Posted by: James Wapotich | April 11, 2019

Trail Quest: Wellhouse Falls

Wellhouse Falls Lewis Canyon Knapp's Castle Snyder Trail hike Santa Ynez Mountain Los Padres National Forest

Wellhouse Falls

The last time I visited Wellhouse Falls was with the Boy Scouts, Troop 15, back in the late 70s. We were one of the few troops in Santa Barbara that regularly backpacked in our local mountains. Each spring, we would go on a 5-, 10-, and 20-mile overnight backpacking trip, to build up stamina and get ready for our 5-day, 50-mile backpacking trip we did over spring break.

Knapp’s Castle was a favorite for our 5-mile trips. We would hike down from East Camino Cielo, stop at the ruins and practice map reading and orienteering, leveraging the exceptional views the site has to offer, and then continue down to Paradise Road and hike over to Fremont Campground for the night. Along the way we would make the side trip over to Wellhouse Falls in Lewis Canyon.

On my second visit to the falls, winter rains had washed out part of the trail, but we were able to scramble across the slide area. A year later, additional winter rains made the trail impassable and that was the last time I’d been there. Occasionally, over the years, I’d venture towards the falls, but each time I was turned back by the thick chaparral.

Then one day while staring at a Google satellite image for the area, I noticed that where the trail dies out is really close to a side wash that leads down to the creek. My thought was if I could get to that side wash, and it wasn’t too brushy, I might be able to make it down to the creek. From there it would be relatively easy to reach the falls.

With the recent bounty of winter rains, I was inspired to give it a shot. The old trail arrives right at the washed out area from long ago, where it also happens to meet the little side wash I saw in the Google satellite image. The side wash is moderately brushy, somewhat steep, and presents some challenges, in particular a small, dry waterfall that one has to climb down. The side wash meets the creek just below the first of two bonus waterfalls on the way up to Wellhouse Falls. The old trail up to the falls reappears between the second waterfall and Wellhouse Falls.

This article appears in section A of the March 4th, 2019 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.


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