Nojoqui Falls - A Short and Shady Hike to the Waterfall
I was looking for a good hike to take my daughter, who, as you may know, is pretty young. I asked around and several people mentioned Nojoqui Falls. I also saw some pictures of the area and thought it would be a nice drive, as well.
We had some visitors in town, one of Sophia cousins, so we headed out. The days had been warm during the week, but the forecast was cooler for the weekend. I figured we were going to be inland a little bit from Santa Barbara, so it should be sunnier there.
I was right. As we drove north towards Gaviota, the fog that threatened to dampen our Saturday burnt off and the green hillsides beckoned us. We took a right off of Highway 101 and drove on the Old Coast Highway, which was actually a smoother road than I thought it would be. We saw some charming pastures with donkeys, cows, goats, horses, and sheep before we turned into the Nojoqui Falls parking area.
It's a pretty big park, with baseball Fields, BBQ grills, picnic benches and tables, group picnic areas, a playground, and restrooms. It was a lot larger than I expected, tucked away up against the back side of the mountains. We drove all the way to the end of the parking lot, where there was an obvious sign indicating that this was the trail.
We grabbed some water and some snacks and headed up the trail. Sophia had her new Camelbak that I had gotten her for her birthday. This keeps her from backwashing into mine and it also encourages her to drink more water on the trail. It's interesting that she mentioned right away the absence of a sternum strap. Perhaps she remembered mine had one, but I was not wearing mine on this day. She also insists on calling it purple, since it's not the correct shade of pink and she was wondering if she could put more stuff into it, which she can't. I told her that I would carry any extra items until she got older.
Even though it was pretty warm in the sun, the trail was mostly in the shade. We had a pleasant time hiking under the mighty laurels.
As I scanned the sides of the trail as I always do, I began noticing some plants that looked a lot like poison oak. The leaves were huge and the plants were all over. As a precaution, I told everyone to obey the signs and stay on the trail. Better safe than sorry.
As we continued, there was poison oak everywhere, almost along the entire trail. The sheer amount of it led me to believe that it probably wasn't the real deal. But I kept away from it anyway. (I later confirmed through Twitter crowdsourcing that this was indeed poison oak. Something I will never forget from here on out.)
Before long, we were at the falls. A crowd was sitting on a flat area and some people were scrambling to get under the waterfall itself, which was a small drizzle, but more than I was expecting this late in the Spring. Also the stream that flowed from the falls wasn't completely dry, either.
I saw a child, within sight of per mother, throw some trash in the stream. The mother called the child's name, but did nothing else to remove the trash. I told Sophia what happened and picked up the trash and walked in front of the mother to place it in the trash can. The best I can do sometimes is to lead by example.
One reason why I tend to head for the peaks instead of waterfalls is that I get more solitude when it takes more effort to get there. And there is fewer trash there.
Still, since the kids really wanted to, we went under the falls and felt the trickle. The kids played in the stream and we all sat and enjoyed the space. Perhaps it is the effect of negative ions, but being around a waterfall is always nice. It was a nice warm day and perfect for sitting on a rock on the edge of the stream and chatting. I was so caught up in our conversation that I was pleasantly surprised when I looked up and saw that the crowd was no longer there.
We started to get hungry, so we headed back down the trail. It was really pleasant, so we took our time, climbing some rocks and really enjoying the space. If you have a small child and can keep them on the wide trail, I highly recommend this hike. It tends to stay cooler on hot summer days and has the benefit of being adjacent to the rest of the park facilities and a 10 minute drive to Solvang.