Hill Canyon is a treat. It’s for one of those days when you just want to be outside and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature but you are just not feeling epic. There is a maximum 250 foot elevation gain on this one. Round trip is about 4 miles, but you can keep it shorter or take one of the connector trails to make it longer. It is family and dog friendly and is well used and loved by those who live in the area. You will see rabbits, deer, and quail as you saunter along. You will spot fish, turtles and ducks in the Arroyo Conejo Creek which runs along the trail. Large mammals such as moutain lions, bobcats and coyotes take refuge in the canyon as well but it’s unlikely you will see them. I highly recommend this trail for those who want to begin hiking. Take it for a test-drive, you are going to love this little hike!
Hill Canyon is part of the Conejo Canyon Open Space trail system. By 1970’s the Hill Canyon had fallen into a state of neglect. It was used by many as a trash dumping area. It was littered with graffiti. People in the surrounding communities began to recognize this area for the local treasure it is. After a forty year effort by residents and government agencies, 1,430 acres were preserved as a permanent open space. This space connects the Wildwood, Arroyo Conejo and Lynnmere trail systems.
Hill Canyon was home to the Chumash for thousands of years. There have been numerous discoveries of Chumash artifacts and pictographs along the creek. I would like to include some folklore about the Chumash here.
On the trail you are likely to see Coyote Melon. I spotted several patches as I walked this trail. The plant smells amazingly like your car smells when you have taken 6-8 teenage boys home from soccer practice. In August. It is not pleasant. The melon itself is not edible either. It is called Coyote Melon as the Chumash observed that only the coyote would eat it. The Chumash had several uses for the melons. The seeds could be ground down to make a type of porridge. The gourds and the roots of the plants were used as soap. If the melon was found with the seeds intact after drying out it was used as a rattle.
You might also notice the Tobacco Tree ( Nicotinana glauca). I saw a few trees near the creek along the trail. The Tobacco Tree is not native to California. It is native to South America in Bolivia and Argentina and is an invasive species here. The Chumash did not use the Tobacco Tree leaves in smoking rituals. A tea was made from the leaves and used as an appetite suppressant. The adults would drink this tea in times of drought and famine so that they could give what food they had to the tribe children. The leaves contain a toxic alkaloid called anabasine. Ingestion of the leaves can be fatal.
Distance: 4.0 miles
Elevation: 433 feet (This is no mountain)
Elevation Gain: 250 feet
Time: 2-4 hours
Dogs Permitted: Very dog Friendly
The Hill Canyon Trail was officially dedicated in 2014. It is a wonderful wet surprise for those of you who image that all hikes in Camarillo are dry and dusty. You can get there from Santa Rosa Road in Camarillo. When traveling along Santa Rosa Road you will turn onto Hill Canyon Road (you will see a sign for Santa Rosa Regional Park). Follow Hill Canyon Road, going over a single lane bridge until you reach a dirt parking lot on the left. This parking lot is directly across from the Conejo Canyons Bridge. There always seems to be cars in the parking lot. The lot is fairly large and there is usually parking. There are multiple trails that can be accessed from this lot and on the weekends it is a little harder to find parking.
The Hill Canyon trail can be completed in 3, 4, or 5 mile out and back hikes. Today I will describe the 4 mile hike. There are numerous connector trails along the way as you hike Hill Canyon. The four mile hike connects briefly with the Hawk Canyon Trail. I like to take this route because you spend most of the time near the Arroyo Conejo Creek. I have hiked this trail to Paradise Falls in Wildwood, a 10 mile loop. The great thing about this trail system is that you can customize your hike to suit your needs.
The trail is a fairly wide and will occasionally narrow to a single track. The trail occasionally offers shade though it is mostly exposed to the sun. Just around the bend you will come upon your first sight of the Arroyo Conejo Creek.
The Arroyo Conejo Creek will be to your left side as you follow the trail. Arroyo Conejo (Spanish for “Rabbit Creek”) is the longest creek in the Conejo Valley. It travels through the cities of Camarillo, Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks and Santa Rosa Valley. It covers 43 square miles in the Conejo Valley and 14 miles in Santa Rosa Valley. The creek originates in the Conejo Hills and eventually travels through an estuary at Mugu Lagoon into the Pacific Ocean. It is the primary drainage for the City of Thousand Oaks.
I have seen deer drinking from the creek. There is an occasional duck sighting. You will also see fairly large fish who hide under the shadows of the trees. In 2013, the protected Steelhead Trout was found in the creek. Other fish species include the Brown Bullhead, Green Sunfish, Bluntnose Minnow and the Mosquito Fish.
To the left of the trail you will be treated to nice view of the Mount Clef Ridge and it’s volcanic outcroppings. As you walk further along the trail, you will see grassy trails leading off to the left. This side trails are guaranteed to lead you to the creek. In some areas the creek is deep enough to swim in. There is a lot of poison oak to be found on the side trails to the creek.
At about the one mile mark Hill Canyon trail will veer left into a wooded oak grove. Again, you will find lots of poison oak. There is a picnic table here near the trail and lots of interesting vegetation.
Travel a little further along the trail and you will come to another left hand turn. This will lead you to a small silt barrier. If you cross the creek here you will find yourself on the fire road which leads to the water treatment plant.
You will run into lots of interesting vegetation on this hike. Many, I have learned, are poisonous. And hallucinogenic, but still, poisonous.
You leave “the dam” and go back towards Hill Canyon Trail and continue on to Hawk Canyon Trail.
Hawk Canyon adds about another mile to this hike. It is optional. If you head toward the Western Plateau you will begin to experience a significant elevation gain.
Well there you have it. An easily accessible, thoroughly enjoyable and entirely memorable hike in our own back yard. I hope you take the time to enjoy this gift of a trail. I’m off in search of the next adventure. I’ll head a little further south this time to Malibu Creek State Park, home of the M*A*S*H* site.