After a five-year drought, winter rains have reawakened a waterfall hidden deep within Big Sycamore Canyon and turned it into a spring fantasy. See for yourself on a 4.7-mile loop trail starting at Rancho Sierra Vista. From the main parking lot, head southeast on a dirt trail along Pinehill Road to paved Big Sycamore Canyon Road. Then veer left over a footbridge onto Satwiwa Loop Trail, skirting the Satwiwa Culture Center. To reach the falls, press on southeast over a rolling green meadow toward Boney Mountain, one of the westernmost peaks in the Santa Monica Mountains before they surrender to the sea and the fertile Oxnard Plain.
At a trail intersection, stay straight to follow an old roadbed up a small crest, then keep right at a fork to start descending into Big Sycamore Canyon in Point Mugu State Park. Poppies bloom orange on the hillsides here. Once the trail hits the creek, head upstream 0.2 mile to the cascades, which lie in a sharply cleaved side canyon shaded by steep walls and a thick tangle of sycamores and oaks. Water here tumbles down rock ledges in a veritable fern gully, and a flat-topped boulder below provides a perfect picnic spot.
On the return, instead of ascending the crest, follow the creek downstream all the way to Big Sycamore Canyon Road on a 1.6-mile singletrack. Storms have washed out small sections of trail, but the path is well-trodden. Look for neon wayfaring tags tied to twigs at unclear creek crossings. The waterway is a vivid contrast to the drab palette of SoCal’s drought. You’ll enter a verdant riparian jungle where saplings sprout new leaves and monstrous iterations of morning glory and wild cucumber engulf entire trees. After reaching the paved road, turn right and climb a steep winding grade that levels out after 0.75 mile. Another half-mile north and you’re back at the Satwiwa Culture Center.
To reach the trailhead, take US-101 to Lynn Rd. in Thousand Oaks and proceed southwest 6 miles. Turn left on the Sycamore Canyon Trailhead road and continue 0.5 mile to the parking lot. The trail begins in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, while the waterfall is in Point Mugu State Park. No dogs.