Santa Paula Punch Bowls
The Santa Paula Canyon Trail to the Punch Bowls of Los Padres National Forest is one of the best hikes in Southern California. It features beautiful swimming holes, cliff jumping, a huge natural water slide and even rope swings! It’s a 10 mile round trip hike to the furthest punch bowl with the slide. The area recently reopened after the devastating Thomas fire, so take extra precautions hiking through recent burn areas and keep an eye out for dead falls, rock/mud slides and potholes.
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.
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. Cross the creek (there are strategically placed stones) and you are on your way.
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. Be prepared to cross the creek in various sections. It is not always clear if you should be on the left or right side of the creek. But following the creek up will get you to the Santa Paula Punch Bowls. Make sure to wear good hiking shoes as you will be making some creek crossings, which can be slippery.
The first of the Punch Bowl is a fairly moderate hike, but there are additional pools of water higher up, on trails that are increasingly challenging.
Stay safe and pack out your garbage and enjoy the Santa Paula Punch Bowls. For more info visit http://www.hikelospadres.com/santa-paula-canyon-trail.html#.W1JXKH4na3J