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HIKING

Sycamore Canyon Falls reawakens

January 05, 2003|John McKinney | Special to The Times

Hikers know Sycamore Canyon for its autumn attractions: its namesake trees and its colorful clusters of migrating monarch butterflies.

But here, north of Point Mugu, winter rains create another scenic attraction: Sycamore Canyon Falls. Half a dozen waterfalls cascade into pools, all sculpted into a handsome sandstone canyon wall. Oaks, sycamores, big-leaf maples, woodwardia and sword ferns grace the canyon bottom nearby.

The hike begins north of Point Mugu State Park in a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area known as Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. (Rancho Sierra Vista Falls is one name for what park service maps label as "waterfall.")

On the way to the falls, the trail passes through the Satwiwa Native American Indian Natural Area. It's a fine family walk, a 1 1/2-mile loop around Satwiwa, which means "the bluffs" and was the name of a Chumash settlement at this end of the Santa Monica Mountains.

To get there, follow U.S. 101 to Newbury Park, exit onto Wendy Drive and drive a couple of miles south. Turn right (west) on Lynn Road and continue to Via Goleta, where you will turn left (south) and enter Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. Continue down the road to the main parking area.

Begin your sojourn by walking up the gated road. You'll pass the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center on your left and join the west edge of the Satwiwa Loop Trail. Take the northern route, hiking the loop clockwise and passing grasslands and a small pond.

It eventually joins Boney Mountain Trail (also called Old Boney Trail), which you follow east. After the path turns south and climbs out of the canyon, take a left-branching spur trail a few hundred feet to Sycamore Canyon Falls. If you have to rock-hop across the creek to reach the falls, count your blessings; the waterfall is in full vigor.

Retrace your steps to the Satwiwa trail and finish the loop back to your starting point.

See John McKinney's tips at www.thetrailmaster.com.

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