In these strange times, amidst a pandemic, many people have had to find more creative ways to stay active and get out of the house. If you are looking for a relaxing outing where you can enjoy the quiet of nature or a way to escape the indoors while getting in a good workout, hiking is the perfect activity for you. Fortunately, Ventura County has many great options to choose from. Whether it be a hillside trail with an ocean view or a tranquil path leading to a waterfall, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Ojai’s Hidden Gem: Rose Valley Falls
Hidden in the outskirts of Ojai, California, within the Los Padres National Forest, Rose Valley Falls is a lovely local getaway for those who enjoy outdoor adventures.
To get there, the drive is about 45 minutes from Ventura, taking you through Ojai on Highway 33. Once you get there you will find Los Padres National Forest has a lot to offer, including a short, family-friendly hiking trail, a small lake where you can picnic and the Rose Valley Waterfall. Near the falls there is also a quaint campground. To find the start of the trail to the waterfall, you can park just outside the campgrounds and walk through to the southwest section where you will find a sign pointing to the trail.
The trail itself is only about a one-mile round trip. While the trail is extremely short and relatively easy to navigate, there are a few areas that require hopping over rocks and walking across logs. The vegetation and wildlife around it are abundant. There are many species of birds, squirrels and if you’re lucky, you may come across a snake or frog. As far as vegetation goes, depending on the season, there are plenty of wildflowers, colorful bushes and some trees to provide shade for parts of the trail. There are many other native Californian plants to see as well.
If you do go on this hike make sure to bring your own source of hydration, as there is none at the campground. On your way to the trail, you should pass the Lower Rose Valley Lake. This is a great place for an after-hike picnic. Like the trail, the lake has a lot of wildlife. The lake is home to a particularly unique animal called a Coot. These white billed water birds like to swim around the lake and through the grass reeds.
Unfortunately, due to fire hazards, all of Los Padres National forest is currently closed. However, the closure is only temporary so once it opens back up, it is the perfect laid-back beginner’s hike.
Difficulty Level: 2 /10
There’s a New Trail in Town: Harmon Canyon
Located right here in Ventura, Harmon Canyon is a newer trail that opened up just this year. This trail takes you through one of Ventura’s largest nature preserves.
With a wide, fairly smooth, unpaved trail that goes on for about four miles, Harmon Canyon is great for biking, walking and jogging. The terrain of the trail is even and uncluttered. It can be more relaxing for those who choose to hike a shorter distance or more challenging for those who prefer to run or bike.
The beginning of the trail can be found just off of Foothill Road and Kimball Road, next to Ventura Missionary Church. There is not yet a designated parking area for the trail, so many hikers park on the side of either Kimball Road or Foothill Road. At the entrance, maps of the trail and bells for bikers are provided.
Harmon Canyon is one of Ventura’s largest nature preserves and was established by the non-profit organization, Ventura Land Trust, earlier this year. Paul Meehan, who was the board president at the time the trail was being developed, says “[This land] was an area that we were interested in protecting because it is such a unique area. There are all kinds of different microbiomes in there: oak grove, chaparral, hillsides. There is a wetland area too that is a little harder to find. We all felt it was really important to protect.” There is also a variety of animal life in Harmon canyon including snakes, birds, bugs, rodents and even a few wildcats.
The main trail of Harmon Canyon goes for about 2.5 miles out and then forks. The path on the right is about one mile, while the one on the left takes you 0.2 miles before forking again. The path to the left on this second fork takes you out another mile. The path to the right takes you about 1.5 miles. Dogs are allowed in Harmon Canyon but only for about the first mile of the trail.
Harmon Canyon is great for all types of activity-seekers and has been a great addition to the many trails of Ventura County.
Difficulty Level: 4/10
Rising from the ashes: Ventura Botanical Gardens
The Ventura Botanical Gardens can be found in the hills just off of Poli Road near City Hall in downtown Ventura. This hike is known for its variety of vegetation and beautiful view of the city and coast below.
In December 2017, the Thomas Fire took a toll on the gardens, burning almost all the plants. However, because all the species of plants in the Botanical Gardens have adapted to survive in dryer conditions that are prone to fires, the garden has been able to revive itself and many of the plants are already growing back.
The Botanical Gardens have a unique collection of plant life. This is because the gardens were made to mimic other areas of the world that have a similar climate to Ventura in order to conserve water and better fit the drought conditions.
There are currently four different gardens within Ventura Botanical Gardens. These are the Chilean gardens, the California gardens, the Mediterranean garden and finally, the South African garden. “We are a really young garden. We will eventually have five gardens. The last one is our Australian garden. That one we will start later this year. It is all based on climate. Each of those countries have our same climate pattern and that’s how we establish the gardens,” says Ginny Claborn, a staff member of the Ventura Botanical Gardens.
Each garden has a new and diverse set of plants. In the Chilean garden, you will find many succulents including the Chilean Cacti and the Chilean Wine Palm. In the California gardens, there are wildflowers and different types of sage bush. Young olive trees grow in the Mediterranean garden. In the South African garden, there are aloe trees but unfortunately due to the Thomas Fire, the older and bigger trees burned down.
In addition to these gardens, you will find art among the plants at the Ventura Botanical Gardens. “We have a very small art exhibit outside. It’s in partnership with our local museum so you’re going to see some local artists” Claborn explains.
The gardens are open from Sunday to Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and have an admission fee of $7 for adults. However, anyone under the age of 18 is free. With lots of hills and narrower paths, the trail is best for those who just want to walk around and take in the scenery. The beautiful plants and view make it a great place to get away and relax.
Difficulty Level: 3/10
Ventura County is full of many beautiful places to explore. Whether it be exotic vegetation, a hidden waterfall or a smooth trail for running and biking, each of these trails has something new to offer.