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Lompoc Mission Far From Impossible for Hikers

August 30, 1992|JOHN McKINNEY

Of California's 21 missions, the most fully restored is La Purisima, located four miles north of Lompoc in northwest Santa Barbara County. La Purisima is the only mission with a sizable amount of land preserved around it--and the only one with hiking trails.

You could spend a fun day at La Purisima Mission State Historic Park in the Lompoc Valley--first heading for the Purisima Hills for a hike, then touring the mission.

Local joggers and exercise walkers stick to the park's flatlands by joining El Camino Real, then rounding the barley fields and returning via Las Zanjas Trail.

Hikers often use the narrower footpaths--Huerta Mateo and Mesa Arenosa trails--and make a two-mile loop. Add the two-mile loop and three-mile circuit together for A fine five-mile walk in the park.

Directions to trail head: From Highway 101 in Buellton, about 135 miles north of Los Angeles, exit on Highway 246 and head west 13 1/2 miles to Purisima Road. Turn right and proceed a mile to La Purisima Mission State Historic Park on your right. Limited free parking is available near the trail head alongside Purisima Road. There's a fee for parking inside the park closer to the mission buildings.

The hike: From Purisima Road, join La Rancheria Trail to the park museum, walk toward the picnic area, then join paved El Camino Real to signed Huerta Mateo Trail. This footpath leads over sandy terrain. Thriving in the sandy soil is coastal scrub vegetation that usually grows only on dune systems much closer to the coast. Occupying the slopes and ridge crests nearby is a flourishing oak woodland.

Stick with Huerta Mateo Trail past several signed junctions until you reach Cucillo de Tierra, a fire road. Turn left and walk a quarter-mile to signed Mesa Arenosa Trail. Head down this sandy trail until you reach a signed junction with Las Canerias Trail; join this path heading west a quarter-mile to wide Cucillo de Tierra Trail.

You can turn right here and head back to the mission buildings. However, those hikers wishing to see more of the backcountry will turn left (north) and walk four-tenths of a mile to El Chaparral Trail, which provides a short connecting route to El Camino Real. Turn left and walk along the flat bottom land of Purisima Canyon, which has been cultivated since the construction of the mission and today supports an annual crop of wheat and barley.

El Camino Real runs out at the park boundary, and you turn right (east) on Las Zanjas Trail. This path offers a lovely walk near Los Berros Creek. You'll pass a pond and portions of the old mission aqueduct as you enjoy the 1 1/4-mile walk back to the mission compound and the trail head.

La Purisima Hills, Lompoc Valley, El Camino Real Trail

Where: La Purisima Mission State Historic Park

Distance: 2-5 miles round trip.

Terrain: Gentle, oak-dotted Purisima Hills.

Highlights: Most enjoyable best restored mission, and best mission walking tour.

Precautions: Some poison oak along trails.

For more information: Contact La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, 2295 Purisima Road, Lompoc 93436, (805) 733-3713.

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