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Day Hike

Take a Refreshing Plunge in the Fishbowls of Piru Creek

May 30, 1987

The Fishbowls of Piru Creek is a deep series of potholes dredged out of the sedimentary rock creekbed by the erosive power of rushing water. You'll enjoy basking on nearby flat rocks and dreaming your life away. When you awake from your dreams, a plunge into the cold water of the Fishbowls will quickly clear your head.

This hike is one of the nicest in the Mt. Pinos area of the Los Padres National Forest. The trail climbs through cedar and pine forest to the headwaters of Piru Creek. The creek springs from the slopes of Pine Mountain (not the same as Mt. Pinos) and bubbles through a maze of mountains. Piru creek pools were the site of gold mining at the turn of the century. Even today, you can sometimes spot weekend prospectors looking for a flash in the pan.

Directions to trailhead: From Interstate 5 just north of Gorman, take the Frazier Park exit and follow Frazier Mountain Road west for three miles to the Lake of the Woods "Y" intersection. Bear left here and continue 11 miles on the Lockwood Valley Road (9N03). Turn left when you see the Forest Service sign for Grade Valley on Grade Valley Road (7N03), a dirt road suitable for all but the very low-slung passenger cars. Proceed for 7 1/2 miles, then turn right on signed Thorn Meadows Road (7N03B) and drive one-half mile to the beginning of Cedar Creek Trail on the right.

Parking is along the road near the trailhead.

The hike: From the trailhead, hike up a dirt road that is closed to vehicles. The road soon narrows to a trail, which stays near Piru Creek. It's pleasant hiking through oak woodland and scattered pines. Wallflowers, scarlet buglers and Johnny-jump-ups brighten the path in places. Watch for the chia with its small blue flowers. A staple food of Southern California Indians, a single teaspoon of chia seed was reported to have been able to sustain a man on a 24-hour march. Remember to buy some chia seeds at your neighborhood health food store before your next day hike.

After two miles of pleasant hiking, you arrive at peaceful Cedar Creek Camp on a south fork of Cedar Creek in a tiny basin ringed by cedar and big cone spruce. The camp is a wonderful place for a picnic and for soaking up some shade before the climb ahead.

The trail continues up forested slopes, along the backbone of a ridge and in a long mile reaches a signed junction. To the left, a trail leads to Pine Mountain Lodge Camp. Bear right, or north, to the Fishbowls on Fishbowls Trail (22W05). The trail swoops up and down two more ridges and offers great views of the sharp forested ridges of the Mt. Pinos high country. The trail then descends steeply to Fishbowls Trail Camp, 1 1/2 miles from the trail junction.

The camp occupies a quiet, shady canyon cut by the headwaters of Piru Creek. From the camp, the Fishbowls are one-fourth of a mile upstream.

Return the same way.

Cedar Creek Trail

Thorn Meadows to Cedar Camp: four miles roundtrip, 300-foot elevation gain.

Thorn Meadows to Fishbowls: nine miles roundtrip, 1,000-foot elevation gain.

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