Hike to Matilija Falls

Rate this Adventure 9 miles 950 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Derek Mathewson

*This 9 mile moderate to difficult hike will take you to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of the Los Padres National Forest! *If you decide to camp a night or two instead of hiking it all in one day, there are multiple (free) campgrounds that you can camp at to further enjoy your stay.

...If you've read most of my blogs, you'll probably notice I have a fascination for waterfalls! I've done this hike multiple times, but it wasn't until this day where I saw these falls truly in action and what they're meant to look like. Getting here, you'll drive 13.4 miles north on highway 33 from highway 101, to the Y junction with Highway 150.  Stay left on highway 33 heading toward Maricopa.  Continue 5 miles, then make a left onto Matilija Road. Drive another 5 miles to the parking area.

From the parking area, go through the gate and follow the paved road through the Matilija Canyon Wildlife Refuge.  In half a mile there will be a light creek crossing, followed by a crossing of the larger Matilija Creek. Depending on the time of year you go will ultimately depend on how high the water level will be.  Follow the trail until you come to a Y intersection that reads "ALL TRAILS ”.  From here, stay left and continue on the trail passing through a wooden gate labeled “Blue Heron Ranch – Private”.

About 2 miles from the trailhead, the road crosses a tiny creek and narrows to become a trail.  For the next mile, the trail stays on the left side of Matilija Creek, passing several small campsites and awesome swimming holes. Some of the swimming wholes are anywhere from 4-8 ft deep and make for great spots to stop and take a dip, especially on hot days. About half a mile past the swimming wholes are several high water trails, so you have the option of taking a detour to avoid the water, or walking through it. This is where the water shoes will come in handy! For the remaining 1½ miles, there will be a ton of creek crossings, boulder hopping and some scrambling.  Ultimately, if you keep following the water, you wont get lost. The hike is definitely time consuming, so be patient and enjoy the views this beautiful hike has to offer.

You will come to a point where the trail will fork to the West and to the North. Turn to the left for ¼ of a mile which will take you to the breathtaking two-tier West Fork Matilija waterfall. Relax and soak up the scenery! The sandstone formations that surround the waterfall is one of the more impressive views that I've seen! After you're done, head toward the North Fork trail on your left towards the North Fork Matilija waterfall. Take that for .5 miles until you get to the falls. This is a great spot to kick it and swim around in the pools. Behind the waterfall is a small cave you can explore in. If you're really daring and have the time, there's a rope that you could climb up from that'll take you to a 3rd waterfall with deep swimming wholes to cliff jump from. I didn't get around to doing it this time around, but I've done it in the past and it was a blast. You can guarantee that you'll have it all to yourself if you go!!

When done, head back the same way you came. Again, this is a long day hike, so if you're considering swimming, cliff jumping or photographing the falls, give yourself enough time and leave early in the morning. If you're camping out, enjoy your stay and take advantage of all that Matilija Canyon has to offer. Happy Trails!

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Easy Parking
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole


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