Lopez Canyon's pastoral beauty has beckoned nature lovers for generations. In the 1920s and 30s, long before there was a lake, the area was known as Routzhan Park and was popular for camping and fishing. Situated among rolling foothills, dotted with ancient oak groves, the park's picturesque campground is an inviting place to set up your tent for a few days and discover the lake's delights.
This family hike on the Blackberry Springs Trail explores the southwestern end of the park's trail system. The trailhead is located in Squirrel Campground, a shady glen just behind the park registration building. The Marina Trail also begins nearby and provides access to Rocky Point Trail and then on to several lakeside footpaths to popular fishing and picnicking sites.
Directions: From Highway 101 in Arroyo Grande, exit at Highway 227 (Grand Avenue) and take it north about a mile through town following the road signs to Lopez Lake. Veer right onto Huasana Road and take it about 1/2 mile to Lopez Drive and proceed straight, heading north, 8 miles to the Lopez Lake Recreation Area.
What you'll need: Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots for the hike. Wear a hat or visor and bring at least one quart of water per hiker. There is a day-use fee for the recreation area. Call the Lopez Lake Office: 805-489-1122 for information about fees, boating, camping, swimming and the on site water slide. Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds and picnic areas but not on the trails or lake shore.
Distance and level of difficulty: The easy to moderate, Blackberry Springs Trail is less than 3/4 miles long with a 250 foot gain/loss in elevation. For a loop hike, return on the Turkey Ridge Trail. This more strenuous loop hike is about two miles long with an additional 300 foot gain/loss in elevation.
Step by step:
1. Pick up a self-guided trail brochure for Blackberry Springs Trail at the registration building. Park in the day-use lot and walk along Lopez Road to Squirrel Campground. The signed trailhead is located in the back of the small canyon near a seasonal stream where the interpretive, singletrack trail heads uphill through the oak woodland.
2. About half-way up the hill the trail breaks out into the open chaparral for a bit before returning to the woodland. A wide variety of shade loving plants, including the wild blackberries for which the trail is named, cover the oak canopied hillside. Before long you will come to a secluded glen and you can choose to return the way you came or on the Turkey Ridge Trail.
3. To access the more strenuous Turkey Ridge Trail, continue 200 yards up the steep hollow beyond the last interpretive stop. At the top of the ridge, take the trail to the right and follow the firebreak south about a mile back down to the campground. There are many fine vistas of the lake and surrounding hills from this steep trail.
What you'll see: The Blackberry Springs Trail highlights the riparian and chaparral plants used by the Chumash Indians for generations before Lopez Canyon was settled by Europeans. This beautiful, shady trail is a delight any time of year. The area seems to be teeming with wildlife, more than likely you will see mule deer and bands of wild turkeys as you make your way along these scenic hiking trails.