When I was a child, my family would go camping several times every summer with other family friends who had children.
I have such fond memories of these times. I remember being so excited to go that I wouldn't sleep the night before we left. I also remember the drive feeling like an eternity once we were in the car.
Most of all, I remember the feeling of excitement every time we found something new to explore.
My husband and I want our kids to have a similar experience, and we have the perfect group of friends to camp with.
Off Highway 101, about 15 minutes away from Solvang, there is a hidden treasure: Nojoqui (pronounced naw-HO-wee) Falls. Named after the Native American Chumash village Naxuwi, Nojoqui Falls Park is sometimes referred to as the "Yosemite" of Santa Barbara County.
We visited Nojoqui Falls last week during a camping trip to Gaviota State Park. Gaviota is located north of Santa Barbara and about 137 miles, or a 2 1/2-hour drive, from the Beach Cities.
I have seen the sign off the highway in the past, but I never really thought there was a waterfall. A trickle, maybe—but not a waterfall.
I figured any water that at one time flowed had long dried up. Once we agreed to disagree about the pronunciation of Nojoqui, we decided to see for ourselves if there was a waterfall.
We parked in a tree-lined lot and stepped up to the trailhead. Never in my life have I been on a hike that is measured not miles or kilometers, but minutes. This trail is 10 minutes to be exact, according to the sign at the trailhead.
This should be interesting, I thought.
On the trail—more accurately, a path of rocks and tree roots—to find the waterfall, we saw a woodpecker hanging onto the side of a tree with countless holes in the trunk.
I was amazed at how many holes the woodpeckers had made, but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised due to the number of woodlice on the trail. You may know the woodlouse (a crustacean) by its more common name, roly-poly.
Ten minutes doesn’t go by nearly as quickly as you think it will when you have children to pull along on the hike with you, but walking under the beautiful canopy of trees was a great distraction.
Soon we could hear water running, and soon we could see the source. It was beautiful. The waterfall was about 100 feet high and looked tropical with the moss and ferns growing on the vertical slate of travertine and sandstone.
We smelled the damp earth. We heard the birds singing, and we heard the water cascading—a pleasure to the senses.
As the sun pierced through the trees with rays of light while the water flowed to the ground, I could envision how the Native Americans considered this to be a sacred and spiritual place.
Nojoqui Falls is a masterpiece that is refreshingly unspoiled. I really enjoyed the amazing surprise at the end of this short family- and pet-friendly hike.
I definitely recommend making the trip.