Waterfall, Wildflowers, and a Chumash Hike

A Visit to Satwiwa Cultural Center and a Chumash Hike in the Santa Monica Mountains

Under the shadow of majestic Boney Mountain, Satwiwa Native American Indian Cultural Center in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a fascinating place to explore, with gorgeous hiking paths like the Satwiwa Loop Trail and an optional side-trip into Point Mugu Wilderness to see splashy wildflowers and an impressive waterfall. Named after a nearby Chumash village (“satwiwa” means “the bluffs” in the Chumash language), the cultural center was built on the site of an ancient Chumash trade route in Sycamore Canyon.  A trail system branching out from it weaves around the base of the mountain on the border of Point Mugu State Park.

From the parking area, follow the trail for a quarter-mile to reach the cultural center. Exhibits inside interpret the lives of the Chumash as well as the Gabrielino (Tongva) culture, and include a replica of a Chumash grass house. From there, take a walk on the Satwiwa Loop Trail. When you reach a fork, you can either take the 2-mile Upper Loop or the 1-mile Lower Loop.

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Pro tip: From the Lower Loop you can tack on an additional 2-mile spur trail through the Point Mugu Wilderness to see a nicely flowing waterfall. Highly recommended! To get to the waterfall, head toward the Lower Loop. Then at the next fork, take the moderate trail into the canyon (a left at the fork, if hiking in a clockwise direction), following signs pointing toward the waterfall. Gentle ocean breezes make for a pleasant hike, with bright wildflowers and sweeping canyon views along the way. After a couple stream crossings and some light boulder scrambling, you’ll reach the beautiful unnamed waterfall. Take a moment to breathe it all in. It’s not hard to see why this area was so special to the early people of this land.

From US-101 in Newbury Park, exit on Lynn Rd. and head west. Turn left on Via Goleta, and the destination will be on your right. The lot is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends only. Satwiwa Cultural Center and the Loop Trail are dog-friendly, but no dogs in Point Mugu Wilderness (the spur trail to the waterfall).

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