Characterized by its sheer immensity, massive wine-stained boulders and gushing waterfalls, the creek cuts a wicked gash through the chaparral covered hills scouring out a ragged drainage chute through bedrock reminiscent of canyons in the American Southwest.
My Dad and I did a 9 mile exploratory circuit on Tuesday, 12-28-10, after several days of decent rain. The previous afternoon, while out reconnoitering the area, we crossed paths with the fella from VC Canyoneering. He kindly gave us a detailed map and we decided to return next morning. We got a fairly late start leaving the truck at 9:30 and ended up getting back well after dark at 6:30.
We did a loop going all the way down the old road cut, then down stream a mite and bushwhacked up to the first cascade and up a slide area to the top of the waterfall, and on up the creek past the other two falls. We spent too much time at the waterfalls after getting to them late in the afternoon, due to our circuitous course, which when combined with time spent route finding, and otherwise standing around in awe of the landscape, translated into hiking the last two miles back to the truck by starlight.
Nice! I haven’t been down to Tar Creek in at least 5 or 6 years. What a neat place… I’ll need to get back there one of these days. The Falls coming off of Bear Heaven look pretty impressive. I’ve never seen it running before.
I think there’s a couple of other big falls that enter Sespe Gorge farther upstream. The (almost) loop from Dough Flat to Alder Creek (worthy of a trip in itself) and back to Tar Creek via the Sespe Gorge seems like an awesome 2-night(ish) adventure. Been wanting to do that one of these springs when the weather’s nice and there’s still plenty of water but not so much as to make it crazy…
Hey Nico. It’s an incredible bit of country back there, that’s for sure. When we were out there waterfalls were streaming from nearly every rocky nook and cranny around.
That sounds like it would be an awesome tour you mention: Dough Flat-Alder Creek and out at Tar Creek. Boulder hoping down Sespe Creek, however, would be some work with an overnight pack on.
yeah, there’s a bit of scrambling and potentially 2-3 sections that have you have to swim across depending upon water levels and comfort with class 3+ climbing/scrambling. I think there’s one section where you need a bit of rope to lower yourself over some of the big RV-sized purple sandstone boulder jumbles. Nothing huge but enough that you’d want the security of the rope…
You can go pretty light for this trip if the weather’s nice. Plan to camp on sandy beaches next to the creek and plan to be wet all day. Mild evening temps. If you poke around online, you can probably find a few different photo essays or write-ups from folks who have completed the loop. I think a group of students from Thatcher did it at least once as their big annual group trip (except they left from the school, went up and over the Topa Topas and followed the Sespe to Tar Creek)…
Nice write up , and pictures. Those Bear Heaven falls are a real treat. We did the Sespe Narrows hike last May. Much to my dismay there was no need to swim. The three “squeezes” are all filled up with sediment. There’s a big log in the section with the two boulders, so no real need for the webbing, but I always bring some with me anyway. You can read about it on my blog under in the May 2010 section if you’re interested.
Hey Eric. Thanks. Yeah, I’ll check your post on that. All those fires around the Tri-County area the last number of years really changed the creeks with all the erosion and sediment washing into them.
I’d love to see that detailed map i am trying to do a trip up to tar creek there isn’t a good map of the place/… Awesome journey btw
Hey Tarek. You’ve probably found you’re way there via another blog, but I don’t feel comfortable giving out specific directions. Hence the absence of a map for this post. Nothing personal. But if you do some searching you can find what you’re looking for.
Thanks for the great pictures! I’m debating whether or not to try to hike to lower and upper Tar Creek Falls. I can’t seem to track down a source that reliably informs if it is safe enough for my comfort level. I am from the Goleta area so it would be at least a 1.5 hour drive to get there, so I don’t want to drive all that way and then not make it to the falls.
One of my main concerns is the dirt road I hear about. I have a low lying sports car that is not suited for long dirt road excursions. How would you advise about the trip getting to the trail head?
Also, I am finding mixed results on the actual trail itself. Is class 3 rock climbing/rapelling/swimming needed to get to the lower and upper falls? Is the trail pretty defined?
I appreciate any advice you can offer!
Hey Eric. Drop me an email: newhammerpress(at)live(dot)com
What a beautiful place, Jack. If I ever travel to California, I’ll have to visit the falls.
Is this by any chance near or at Sweetwater Ranch, aka Hidden Valley Ranch? When I was a wee, wee tot, we lived at that ranch until just before it was sold. My dad used to hike a lot up there and I remember all his stories. I want so badly to find photos of those spots. Can anyone help? (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hidden Valley Ranch is in Santa Barbara County and these waterfalls are in Ventura County. It’s funny you should mention Hidden Valley Ranch, though, as I nearly went for a hike down the creek in that area the other day to check out the waterfalls. I went to Condor Point instead.
Great post Jack, with images to match… thanks for sharing!
I enjoyed your photographs immensely. That waterfall was spectacular in search of a better word. I could almost feel the sound of the water falling and the freshness in the air. Thanks a bunch for sharing. Nothing beats the outdoors.
Jack, any tips on where you can find forecast widgets to add to the sidebar like you have done?
Hey Dave. I got my weather widgets in the sidebar from my local news Website. For example, take a look at the following news Website: http://www.keyt.com/weather.
If you scroll down on that page you will find numerous different forecast boxes like are on my sidebar. What I did was to right-click on one of those weather graphic boxes and then clicked “copy link location.” I then pasted that copied link location onto an image widget while on my widget dashboard. You know how you can grab and drag different selections on the widget page onto your sidebar and than add images or text. Then of course I saved it, and it works in real time and changes as the news Website updates their info.
Beautiful country! And great photographs. I tried Liking your post but it wouldn’t take. So, consider yourself Liked!
And thanks for dropping by and Liking my entry for this week’s photo challenge:
“Regretful Old Barn”.
Perhaps your visitors would like to stop by and view it at
Thanks and have a great day!
That’s amazing! The world is a pretty spectacular place, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your great photos.
You know guys and gals I’ve been going to tar creek for fifteen years !there were 70 people down there two weeks ago . I’m watching it turn into the sp punch bowls graffiti trash etc… Jack good job not giving out directions.i know it’s to late but damm I’ve kept it spotless for years ! I even covered up the spray paint this year but I can’t keep up too much info out there find it the hard way like I did go up stream you like it
I also used to pull out bags of trash. So sad that people destroy some of the most beautiful spots!
where exactly is this spot? I want to find it! please let me know thank you.
Hello. This location is within a restricted wildlife sanctuary that is now no longer open to the public as per the US Forest Service, which has begun enforcing the law to protect what is deemed essential habitat for a critically endangered species.
Hi – would you consider editing this (very well done) post – to note prominently at the top that this area is now closed to the public? Fines of $5000 and/or up to 6 months in jail for violating the closure. https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3824249.pdf
No. It’s outrageous. Six months in jail…that’s the same sentence handed down to rapists in this state. See Brock Turner or Shuhei Nakata.