Diamond in the Rough: Hardluck

And We Use the Term Loosely


Some of the crew recently hit the Buck Creek route, dropping down from the Alamo Mountain Road via Sewart Mountain. We passed through the abandoned Hardluck campground on our second day, in classic baking Piru Creek-in-the-summer temperatures.

Back in the day, Hardluck doubled as the lower trailhead for the Buck Creek route, and for decades this 26-site car camp along the Ventura/Los Angeles county line in fact served as the starting point for really anybody wanting to venture down Piru and/or Buck Creeks. Now one must hike a further three miles along Hardluck Road from the gate near Los Alamos fire station — cutting through a corner of the Hungry Valley OHV area and dropping into the Piru watershed to even get here. Not worth it.

Established in 1961, Hardluck was closed in the last few years to protect (yes, you guessed it) the arroyo toad. I must begrudgingly state “no loss” … no trees, no shade, no real appeal except for the geology further down-stream near the Piru/Buck confluence. A sparse and barren spot. Okay for a trailhead, not so much a camp.

Them’s the breaks, Hardluck. You’re a diamond in the rough … but just barely.


17 responses to “Diamond in the Rough: Hardluck”

  1. bardley Avatar

    sounds ( and looks ) to me like this place was named appropriately.

  2. Hardluck was not picturesque but at least it could be any combination of noisy, hot, dusty, crowded and loud (perhaps I have not balanced this equation, after all). On days when it was empty, Hardluck had a lonely post apocalyptic charm that I miss (and when rigged with flood lights and other dirt road gear my 1972 and 1974 Pintos looked like a Mad Max machines. Yes, I owned two Pintos). Go figure what will trigger nostalgia.

  3. Discovered this place yesterday while hunting in the area and agree the 3.5 mile trek up Hardluck road isn’t worth it, but the place certainly does have an abandoned post apocalyptic charm to it (reminded me greatly of the game Fallout3).. Of the three bathrooms, one has a working water spigot on the outside, operable with pliers..

    1. thx for the heads-up, Rabbit … though I’m not sure I’d drink that water these days. Let us know how that goes! 😉

  4. Micah Weir Avatar
    Micah Weir

    Cool! Like abandoned stuff. This campground is still on the forests website!

  5. Looks like the name describes this place perfectly! Haha

  6. Kim Irvin Avatar
    Kim Irvin

    We used to camp there all the time. It was nice because you could get a trail in there. Dredged for gold in the creek. I remember one week-end they flew in a helicopter because a hiker had not returned home. He was found on the lower trail head dead from a fall hitting his head on a rock. Also it seemed to be a fav for the fire dept guys. I miss those days!

    1. Nancy beauchamp Avatar
      Nancy beauchamp

      We always went to Hardluck! I have pictures of that day when they picked up that poor guy.

  7. Kim Irvin Avatar
    Kim Irvin


  8. hardluck was a huge favorite of mine. sporting land locked steel head trout 5 to 13 inches, it was a true treasure.
    i dont care too much about the toad as i saw many of them. they never appeared to be endangered.
    thanks to barbara “boxhead” boxer, it is no longer an option….
    further upstream is a side creek called snowy. if you can clime up into it you will be rewarded with a second sub species of trout. it has a darker color than the washed out blond like trout on piru….

    thanks Barb for the inconvenience of saving a toad that no one will see anyways cause we cant go there…

  9. Kurt Hathaway Avatar
    Kurt Hathaway

    Great spot to see how all USFS managed lands will become no need for people anymore UNLESS you volunteer. Habitatworks will be there Oct 23 24 with special privileges we the general public do not receive, but we have to pay for all the closures and fed employees who close everything to us but not to their friends, oh well I’ll just keep extreme hiking down Piru Creek to Piru Lake they have not destroyed that yet just the fishing that used to exist. Welcome to a brave new world.

    1. Kurt, is it tamarisk eradication the Habitatworks crew will be performing?

      1. Kurt Hathaway Avatar
        Kurt Hathaway

        Yes and do not get my point wrong I volunteer for Ca State Parks at times and have participated in many USFS and BLM cleanup and route signing work parties. It is the fact that the general public is not allowed to drive into their own campground UNLESS they volunteer. Indian groups are allowed to do the same, and in the end when all the access roads left become administrative roads only USFS employees, college study groups, environmental organizations and the special volunteer groups will be visiting with vehicles the multitude of “abandoned campgrounds”. By the way this has been going on for years and I doubt there are any tamarisk left, but there are plenty other invasive species left to keep this program working for the few while the many pay the bill and have very few opportunities to car camp. You have a great site.

  10. frigallily Avatar

    Used to go to hardluck in the 70’s. It fekt like true wilderness then. What a shame that the liberal tree huggers can close these places of to us that pay for their upkeep. Gawd! I wish things would become normal again. I’d love to take my grandkids to many of the places I used to go, but alas- CLOSED. Thanks to the Democrat voters. The bigger the governmnet the smaller the citizen.

    1. I met colonel Puff there for the first time on a trip with Fatman, Dave, Mark, and Tim.

  11. Daniel Avatar

    The original Hard Luck Campground was 2 or so miles further down Hard Luck Road where Piru and Buck Creeks meet. People would camp where the formal camping area is now but there were no camping spots or bathrooms then. Just a stream crossing. That last stretch would wash out periodically making it impossible to navigate at times. Hens the official moving of Hard Luck. Both creeks were flowing very well back in the early 80’s and a huge pool would form where the two met, 3-4ft deep. It was a beautiful place. We learned to catch Trout with our bare hands by slowly reaching around submerged rocks. If you move slow enough the fish will allow you to get your hand around them before they try to flee. Buck Creek was ice cold and clean coming out of the mountains, Piru not as cold and loaded with parasites. The only bad thing that ever happened was somebody stolid our ice chests in the middle of the night. Leaving us with nothing to eat or drink. Thanks, I hope you needed it.

  12. There is a “shortcut” (?) you can take that gets you off the paved Hard Luck Rd. The old mining road that was there before the paved road was built. has a bit of charm. Takes a bit of map skills, bushwhacking and orienteering to follow it. On the map, the only part shown is where it intersects with the paved road just SW of the “13” near the top of the map but it does allow you to bypass the pavement all the way from the campground to a quarter-mile before the locked gate.

    Following Piru Creek upstream from Hard Luck is also interesting. Prepare for wet feet.

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