Sycamore Canyon

After tumbling through Upper Sycamore Canyon, Sycamore Creek disappears into a broad flood channel that meanders through wide open savannas. This broad canyon features a number of towering sycamores, which give this popular hiking and mountain biking destination its name. Stay on the path long enough, and you will reach the beach at Sycamore Cove.

Distance: 8.7 Miles
Elevation Gained: -800′
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 3:50
Critters: Wild parrots, hawks, rabbits

Get there like this.

Note: An alternative parking lot that reduces the number of miles you walk can be found here.

Also Note: Park here for the other end of the hike. There is a park lot, but if you park up the road going south on PCH, you can avoid the $12 fee.

Wild Parrot

This hike has always had a quasi-mythical quality for me. This is in part due to the 3rd grade trip we took from Newbury Park, through Sycamore Canyon, which then ended up at the beach. As an 8 year old kid, the concept of an 8 mile hike was mind-blowing, as was walking from the suburbs to the beach. I still look back at that experience as formative, and I hope that local elementary schools still do it.

Additionally, there is no way to do this hike alone. While the hike itself is not particularly strenuous, the logistics required to make it happen are. You are required to park one car at Sycamore Cove, which is the terminus for this trail. You are then required to drive back to Newbury Park (about 25-30 minutes), park the second car, begin the walk, and then drive back. It appears to be an awful lot of effort for an 8 mile hike, but it’s one of those Conejo Valley rite-of-passage hikes that should be done at least once.

Taylor and Sean

That doesn’t mean the experience is not without its flaws. The first three miles are paved, including the winding descent from Satwiwa. This descent, which I’ve heard called “The Black Bitch” or “La Puta Negra” by mountain bikers, is a sun-blasted chore, regardless of which way you’re taking it. Mountain bikers gave it such a colorful name because riding up the black asphalt is, apparently, a total bitch. However, mountain bikers ought to have enough sense to know when to get off their bikes and walk. But I digress.

As the fire road gently winds its way down to the sea, you will pass through the afore-mentioned sycamore savannas. This rare habitat occurs since the flat bottom of the canyon has a very high water table, due to the presence of the stream bed. This high water table provides abundant moisture for sycamores, which grow very tall and very old in this area.  Smaller ash and laurel sumac trees crowd along the road, providing a bright green color display. Along the periphery of the canyon, bands of coast live oak shade the trail before giving way to hills covered in coastal sage-scrub.

The trail maintains its fire road proportion, but it soon turns to dirt at the Danielsen House. From here, the road will cross sycamore creek a number of times, dart in and out of the shady live oak woodlands, and then roll out into the open, sunny canyon, whose walls gradually diminish in height as you come closer to the sea. At about this point, a cool breeze begins to blow, carrying along with it the smell of the ocean.

As you reach the sea, look up at the hillsides where, if you time it right, you will see the bright yellow flowers swaying in the breeze atop the tall, green pom-pom topped Coreopsis plant. This odd plant is straight out of Dr. Seuss, with its whimsical shape, feathery leaves, and bright flowers. Coreopsis is pretty rare, and it thrives on west-facing slopes close to the sea.

Finally, you reach the gate for Sycamore Cove Campground. Walk through the campground, cross PCH, and pass the parking kiosk, and you will have come at last to the ocean. There are very few hikes anywhere that offer this kind of experience, and this hike is duly popular with hikers and mountain bikers alike.

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