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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™

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Rancho Sierra Vista and the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center

    Taking the oath to become a Junior Ranger.

The Sierra Vista Canyon National Recreation Area is located in Newbury Park which is part of Ventura County. This fun hike can be reached by taking the 101 freeway, exiting at Lynn Rd., and taking Lynn south for 5.25 miles to Via Goleta. The parking here is free and the trails are easy for young kids. It is a wonderful way to spend time with your family, get exercise and learn more about nature and the Chumash village which used to inhabit the land.

We went on this hike at the end of January on a crisp, sunny day. The parking lot was filled with cars but we did get a space. There were many families with children of all ages as well as dogs and mountain bikers. The bathrooms are located right next to the parking lot so tell your kids to go then because we didn’t see any other facilities.

A quarter mile from the parking lot is the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center and Natural Area. We stopped here and there were two park rangers who told us about the different animal pelts, Indian tools and other items on display. Our kids really enjoyed touching the pelts and hearing about how the Indians used the tools. Satwiwa means “the bluffs” in Chumash and it was the name of the Chumash village that used to inhabit this land. There was also a junior ranger activity book that my kids got busy with, and one of the park ranger encouraged them to finish three activities so that they could get a pin and a badge and take the oath of a junior ranger. They interviewed Ranger Sharon to learn about what a park ranger’s duties are and why she wanted to become a ranger. We were told also about the many workshops, programs and art shows that take place at this Culture Center including activities just for kids.

Right outside of the Culture Center was a large, well maintained garden of native plants. I think this was Madison and Logan’s favorite part of the day. We went to each plant’s sign and told them the name of each plant and what it was used for when the Chumash lived there. They were particularly interested in the plants that were used to alleviate the pain from toothaches.

From there we walked over to the reproduction of a Chumash house that was under repair. My kids were delighted by all of the tree stumps that are used as chairs. They took time to count each stump! Nearby was another area with tree stumps and a fire pit. This area is used in the Culture Center’s programs. We also saw a pretty pond that Ranger Sharon said is often dry but was pleasantly full when we visited.

Next we traversed a few of the trails for about 45 minutes. We loved seeing the families enjoying being together in nature. There is a windmill on one trail but it was pretty far up a hill and I knew my kids were getting hungry. I think we may try to reach it next time. The views of the surrounding mountains are beautiful here and the small hills on the trails made for an interesting hike. There is a trail that takes you all the way to the ocean but it is 8 miles each direction. We also saw horseback riders and mountain bikers taking advantage of the good weather.

This hike was a lot of fun and a great one for families! This is also an excellent opportunity to introduce your children to the National Park Service and all of the great national parks we have in California and beyond. The rangers were very knowledgeable, friendly and good with kids. There is so much to learn and do at the Culture Center and we can’t wait to go back.

The hiking trails are easy and fun with plenty to see and experience.