Private Landowner Makes Changes to Public Access on Sisar Canyon Trail

The newly-locked gate barring vehicles from entering Sisar Canyon.

Last month a landowner with over 100 acres of private property along Sisar Canyon Road just south of the Los Padres National Forest boundary closed and locked a gate to permanently restrict vehicle access to Sisar Canyon. This road has been used for nearly a century by hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers on their way to trails, campgrounds, and swimming holes along Sisar Creek and Nordhoff Ridge in the Los Padres National Forest. While the landowner is still allowing foot, horse, and bicycle traffic through a side access corridor, there are concerns about forest-user safety and lack of secured permanent access.

The landowner posted a sign last year warning forest-users that a gate would be installed and locked preventing vehicles from continuing up Sisar Canyon Road to an established parking area. See our map below to see where the new gate and parking area is located.


Map of the new Sisar Canyon access situation. Click to view a larger map.


The new gate’s owner bought the land about a decade ago and previously allowed the public to drive up the road to the Forest Service gate and parking area. The new gate does not allow vehicles to pass, but it does allow those on foot and horseback to pass through a side access corridor between the gate and a fence. We have heard complaints by the equestrian community about the side access area due to it being narrow and containing low cross bars intended to keep motorcycles out. Some have described the side access as a safety hazard for horses who cannot easily clear the two cross bars.

The side access corridor for hikers and horses.

Furthermore, the landowner has not granted a permanent access easement to the Forest Service and general public. This means that the landowner can remove the side access gap at any time and block all access to Sisar Canyon, including hikers and horseback riders. This is not at all unprecedented as we experienced most recently with the trail to Matilija Falls.

Sisar Canyon is a gateway to several areas of interest in the Los Padres National Forest, and it remains the only access point into the forest between Horn Canyon on the outskirts of Ojai to the west and Santa Paula Canyon to the east. Outdoor enthusiasts have historically used Sisar Canyon Road and the trail beyond to access Nordhoff Ridge and Topatopa Bluff, where spectacular views of the Ojai Valley, Oxnard Plain, and Channel Islands to the south and the Sespe Wilderness to the northwest can be found. Sisar Canyon is also the primary route to the shady White Ledge Camp along Sisar Creek.

The general public has enjoyed access to Sisar Canyon since at least the 1920s, and the Chumash who lived in a nearby village called Sis’a (the namesake for Sisar) were accessing Sisar Creek in the canyon for centuries. The situation that has recently developed along Sisar Road puts the longstanding access and enjoyment of Sisar Canyon at risk.

ForestWatch is exploring options to secure a permanent easement to Sisar Canyon in order to preserve a century-old legacy of public access to this unique place in our national forest.

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