Upper North Fork Matilija Creek

Almost two years had passed since I hiked up the middle fork of Matilija Creek.  While this day’s trail was pretty easy to follow, there is always going to be some confusion when you’re under a canopy of leaves and branches.  The trail is rugged and has many creek crossings, but is broken up into manageable chunks with camps and other landmarks marking the way.  Also, there’s no better place than Ojai for wildflowers in the springtime.

1   I parked next to the road before a locked gate along Matilija Canyon Road, approximately 5 miles from CA-33.  I walked 0.7 miles along the paved and then dirt road, through a private wildlife preserve.

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To the right is the canyon I  hiked through.

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8       9   Very soon after leaving the trail things started to get wild.  There’s a lot of poison oak alongside the trail.  Wear long sleeves and pants.  Photo 4 – The trail is right near a rock quarry.  I assume this bench-shaped rock came from there.

10   The trail was easy to follow because most of the way it’s marked by yellow spray paint arrows and dots.  There is only one spot that’s confusing.  It happens at the fourth water crossing from the beginning of the hike.  As you can see, the arrow points left.  There is also a yellow dot to the left of this arrow.  This is the only arrow along the route that points downstream.  I followed the trail left and it circled back to the original trail.  So ignore this arrow at the fourth water crossing, go right of this rock and cross the stream.  In fact, if you look closely to the right of the big rock, you can see an arrow painted on a small rock across the stream that indicates that that is the direction you want to go.

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There are lots of giant boulders beside the side of the trail.

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After 0.7 miles from the road I arrived at Lower Matilija Camp.  There are four camp sites right next to the creek and this sloth-shaped boulder.

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17   Lower Matilija Camp is a natural wonderland.


19     20     21   I continued on, crossing the creek several more times.  The water level in photos 1 and 3 was pretty typical for this day.

22     23   For awhile the trail leads away from the creek and was covered with leaves.  It wasn’t terribly difficult to follow.


I walked under these bent branch arches.

26     27     29   I hiked up on a small campsite on the right with one fire ring.  From this small camp, Middle Camp is one mile away.

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Pretty Wildflowers


Floating Purple Jellyfish Flowers

30   Looking back down the canyon.  I think that mountain in the distance with the two peaks is Old Man Mountain.


You can see the peaks sort of make a face.  Someone needs to introduce Old Man Mountain to Ladyface Mountain in Agoura Hills.

33     35     36   Photo 3 – Another helpful marker – this sign is a 1/2 mile from Middle Camp.

37   The trail gets a little overgrown along the way.

38     39     56   A butterfly was kind enough to pose for me.  Photo 3 – More butterflies – these danced around each other as I have seen them do on several hikes.

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46   I walk up on Middle Camp.  Although unmarked, Middle Camp has two campsites that are shaded by three large oaks.  Photo 5 – Some kind of voodoo folk art.

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I found the trail to the right of the campsites that runs up and away from the creek – that’s where the trail continues from Middle Camp.  I rose up for awhile and then returned to the creek.

49   There were several more creek crossings before I reached some switchbacks on the right, about 0.7 miles from Middle Camp.  The switchbacks took me up to the high point for the day, although not all the way up to the top of the ridge.


Looking across the canyon.  There is supposed to be a waterfall here but I couldn’t see anything.  Maybe it’s where that cluster of green is in the middle of the photo.

51     52   One of my hiking books describes a natural rock “gate” that you hike through that lies directly on a fault line.  The rocks run down to the bottom in a line and pick up on the other side of the canyon.


I stopped at the high point of the switchbacks, right before the trail begins to descend down to the creek again, and ate my lunch.  There is a flat rock here that is great for sitting.  This view is to the north.


This is a fantastic spot to rest.  The views are outstanding (this view is to the south).  Although there is no cover from the Sun, there was a breeze that kept me cool and kept the bugs out of my face for the first time on the day.  I basked in the solitude and the silence.

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I returned to the canyon bottom and headed for my car.  Photo 2 – Proud Lizard  Photos 3 and 4 – As I crossed the creek I spotted this beetle that had stranded itself on a rock.  He kept moving toward the water and then backing away in a panic.  Apparently he had crawled out and couldn’t find his way back.  I scooped him up and tossed him on the shore.  He seemed relieved.

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Great hike – lots of fun


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