Tar Creek:

Submitted by Jeffrey Scott Hanssen

July 2011

Every Trail Map & Photos

This is one of the more spectacular destinations in the Los Padres, and to top it off, it’s only a moderately difficult 2.7-mile hike (5.4 miles roundtrip).  From the trailhead, you have an early elevation gain of 120 feet, followed by a 720-foot drop to the final destination.  Keep in mind the return uphill climb, if the temperature is high, as if often is in the backcountry.  The majority of the trail passes through chaparral and a few scattered live oak, but offers some great mountain vistas.

It’s 2.2 miles from the trailhead to where the trail empties into Tar Creek.  As you make the final descent to the creek, you will come to a slightly treacherous spot where the trail has been eroded.  The actual trail continues diagonally down the side of the canyon, but many people now take the washed out and steep short cut to the left.  As a side note, if you have any idea of taking the trail that goes to the Sespe Creek, it continues opposite Tar Creek where the actual trail comes down, so if you take the short cut, you may miss it.  Be warned that the trail to the Sespe is overgrown in places and necessitates negotiating around a landslide. For this hike, you don’t need to worry about that.
Once you arrive at Tar Creek, you have about a half mile (less if you take the shortcut) to the first pools and falls.  There is no trail for this portion of the trip, though you can usually spot where others have walked.  You’ll be rock-hopping and working your way through bushes, but it’s not too difficult.  There is probably more than one way to go.  Your challenge will be to find the easiest.
You’ll know when you have reached the destination.  There are three gorgeous deep pools in series, with two waterfalls and a natural water slide.  Each pool affords several perches on the rocks from which to jump.  You can start at the top and work your way to the last pool.  If you have tender feet, you should consider wearing some old shoes, as the climb back up, especially from pool 2 to pool 1 is a little difficult.
That’s the end of this hike, though if you are adventurous, I have heard that there is a second falls and pool further downstream, but I’m not advocating that because I have not done it.  I think most people will be quite satisfied with the first destination.  It really is incredible.
From Fillmore, take A Street north.  After about 1.1 miles, A Street turns slightly to the left and stops at Goodenough Rd.  Turn right here and continue to the end of Goodenough Rd. (gate to the left).  At this point, take the road uphill on the right.  This is Squaw Flat Rd.  It’s then 4.5 miles over a road that is sometimes asphalt, sometime dirt, sometimes narrow (one car width +), sometimes scary, and always bumpy.  Plenty of parking is available at the trailhead, some on the left side of the road, where the trail starts, and a very large area on the right.  Coordinates for the trailhead are N34 28.816, W118 55.026.
No special equipment is required.  Just bring plenty of water and be cautious at the eroded area where the shortcut down to Tar Creek deviates from the original trail continuing to the right.