It’s rare to see a waterfall in Southern California.
Doubly true in July.
But if you drive a little bit outside of town, you’ll find Paradise Falls, part of a 4.5-mile loop hike at Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks.
This park is home to 14 trails spanning more than 17 miles of hiking through a surprisingly diverse ecosystem of grasslands, sycamore-lined canyons, rock formations and lots of prickly succulents.
You’ll want to start at the entrance on Avenida de los Arboles. Walk toward the informational board at the western edge of the lot and take the Mesa Trail. You’ll be on it for half a mile before hitting the Lizard Rock Trail, the namesake of which you’ll see in front of you.
Stay on Lizard Rock for a mile until you hit a left on the Tepee Trail. You’ll stay on that for a short trot before hitting the Stagecoach Bluff Trail, which is a bit rocky. You’ll get lots of views, and you’ll know you’re in the right direction if you see the Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant.
You’ll then link back up with Lizard Rock, which you can take up to the peak, from where you’ll see the Santa Monica Mountains and Point Mugu. Then you go back the way you came toward the Treatment Plant, hiking along its western edge.
From there, you hop on the Wildwood Canyon Trail and go east until you hit the Paradise Falls picnic area (for more trails and greater detail, read this). There are stairs that lead to the falls and a pool of water below. Despite any temptation, do not swim in it, lest you want a nasty little rash. Speaking of rashes, keep your eyes peeled for poison oak, as it’s abundant around the more riparian sections. To leave, you’ll go back to the Wildwood Canyon Trail and head east to the Nature Center.
Given that there’s a picnic table you’d be wise to stop at Vintage Grocers in Westlake prior to entering the park (directions). This community market has a solid deli that uses bread from Gjusta, delicious deli meats and premade salads that travel well.
Welcome to paradise, indeed.
Images via Modern Hiker