- Cheeseboro / Palo Comado Canyons is the northernmost section of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Here, in the Simi Hills, the waters that flow in Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons begin their journey to the Pacific. In this large expanse of habitat, deer, bobcats, coyotes and rabbits roam. Stroll to Sulphur Springs or hike to the top of Simi Peak and view the cities you've left behind. Walk quietly amid the oaks and grasses or picnic beside a streambed.
The Chumash lived in these canyons for thousands of years. Many trails within the canyons may have originated with the Chumash and then were expanded by the ranchers who followed. There are over a half-dozen trails ranging from several moderate 0.7-mile hikes to a moderately strenuous, yet very scenic, 4.4-mile hike. Bicycles are allowed only on fire roads and designated trails.
For more than 150 years, ranchers made these canyons their home, bringing about a change in the landscape. Many of the native plants, poorly adapted to heavy grazing, were replaced with European annuals such as wild oats, mustard and thistles. Native plants were not the only things affected. Grizzly bears, once thriving in the canyons, were exterminated by the ranchers.
Today, a great diversity of plants and animals live in the canyons. Wide-spread oaks and outcrops of sedimentary rock provide excellent nesting sites for owls, hawks and other raptors. The abundance of raptors indicates a large prey population, especially small mammals and reptiles. In more rugged areas where cattle didn't graze, you can still find a variety of native plant communities, including chaparral, coastal sage scrub and riparian woodlands.
With the removal of cattle, the landscape is allowed to renew itself. Oak seedlings can now grow tall without becoming food for cattle. Native annual wildflowers are returning, dotting the landscape with colorful displays in the springtime. To get there from US 101 Ventura Freeway take the Cheseboro Road exit north. Make a quick right after exiting 101 onto Cheseboro Road and follow this about 3/4 of a mile to the main park entrance on the right. Make a right and follow the soon-to-be dirt road to the ample parking at the trailhead. Restroom facilities are available at the trailhead.
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