Landowner Shuts Off Public Access to Popular Matilija Falls Trail near Ojai

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ForestWatch is Working to Keep the Trail Open, and is Looking for Anyone Who Used This Trail Prior to 1972

Source of this articleLos Padres Forest Watch, April 12, 2010

The Middle Fork Matilija Trail is shown in red. Map by Ventura County Star.

Ojai, Calif. – Today, the U.S. Forest Service announced that a landowner with extensive holdings in Ventura County is denying public access through his property in Matilija Canyon. The popular trail, which has been used by the public for more than a century, leads to swimming holes, unique geologic formations, and the beautiful Matilija Falls in the Matilija Wilderness Area of the Los Padres National Forest.

For more than a year, the landowner – Shull “Buzz” Bonsall, Jr. – has been approaching trail users along the Middle Fork Matilija Trail and notifying them that they are no longer welcome to use the trail. Today, the Ojai Ranger District issued the following statement:  For many years, recreation users have enjoyed hiking in the Matilija drainage including trails the North Fork, Middle Fork and Murietta Canyon. Buzz Bonsall owns property in the Middle Fork. He has informed the Forest Service that he is denying public access through his property. If you hike up the Middle Fork to the falls, you will be trespassing unless you have an agreement with Mr. Bonsall. The Forest Service has not had an easement through his property.

Forest visitors have been using this trail for more than a century for hiking, swimming, camping, fishing, and equestrian use in the area.

ForestWatch is working with a coalition of organizations to preserve public access to Matilija Falls. If you hiked this area prior to 1972, please contact ForestWatch at and provide us with your name, address, telephone number, and a brief description of when and how you used the Middle Fork Matilija Trail. Your information will remain confidential, and may help us keep this trail open.

View a photo gallery of the Matilija Falls hike.

Read a June 27th story about this issue from the Los Angeles Times.


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