Do you know what’s the greatest thing about the rainy season? When it ends! I’m only partially kidding. I know we need the rain but for hikers like me it’s a bummer when your forced indoors because of bad weather. Like most people I can’t wait to get back outside to hit the trails again. I look forward to those early spring months when landscapes become carpeted with young new grass and hills boast brilliant wildflower blooms. Spring marks one of the best times of the year to go hiking in Southern California. It’s no wonder I was excited by the visual beauty of the rolling hills as we drove in to the parking lot for the Satwiwa Loop Trail. In the near distance mysterious mountains beckoned for us to explore them.
Trail Name: Satwiwa Loop Trail
- Length: 3.7 mi
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time: 30 min
- Location: Santa Monica Mountains
Wow, did I mention how green the hills were? It was really impressive and such a contrast to how dry Southern California can look during the summer months. We parked the car and walked a short distance to the trailhead. At the start of the trail is the Satwiwa Native American Indian Cultural Center. I love dropping in a visitor or cultural center to get acquainted with the terrain I’ll be adventuring through. We learned about the local Native American culture and history in this area. Did you know this area had been home to the native Chumash people for thousands of years? In fact the area is still considered sacred!
The cultural center is an important place where native americans can celebrate their culture by leading workshops, giving presentations and holding art shows. Outside of the center is a Chumash Demonstration Village replica. We walked up to the Chumash home called an ‘Ap.
Respect The Spirit Of The Mountain
Before we started the trail we read from a sign facing Boney Mountain off in the distance. It reads:
Boney Mountain stands as a majestic beacon filling the day and night sky. The mountain’s spirit pervades the plants, animals and sense of place around you. it is in the cycle of the seasons, and the past and present generations of people. Whether alone or with others, this place anchored by the mountain invites you to pause, reflect, and look inward. Taste the salt rolling in on the morning sea breeze. Smell the pungent sage warmed by the afternoon sun. Witness the magical interplay of dark and light shadows. What insights, ideas and feelings does the spirit of the mountain evoke for you?
“Boney Mountain is a sacred spiritual area, a shaman’s retreat, and a place for vision quests. It is a place for meditation. From up there, you can see everything.”
~ Charlie Cooke, Tiq Slo’ “Eye of the Eagle”
A Hereditary Chumash Chief
Setting Off On The Satwiwa Trail
With a message like that I was ready now more than ever to get out and explore. The Satwiwa Loop Trail is an easy 2 miles designated for hikers only. We began by strolling through grasslands that seemed to be glowing bright green. The hills around the trail had gentle rolling slopes. What this hike lacked in difficulty made up for in scenery.
Beware of Historical Artifacts
Soon we came upon an old windmill up on a hill. This was an example of evidence that ranching had existed in this area for over a century. I was so excited to take the perfect picture of the windmill that I didn’t see the rusty barbed wire lying across the floor. I stepped right through it as it ripped a gash in the back of my ankle. Ouch! Another reason to always carry a first aid kit. Of course I left mine at home because I thought it was going to be such a short and easy hike. Lesson learned! Accidents can happen anywhere.
The ‘Old Windmill’ is actually a part of the Upper Loop Trail. There is also a Lower Loop Trail and several others that all connect in some way to the Satwiwa trail. It’s nice that you can extend your hike if you like by venturing onto one of these trails.
Exploring The Canyons
Among the coastal sage brush and chaparral was evidence of a 2013 fire that burned much of Point Magu State Park and parts of Satwiwa. You could actually see that the plants and trees are slowly recovering from the effects of that wildfire. It made the scenery a bit eerie but still beautiful. I wonder what effect it had on the local animals here? It is said there are deer, coyote, rattlesnakes, foxes and mountain lions in the area! If your lucky you might be able to spot a golden eagle or a falcon flying overhead.
There were a few other trails I would have liked to explore such as the Big Sycamore Canyon Trail. The Chumash people used the Big Sycamore Canyon trail as a trade route to connect the inland valley to the ocean. You can take this trail which follows the canyon bottom all the way to the ocean’s edge. It’s a 16 mile roundtrip but because of my ankle injury I opted to try this trail another time.
My darn ankle kept bleeding so we decided it was best to head back towards the cultural center. From almost anywhere on that last part of the trail you could catch glimpses of Boney Mountain.
This small simple trail literally kicked my butt (well my ankle to be more precise). However it seems even more mysterious to me now and I want to return someday to maybe experience my own vision quest from atop the bold and beautiful Boney Mountain.