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Surprise Swimming Holes in Ojai’s Murrieta Canyon

Shallow swimming holes and woodsy Murrieta Canyon are the attractions of this short jaunt on the outskirts of Ojai.

Murrieta Trail meanders along a creek to oak-shaded Murrieta Camp. (The camp, creek, canyon and trail take their name--albeit a different spelling--from 19th century outlaw Joaquin Murieta.) Given the drought and Ojai’s reputation for scorching summer days, my family was more than a little surprised to find pools of water on a recent hike to the creek.

Directions to the trail head: From U.S. 101 in Ventura, take Highway 33 north about 12 miles to Ojai. Highway 155 veers farther into Ojai, but stay on 33 and drive five miles north to North Matilija Road. Turn left and go five more miles to a parking area just short of a gated fire road and the signed trail head.

The hike: Follow the dirt fire road through a private parcel known as the Matilija Canyon Ranch and Wildlife Refuge. (The property owner allows access through the ranch to the surrounding Los Padres National Forest.)

After the second creek crossing, look for signed Murrieta Trail on the left. Head south on the path, which leads to the mouth of Murrieta Canyon.

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The trail crosses the creek, climbs a low hill, then follows the creek bed upstream to Murrieta Camp, perched on a flat. Walk up-creek and you might discover swimming holes. Note, however, that the trail beyond the camp isn’t maintained; it’s overgrown with brush and difficult to follow.

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For more of John McKinney’s tips, visit www.thetrailmaster.com.


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