrounded by steep canyon walls
Following a ledge on the left side of the canyon towards the base of the Big Punch Bowl surrounded by steep canyon walls

It was possible to scramble further onto the slope containing the cascade, where another rope had been set up to get to its top and possibly use it as a water slide into the huge punch bowl below.

However, I was content with getting my views before turning back and facing the boulder and pool obstacles again on the way back out.

Given the depth and verticality of this section of Santa Paula Canyon, I knew that it was not possible to try to come down here from the top without technical canyoneering or rappeling/abseiling gear.

According to my GPS logs, it was roughly a quarter-mile from the intermediate waterfall and pool by the overhang to the Big Punch Bowl though it took me around 20-25 minutes in each direction to cover that distance given the rough creek scramble.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_011_iPhone_03052021 - Focused look at the so-called 'Big Punch Bowl' with sloping cascade in low flow feeding it
Focused look at the so-called ‘Big Punch Bowl’ with sloping cascade in low flow feeding it

Overall, in my visits to the Santa Paula Canyon Falls and its punch bowls further upstream, they each took over 7 hours away from the car spanning a distance of about 10 miles in total.

That said, I suggested that 4-8 hours would be sufficient to at least reach these punch bowls and waterfalls.

But I’d imagine you’ll want to devote even more time to really experience this place, take a dip, figure out the trail, and have picnic breaks in between.

Authorities

The Santa Paula Canyon Falls (or Santa Paula Punch Bowls) resides in the Sespe Wilderness section of the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Paula in Ventura County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_006_03052021 - Santa Paula Canyon has a bit of a graffiti problem, and perhaps this heavily tagged bridge by the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead was an indication of just how bad it could get
Santa_Paula_Canyon_010_03052021 - My parents joining me on my second visit to the Santa Paula Canyon Punch Bowls, which took place in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_014_03052021 - My parents traversing the first crossing of Santa Paula Creek during our visit in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_015_03052021 - Dad going making his way through the second crossing of Santa Paula Creek on our visit early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_021_03052021 - My parents getting through the third crossing of Santa Paula Creek during our early March 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_027_03052021 - My parents passing through a grove of trees apparently burnt by a recent fire as seen during our visit to the Santa Paula Canyon Punch Bowls in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_034_03052021 - Most of the first 1.5 miles of the Santa Paula Canyon Trail went around private property (primarily the Thomas Aquinas College).  In the past, the trail actually went through the campus though I'd imagine the landowners had had enough of trespassing
Santa_Paula_Canyon_040_03052021 - There were barking dogs during our early March 2021 visit as we approached the Rancho Recuerdo. The sign to Mom's left was funny as it said 'Never mind the dogs, beware of the owner'
Santa_Paula_Canyon_044_03052021 - Dad walking along the paved part of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls hike, which skirted alongside these oil pipelines
Santa_Paula_Canyon_047_03052021 - My parents following the Santa Paula Canyon Trail, which went around this trio of oil grasshoppers as we were getting deeper into Santa Paula Canyon during our early March 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_052_03052021 - My parents traversing the fourth crossing of Santa Paula Creek shortly after getting past the trio of oil-drilling grasshoppers
Santa_Paula_Canyon_054_03052021 - After the fourth crossing of Santa Paula Creek, the trail resembled some more typical of a hike in natural settings
Santa_Paula_Canyon_058_03052021 - My parents following the signs and going past the last of the man-made contraptions within private property as we were finally onto the National Forest Trail roughly 1.5 miles from the trailhead
Santa_Paula_Canyon_059_03052021 - My parents following the Santa Paula Canyon Trail as it went through some benign bouldery sections during our early March 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_060_03052021 - Dad making his way through a seemingly barren area that might have been adversely affected by a recent wildfire as seen on our early March 2021 hike to the Santa Paula Canyon Punch Bowls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_066_03052021 - My parents on an increasingly hot and sun-exposed section of the Santa Paula Canyon Trail as it veered away from the creek for a fairly long stretch. It was a good thing we had gotten an early start on our March 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_067_03052021 - My parents continuing along the sun-exposed section of the Santa Paula Canyon Trail as the canyon itself was still fairly wide open at this point
Santa_Paula_Canyon_080_03052021 - My parents going over the fifth crossing of Santa Paula Creek as the canyon started to close in again
Santa_Paula_Canyon_096_03052021 - My parents sticking with the main trail as it went away from Santa Paula Creek and ascended towards the Big Cone Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_112_03052021 - My parents descending towards the Big Cone Camp on our early March 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_119_03052021 - My parents carefully going past an eroded section of the trail, as we descended from Big Cone Camp towards the East Fork Santa Paula Creek
Santa_Paula_Canyon_122_03052021 - My parents crossing the East Fork Santa Paula Creek as they then had to ascend above this side canyon to get closer to the Punch Bowls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_124_03052021 - My parents ascending above the floor of the East Fork Santa Paula Canyon en route to the Santa Paula Canyon Falls. By not following this trail the first time around back in February 2021, I actually made life harder for myself because the stream scramble wasn't easy
Santa_Paula_Canyon_128_03052021 - Signage like this assured us that we were going the correct way
Santa_Paula_Canyon_150_03052021 - Looking up at a rope-assisted descent from the Last Chance Trail to the front of the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_137_03052021 - My parents checking out the Santa Paula Canyon Falls in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_141_03052021 - Context of my Mom checking out the Santa Paula Canyon Falls in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_148_03052021 - My parents going back up to the Last Chance Trail after having had their fill of the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_156_03052021 - Once we made it back up to the Last Chance Trail, we then continued on the hike in search of more punch bowls. The next punch bowl was the 'Upper Punch Bowls', which was just above the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls, but it required this sketchy rope-assisted descent in order to reach these punch bowls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_160_03052021 - As we continued to make our way further up Santa Paula Canyon, we had to go under this tree full of buzzing bees apparently producing honey inside it.  We definitely had to make sure not to piss off the hive as we went under them during our visit in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_162_03052021 - My parents weaving through boulders on a dry part of Santa Paula Creek's bed as we headed towards the Cross Camp during our visit in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_167_03052021 - My parents leaving Santa Paula Creek momentarily to go up the steep and slippery climb up towards Cross Camp in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_169_03052021 - My parents continuing up the narrow trail leading up to the Cross Camp in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_176_03052021 - This was the waterfall and pool obstacle on Santa Paula Creek that turned me back on my first visit in February 2021. On my second visit, my parents stayed here while I pursued the Big Punch Bowl further upstream in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_182_03052021 - Closer look at the sloping ledge that I had to cling onto while making my way further to the Big Punch Bowl in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_191_03052021 - Beyond the pool and bouldering obstacles, I still had to cling to the ledge on the right in order to get past this next series of pools en route to the Big Punch Bowl in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_198_03052021 - Eventually, the scrambling to the Big Punch Bowl got a little easier as the canyon started to widen a little while revealing more intermediate waterfalls and punch bowls en route
Santa_Paula_Canyon_204_03052021 - Approaching the next bouldering and pool obstacles, which happened to be right in front of the Big Punch Bowl
Santa_Paula_Canyon_207_03052021 - In order to make it past the last of the bouldering and pool obstacles, I had to go up this ledge, which had some graffiti on it that acted as a hint (though it really wasn't needed to figure this out)
Santa_Paula_Canyon_210_03052021 - Looking ahead at the very wide and large Punch Bowl that the Fillmore locals had told me about a month ago when I first tried to come here in February 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_211_03052021 - I still had to do some more scrambling to the opposite side of the Big Punch Bowl in order to witness the cascading waterfall feeding it
Santa_Paula_Canyon_213_03052021 - Finally getting my first glimpse of the cascade feeding the Big Punch Bowl in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_222_03052021 - More focused look at the cascading waterfall feeding the elusive Big Punch Bowl in low flow on my early March 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_224_03052021 - Even more focused look at the sloping cascade spilling right into the Big Punch Bowl
Santa_Paula_Canyon_233_03052021 - Context of some of the ropes set up around the Big Punch Bowl as seen during my early March 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_009_iPhone_03052021 - Portrait contextual view of the Big Punch Bowl and its waterfall as seen in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_235_03052021 - My last look at the Big Punch Bowl and waterfall before scrambling back downstream in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_236_03052021 - Even in a place as difficult-to-reach yet as pretty as the Big Punch Bowl, there was still some unsightly graffiti in the area during my early March 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_237_03052021 - Looking downstream at the extent of my stream scrambling as I left the Big Punch Bowl in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_240_03052021 - Looking down over one of the attractive intermediate waterfalls and plunge pools on my way back to the Last Chance Trail in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_245_03052021 - Approaching the difficult part of the scramble as I was finishing off the Big Punch Bowl portion of the early March 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_249_03052021 - Looking down at the precarious rope-assisted scramble and pool at the trickiest part of the Big Punch Bowl scramble in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_252_03052021 - Looking towards one of the sites at the Cross Camp.  I suspect the trail that I thought was false here was actually the continuation of the Last Chance Trail towards Jackson Falls and the Jackson Hole
Santa_Paula_Canyon_255_03052021 - Context of my parents descending from the Cross Camp back towards the Lower Punch Bowls further downstream in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_018_iPhone_03052021 - Back at the Upper Punch Bowl under some nicer afternoon lighting in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_274_03052021 - Contextual afternoon look down at the Upper Punch Bowl. Notice the rope on the left side of this photo, which was how some daring people could descend to or climb up from such pools
Santa_Paula_Canyon_275_03052021 - My parents going around a bend in the trail near the Lower Punch Bowl or Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_280_03052021 - Making it back to the Santa Paula Canyon Falls in the midafternoon in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_288_03052021 - Wide view of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls and its attractive punch bowl at its base as seen in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_306_03052021 - A long-exposed look at the Santa Paula Canyon Falls where I really had to darken the exposure a bit so it wouldn't get blown out by the afternoon lighting
Santa_Paula_Canyon_315_03052021 - Last look at the context of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls before I headed back up to rejoin my parents and wrap up our excursion in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_321_03052021 - My parents carefully descending into the East Fork Santa Paula Canyon as we made our way back to the Big Cone Camp in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_327_03052021 - My parents ascending back up to the Big Cone Camp from within the East Fork Santa Paula Canyon in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_331_03052021 - Last look down at the Santa Paula Canyon Falls from Big Cone Camp as we made our way back the trailhead in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_346_03052021 - Context of my parents on the long descent towards the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_369_03052021 - My parents continuing the long hike back to the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_379_03052021 - My parents getting passed by this family on the paved part of the hike. They were the only other people we had seen on this trail during our visit in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_394_03052021 - It sucks to see litter along the Santa Paula Canyon Trail, and this is why I think there needs to be a fee to visit places like this so the maintenance costs can offset the urban blight that happens when such places are undervalued and improperly maintained
Santa_Paula_Canyon_397_03052021 - My parents finally making it back to the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead thereby ending a wonderful visit in early March 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_001_02052021 - Looking back at the entrance to the parking area for the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead. Notice how bumpy it was, which actually scraped the underside of my 2wd car when I first came here in early February 2021. Note that the rest of the photos in this gallery were taken at this time
Santa_Paula_Canyon_007_02052021 - The re-routed Santa Paula Canyon Trail skirted by this fencing, which kept the public out of the private Thomas Aquinas College
Santa_Paula_Canyon_010_02052021 - Approaching the first crossing of Santa Paula Creek, which actually had pretty healthy flow on my early February 2021 visit, and it made me go back to the parking lot to retrieve my trekking poles
Santa_Paula_Canyon_011_02052021 - Approaching the second crossing of Santa Paula Creek, which was not much further than the first crossing
Santa_Paula_Canyon_021_02052021 - The Santa Paula Canyon Trail went through this grove of fire-scarred sycamore trees as it skirted around the Thomas Aquinas College property
Santa_Paula_Canyon_030_02052021 - The Santa Paula Canyon Trail about to rejoin a paved road between the Thomas Aquinas College property and the Rancho Recuerdo avocado farm
Santa_Paula_Canyon_036_02052021 - The paved road passing through the Rancho Recuerdo avocado farm
Santa_Paula_Canyon_042_02052021 - The paved road eventually ended at this trio of oil derricks before the Santa Paula Canyon Trail veered around them
Santa_Paula_Canyon_046_02052021 - Signs indicating the discouragement of leaving litter, which may have contributed to the closure of Tar Creek further to the east near Fillmore
Santa_Paula_Canyon_049_02052021 - Beyond the trio of oil derricks, Santa Paula Canyon Trail started looking more like a real trail again.  This was roughly 1.25 miles from the trailhead
Santa_Paula_Canyon_050_02052021 - Approaching the fourth crossing of Santa Paula Creek during my early February 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_052_02052021 - During my early February 2021 visit, I couldn't help but notice that there was a fairly heavy presence of bees.  Even on this random rock, this pair of bees were resting near where I had unknowingly rested my trekking poles
Santa_Paula_Canyon_067_02052021 - The Santa Paula Canyon Trail had signage that kept me on the right track even avoid false detours like this one that was branching to the right
Santa_Paula_Canyon_072_02052021 - The Santa Paula Canyon Trail entered this wide open part of the canyon, which I can easily envision being hot and dry.  Heck, it was already warm on the day that I took this photo in early February 2021. So I can imagine just how much warmer it would be towards Spring and especially Summer
Santa_Paula_Canyon_074_02052021 - I noticed this small striped snake making its way across the trail while I was in the open part of Santa Paula Canyon in early February 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_079_02052021 - After the fairly lengthy stretch of wide open hiking in Santa Paula Canyon, the canyon then narrowed again where Santa Paula Creek started to flow by the trail again. Note that sign pointed the way to the fifth crossing of Santa Paula Creek
Santa_Paula_Canyon_085_02052021 - Beyond the fifth crossing of Santa Paula Creek, the Santa Paula Canyon Trail continued to skirt alongside it as well as some odd boulders like this one
Santa_Paula_Canyon_087_02052021 - Sign directing me to veer away from Santa Paula Creek and start climbing up towards the Big Cone Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_101_02052021 - On the moderate 400ft climb above the Santa Paula Creek, around the Hill 1989, and then towards the Big Cone Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_108_02052021 - Context of Santa Paula Canyon and the 1989 Hill (which I believe is that hill to the right side of this photo)
Santa_Paula_Canyon_109_02052021 - Still following the Santa Paula Canyon Trail towards the Big Cone Camp, which was in the hanging valley to the right of the '1989 Hill' in this picture
Santa_Paula_Canyon_118_02052021 - This sign marked the Big Cone Camp, which was a landmark about 3.6 miles from the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead
Santa_Paula_Canyon_123_02052021 - This fire ring at the Big Cone Camp fronted a top down view towards the Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_125_02052021 - Descending towards this switchback below the Big Cone Camp as I pursued the Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_132_02052021 - Looking down towards a small waterfall on a tributary of the Santa Paula Creek, which I think is the East Fork Santa Paula Creek.  The official trail continued a bit further upstream from here before crossing this creek then backtracking towards the Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_135_02052021 - When I first showed up to the Santa Paula Canyon Falls in early February 2021, I actually scrambled downstream on the tributary creek thinking that the trail going further upstream was for something else.  The result of that decision was me having to negotiate this dicey ledge
Santa_Paula_Canyon_136_02052021 - Some lower tiers of the cascades just downstream of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_155_02052021 - Finally arriving at the Santa Paula Canyon Falls, which was partially covered by shadows in the morning
Santa_Paula_Canyon_170_02052021 - Some local guys enjoying the Santa Paula Canyon Falls on a peaceful weekday morning in early February 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_176_02052021 - Contextual look at the attractive Santa Paula Canyon Falls and its clear plunge pool. The locals here told me that the wall in the shadows of this picture used to be full of graffiti
Santa_Paula_Canyon_185_02052021 - After having my fill of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls, it was time to climb up this rope-assisted path to the continuation of the main trail (which I think was called the Last Chance Trail at this point)
Santa_Paula_Canyon_192_02052021 - This was the main trail (Last Chance Trail) beyond the Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_202_02052021 - Looking down towards the Lower Plunge Pool where the two locals that I chatted with were still hanging out during my early February 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_211_02052021 - Continuing along the Santa Paula Canyon Trail, which followed some of these rusted metal railings along the way
Santa_Paula_Canyon_215_02052021 - Looking across a calm section of Santa Paula Creek, which was actually where some informal 'water slides' were at that a couple of locals showed me in my early Feb 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_216_02052021 - Following the narrowing trail as it skirted by some minor rock slides en route to the Cross Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_218_02052021 - The Santa Paula Canyon Trail weaving between these boulders on its way up to the Cross Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_219_02052021 - It was nice and quiet this far upstream from the Santa Paula Canyon Falls, and thus I was noticing other wildlife along the way
Santa_Paula_Canyon_223_02052021 - Roughly 1/4-mile beyond the upper punch bowls, the trail then made another moderately steep climb up towards Cross Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_225_02052021 - The narrow trail clinging to the slope above Santa Paula Canyon as it was getting closer to Cross Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_228_02052021 - This fire ring was one of the primitive sites of the Cross Camp about a half-mile beyond the Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_232_02052021 - Beyond the Cross Camp, I continued along Santa Paula Creek, which eventually brought me to this interesting overhanging alcove with a hidden waterfall
Santa_Paula_Canyon_234_02052021 - This was the hidden waterfall with its own punch bowl or swimming pole as seen from an alcove with an overhang
Santa_Paula_Canyon_244_02052021 - This hidden waterfall and punch bowl marked my turnaround point on Santa Paula Creek during my first visit in early February 2021. However, I'm aware that the big Punch Bowl requires wading and scrambling beyond this point
Santa_Paula_Canyon_258_02052021 - Looking back from within the alcove with an overhang as I was about to head back downstream briefly along Santa Paula Creek
Santa_Paula_Canyon_264_02052021 - After turning back at the hidden waterfall on Santa Paula Creek, I then pursued a tributary, when got me to go by this small waterfall.  This pursuit of the side tributary was a pure scramble without a trail
Santa_Paula_Canyon_267_02052021 - Looking back at the sandstone friction-pitch scramble that I had to make to continue upstream on the tributary stream beyond Cross Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_268_02052021 - Approaching the wet rocks near the base of the tall unnamed waterfall on the tributary stream beyond Cross Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_273_02052021 - Finally making it up to the attractive unnamed waterfall on a tributary creek beyond Cross Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_291_02052021 - Full view of the tall unnamed waterfall on a tributary creek beyond Cross Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_300_02052021 - Going back downstream along the tributary stream as I had my fill and was starting to head back to the main Santa Paula Canyon Punch Bowls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_304_02052021 - When I returned to Cross Camp, I scrambled up to a ridge that yielded this nice view back upstream towards that hard-to-see unnamed waterfall hiding in the shadows of this photo
Santa_Paula_Canyon_316_02052021 - When I returned to the punch bowl area, I met up with the two locals I had chatted with earlier in the day.  This time, they showed me to a little water slide on Santa Paula Creek
Santa_Paula_Canyon_318_02052021 - Looking directly at the largest of the 'water slides' in this obscure spot of Santa Paula Creek
Santa_Paula_Canyon_320_02052021 - At the very top of the 'water slide' in Santa Paula Creek, I noticed this interesting submerged red foliage
Santa_Paula_Canyon_324_02052021 - Looking down along the 'water slide' on Santa Paula Creek
Santa_Paula_Canyon_336_02052021 - Looking further downstream from the top of the cascades feeding the upper punch bowls. Had I persisted along this side of the creek, I could have found a rope that someone had set up to descend down to these punch bowls below
Santa_Paula_Canyon_339_02052021 - Looking down over the brink of the cascades feeding the upper punch bowls immediately upstream of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_347_02052021 - Looking straight down over the pair of cascades feeding the upper punch bowls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_348_02052021 - Continuing further downstream along the narrow trail skirting back over sandstone cliffs responsible for the Santa Paula Canyon Falls
Santa_Paula_Canyon_349_02052021 - Looking down over the upper punch bowl. Notice the rope on the left side of this picture, which could provide access to these punch bowls though it was a rather steep descent
Santa_Paula_Canyon_360_02052021 - Speaking of steep, I noticed this memorial set up near the top of the Santa Paula Canyon Falls, which goes to show you that people can and do die here.  So you really have to healthy respect and fear of Nature when you're out in the wilderness like this
Santa_Paula_Canyon_372_02052021 - Finally back at the Santa Paula Canyon Falls in nice afternoon lighting in early February 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_386_02052021 - Direct frontal look at the Santa Paula Canyon Falls in the afternoon in early February 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_397_02052021 - Enjoying a nice little view of Santa Paula Canyon Falls while having a snack before I headed out
Santa_Paula_Canyon_420_02052021 - Other people started to show up at the Santa Paula Canyon Falls just as I was about to leave.  All of them came up from the harder way within Santa Paula Creek instead of the more benign and official route via the Big Cone Camp
Santa_Paula_Canyon_424_02052021 - Following the trail back from the Santa Paula Canyon Falls towards the Big Cone Camp. This was the trail I should have taken in the first place earlier this morning on my early February 2021 visit
Santa_Paula_Canyon_428_02052021 - Looking back at the pair of guys who followed me along this trail to ensure that they would have an easier time to get back to the trailhead instead of the slog that they were on earlier to get to the Lower Punch Bowls in the first place
Santa_Paula_Canyon_437_02052021 - Back at the Big Cone Camp, I got this contextual view towards the Santa Paula Canyon Falls and the surrounding sandstone scenery around it on my first visit in early February 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_450_02052021 - Afternoon look down into Santa Paula Canyon as I was making my way back to the trailhead in early February 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_463_02052021 - Going back through the wide open part of Santa Paula Canyon on the return hike in early February 2021
Santa_Paula_Canyon_474_02052021 - On the way back from the Santa Paula Canyon Falls, I hadn't noticed these steel cables before, but it turned out that I had inadvertently taken a detour route that wound up reconverging with the main Santa Paula Canyon Trail
Santa_Paula_Canyon_479_02052021 - Going back through this extensive burn area as I was getting closer to the Thomas Aquinas College and Rancho Recuerdo properties
Santa_Paula_Canyon_493_02052021 - Making it back to the oil-drilling grasshoppers
Santa_Paula_Canyon_502_02052021 - Following the paved road and oil pipelines back towards Thomas Aquinas College, which you can see in the distance
Santa_Paula_Canyon_508_02052021 - On the return hike, I noticed this road climbing into a different canyon in the distance that seemed to have more oil-drilling derricks as well as some mining activity
Santa_Paula_Canyon_515_02052021 - Making it back among the thin burnt trees around the Thomas Aquinas College property
Santa_Paula_Canyon_525_02052021 - Finally making it back to the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead after a rather long day of hiking and exploring in early February 2021


The Santa Paula Punch Bowls (or Santa Paula Canyon Falls) are on the Santa Paula Canyon Trail, which begins next to the Thomas Aquinas College near Santa Paula.

Driving here from Los Angeles is actually pretty straightforward though I’ve found that the best approach was by taking the I-5 north to Magic Mountain in Valencia, and then heading west on the Highway 126 towards Fillmore and ultimately to Santa Paula.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_528_02052021 - Context of the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead parking, which actually has a bit of a doozy of a bump at its entrance, and it's big enough to require low-clearance 2wd cars to go over it with care
Context of the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead parking, which actually has a bit of a doozy of a bump at its entrance, and it’s big enough to require low-clearance 2wd cars to go over it with care

After about 36 miles on the CA-126 westbound, we’d then take exit 12 for 10th Street and the Hwy 150.

Turning right onto 10th Street, we’d drive north through Santa Paula for about 0.6-mile.

Then, we’d veer right where Ojai Road (Hwy 150) branches away from 10th Street to the right, and we’d remain on Hwy 150.

About another 5.4 miles north on Hwy 150 (or 6 miles north of the Hwy 126 exit), we’d then reach the turnoff to the Thomas Aquinas College.

Santa_Paula_Canyon_004_03052021 - Shortly before the entrance to the Thomas Aquinas College, this pullout and parking space on the left was the spillover parking for the Santa Paula Canyon Trail
Shortly before the entrance to the Thomas Aquinas College, this pullout and parking space on the left was the spillover parking for the Santa Paula Canyon Trail

But instead of going into the college, we’d drive another 100 yards towards a smaller entrance and unpaved parking area for the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead.

If the limit parking spaces here are full, then there’s alternate roadside parking on the southbound Hwy 150 lane.

This was just south of the bend in the road from the Thomas Aquinas College entrance.

Overall, from say downtown Los Angeles, this 72-mile drive would take 90 minutes from downtown Los Angeles though this totally depends on the amount of traffic on the freeways (and even in Santa Paula city itself).

Santa_Paula_Canyon_005_03052021 - Heading north on Hwy 150, the turnoff on the right was the entrance to the Thomas Aquinas College campus.  About 100 yards to the north of this entrance was the official Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead while just to the left of where this photo was taken was the spillover trailhead parking
Heading north on Hwy 150, the turnoff on the right was the entrance to the Thomas Aquinas College campus. About 100 yards to the north of this entrance was the official Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead while just to the left of where this photo was taken was the spillover trailhead parking

In the past, I would have considered driving the US-101 then heading north on the Hwy 23 towards Fillmore before continuing west on the 126 to the Hwy 150, but the way I described above is the most direct route.

For context, Santa Paula is 15 miles (under 30 minutes drive) northeast of Oxnard, about 31 miles (roughly an hour drive) north of Thousand Oaks, about 44 miles (about an hour drive) east of Santa Barbara, about 65 miles (around 60-90 minutes depending on traffic) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and 105 miles (about 2 hours drive) northwest of Irvine.

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Downstream to upstream sweep of the big punch bowl and its cascading waterfall


360 degree sweep of the big punch bowl and its large plunge pool


Top down sweep of the upper punch bowl just upstream from the main punch bowl while also noticing the rope to facilitate access to the upper punch bowl


Right to left sweep of Santa Paula Canyon Falls from the left side of the creek


Back and forth sweep starting from a bluff above the slanted waterfalls upstream of the main Santa Paula Canyon Falls then looking down towards more pools before going back upstream and ending at a contextual look at the slanted waterfalls


Sweep and walkalong starting from the top of the water slide and ending at the top of a chute waterfall dropping into a steep series of punch bowls


Downstream to upstream sweep showing the tall unnamed waterfall further upstream of Santa Paula Canyon Falls before going all the way to its base for another closer look at this unnamed falls


Back and forth sweep showing a loud waterfall on Santa Paula Creek that marked my turnaround point though i suspect the larger punch bowl required climbing it and wading further

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Tagged with: santa paula canyon, thomas aquinas college, fillmore, ojai, ventura county, santa paula canyon punch bowls, swimming hole, california, waterfall



Visitor Comments:

Great Info June 7, 2021 6:07 pm by Linda chau - Thank you for the detail information. Would you know if it is possible to drive up to Big Cone campground (or near there) and park? then hike the rest of the way to the punch bowls? ...Read More

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