Distance – 8 miles Difficulty – Easy to strenuous depending on distance
The lower Manzana Trail wanders for 8 miles to its confluence with the Sisquoc River. Here you can visit the historic Manzana School where 20-25 children received their education in the 1890s. Whether to fish, enjoy the many pools, or the picturesque creek, the lower Manzana offers the possibility of a very special day hike. One such adventure might be obtained by hiking 4 miles from the trailhead to the base of Castle Rocks where the creek makes a large detour around them, creating in the process a series of meadows that are very colorful in the spring.
Regardless of how far you go, the hiking is relatively mellow and for the kids there are plenty of places to stop and play along the creek. This is a great introductory hike for the kids to introduce them to the wilderness and for their first backback trip of their lives.
A mile down the lower Manzana Trail is Potrero Camp and Potrero Trail, rising 1500′ to the serrated edge of the Deck. Hidden a little more than halfway up is a small, hidden potrero with scattered blue oak that give this place a special charm. Across the base of the Deck are a series of rock outcroppings in which lie numerous caves and in some of them the precious rock art of the Chumash. If you make it to the crest, the views are fantastic. Bring plenty of water for this hike.
There are several wilderness camps along Manzana Creek. Potrero Camp is a mile down river and Coldwater Camp 2.5 miles. Both are easily accessible for youngsters. A bit more ambitious overnight trip takes you eight miles downstream to the Schoolhouse. Along the way there are plenty of reminders of the pioneers who homesteaded the area in the 1880s.