Very often, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This applies to many scenarios and places in life, one of which can include hiking. I am a person who tries hard to find the beauty in all hiking, nature, etc. However, every once in awhile, I’m stumped. Which brings me to today’s hike: Matilija.
I did not like this hike.
Wife and I started out from the trailhead (end of the road) and walked up the paved road a half mile, past some private ranches, to the trail-trailhead. Turning right at the well-marked sign, we began our trek down the single-track trail. The beginning of this hike reminded me of Eaton Canyon in Pasadena, which isn’t bad. We followed a dry riverbed and ended up walking alongside a small but lively creek. As the trail went on, the trail became slimmer, the ticks, bees, bugs, poison oak, and flies became thicker, and my patience waned. After a mile and a half, we ended up at Lower Matilija Camp, which seems like it’d be a cool campground for beginning backpackers. There are fire grates, water sources near, and plenty of spots (8-10) for a tent. Cool. This is a great place to turn around.
Beyond Lower Matilija, the trail got slimmer, the bugs and poison oak denser, and the heat got hotter. We passed a pretty active beehive which was right on the trail and we crossed the creek at least 5 or 6 times. Finally, perhaps a few tenths of a mile before the next campground (just under 3 miles in), we decided we’d had enough and turned around to go home.
This hike is hot and buggy. I think it’d be fun to do in winter when the water is higher and the annoyances are less. On the upshot, its a great hike for a beginner because it is very flat and does not require a high level of fitness. If I’m missing the beauty of Matilija, please weigh in here, as I’d be open to other perspectives.
Getting there: Take 33 north of Meiners Oaks/Ojai about 10 minutes to Matilija Road. It’s a clearly marked street on the left side of the road across the quarry and before Wheeler Gorge. Take that road a few miles down to the end, marked by a closed gate. Put out your Adventure Pass ($30 at REI) and walk further up the driveway past the gate. Please be mindful of the Private landowners who share their driveway generously with us.
Mileage: 5.75 miles at our turnaround
Elevation gain: 500 feet maybe? It’s very gradual.
Weather: 83 and sunny, light breeze
Hazards: Bees, flies, ticks, etc. No snakes seen on our journey but they definitely live here too. Bear tracks were visible at times.