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Ojai Ranger District

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General Information

Description - The Ojai Ranger District is one of five administrative districts of the Los Padres National Forest. The District consists of 311,294 acres with elevations ranging from a low of 240 feet at Rincon Creek to the high point of 7,570 feet on Reyes Peak.

Wildlife on the Ojai District includes black bear, deer, coyote, mountain lion, bobcat, rattlesnake, red-tailed hawk, golden eagle, Nelson bighorn sheep, and California condor.

Springtime wildflowers include lupine, monkey flower, Matilija poppy, larkspur, Indian paint brush, purple nightshade, wooly blue curls, and prickly phlox.

Attractions - A good way to acquaint oneself with the Ojai Ranger District is by stopping at the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center located on Highway 33 north of Ojai across from Wheeler Gorge Campground. The Center is operated by the Los Padres Forest Association, an official partner to the Forest Service for public education and involvement. Volunteers staff the center all year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. The Center provides visitor information and sells a variety of maps, trail guides and other publications of interest to Forest visitors.

Ojai Ranger District offers over 211 miles of trails with opportunities for day hiking, horseback riding, mountain bicycling, fishing, rock climbing, backpacking, camping, hunting, or even a quick sightseeing trip. The scenery and terrain of the Ojai Ranger District vary dramatically, from the densely covered chaparral foothills spread below Nordhoff Ridge and the Topa bluffs, to the beautiful and unique sandstone formations of Piedra Blanca, to the high elevation views from the Jeffrey pine forest on Pine Mountain.

There are numerous camping opportunities on the District. Areas include: Wheeler Gorge where shady sites are surrounded by rocky mountains; Reyes Peak, a campground on top of the mountain; Middle Lion, a site located along a shaded creek where campers can hike, horseback ride, fish, and swim; Lake Casitas, a favorite among RVers; and Lake Piru Rec Area where speed boating and water skiing entice those who enjoy a fast-paced form of recreation. Two group campgrounds also provide immediate access to Forest activities.

Rose Valley Lakes is a picturesque picnic destination. Two lakes are located off Highway 33 and stocked seasonally with trout. They are not suitable for other water play and facilities are rather primitive (pit toilets and no potable water). Fires prohibited.

Off-highway vehicle use includes Ortega Trail, a 8.7-mile long and very rough route that is subject to seasonal and environmental closures. Check with the district office prior to embarking on this trail. Nordhoff and Potrero Seco Roads require a free permit. Both roads are closed during inclement weather and after storms until the road dries out (approximately 3 days). Nordhoff Ridge Road is a four-wheel drive route with a maximum 20 vehicles per day. Lake access is nearby. Street legal motorcycles are allowed if they are hauled or trailered up to the ridge top. Potrero Seco Road is open for approximately 12 miles past Potrero Seco Campground. Four-wheel drive vehicles are required 2.5 miles beyond Potrero Seco Campground. Street legal motorcycles are allowed.

The larger part of the 219,700-acre Sespe Wilderness is in the Ojai Ranger District. There are some very nice trails through this Wilderness and the Wild and Scenic Sespe River runs through it. Access on the Highway 33 side is via the Potrero John Trail; through the Rose Valley area to Lion Campground; and the Pine Mountain Road to Reyes Peak. On the southern side, Dough Flat is the trailhead for the Alder Creek Trail. A portion of the Wilderness has been set aside as the Sespe Condor Sanctuary. With the exception of the Alder Creek Trail corridor, the Sanctuary is closed to public entry. Hikers must stay on the trail and no firearms are allowed in the Sanctuary.

A variety of trails exist on the Ojai Ranger District including trail camps that are located alongside scenic waters. The 31.5 miles of the Sespe River have been designated as Wild and Scenic River. Fishing opportunities exist in Lake Piru and Lake Casitas.

One pipe corral near Rose Valley Campground accommodates up to 15 horses.

The Cherry Creek recreational target shooting area is accessed from Highway 33 via Cherry Creek Road. There are a couple of shooting facilities in the area; Ojai Valley Gun Club and The Shooting Gallery, near Lake Piru. See Contact Information for phone numbers.

Mountain biking is prohibited in wilderness areas. Much of the District is wilderness and most of the trails, which are not in the wilderness, are both steep and narrow. You may wish to call the District Office for suggestions.

Completed in 1933 as the Ventura-Maricopa Highway, State Highway 33 was designated a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1995. Named for Jacinto Reyes, the byway honors a Cuyama Valley pioneer and the first Hispanic forest ranger. Raised as a rancher, Reyes served as ranger of the Cuyama Ranger District and guided state highway engineers in the area as they surveyed the highway route.

The Ventura and Ojai areas offer many attractions. The Ojai Chamber of Commerce can be of assistance when planning your trip to the region. See Contact Information for phone number.

Recreation - The Ojai Ranger District offers over 211 miles of trails with opportunities for day hiking, horseback riding, mountain bicycling, fishing, rock climbing, backpacking, camping, hunting, or even a quick sightseeing trip.

Forest visitors on the San Bernardino, Cleveland, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests of Southern California are required to purchase an Adventure Pass and display it on their vehicle when parked in the Forest. The cost is $5 per day or $30 per year and can be purchased in any Forest Service office or over 350 businesses throughout Southern California.

Climate - Climate on the Los Padres varies greatly with elevation and the amount of coastal influence. Areas with more coastal influence experience moderate temperatures year round with fog likely from June through mid-August. Plan your coastal visit in the late summer or fall to ensure the best conditions for viewing the scenery. Also, occasional clear days between winter and spring storms are incomparable. Areas further inland experience greater temperature extremes, with relatively cooler winters and hot summers. Inland areas often receive frost on winter nights. As throughout most of California most of the precipitation comes in the winter months, with April through October normally very dry.

Location - Ojai Ranger District is located in the northern half of Ventura County.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Derek simone (huntington beach, CA)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: My pooch Baldwin & I just returned from Middle Lions camp, our 1st time. We hiked from the trailhead to the Westfork,,trail disappeared. Next day we did the TH to Nordhoff ridge. Only encountered a pack of horsebackers, they were cool & helpfull. This is a good hike,,dont know how far, but the ipod went through 3 johnny cash discs by the time we reached the summit. Word to the wise ,, be somewhat in shape & watch out for ticks,,,pesky bugers aside,,we think this hike rocks for a local out of the OC

Filed By: Fred Rogaine
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Sure had a hard time over this past weekend -- gnats, bees, biting blackflies, angry hikers, dry streams -- yep, folks, the Ojai backcountry at it's filthiest, ugliest best. I'll stick to the Sierra, thanks, you can keep this scrubland to yourselves. I hate it here.

Filed By: Lucy (Ojai, CA)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: This report is on the Piedra Blanca Trail to Pine Mountain Lodge. The hike begins from Lion Camp in Rose Valley. Cross the Spespe and begin as though taking the Sespe River Trail but instead, take the fork heading left, to Piedra Blanca. This is a tough hike, approximately 10-11 miles round trip, with several thousand feet of elevation gain. Hikers should be fit before attempting it. The terrain is fascinating, from the bare, otherworldly look of Piedra Blanca to the almost Sierra-like pine forest of Pine Mountain Lodge camp. (The lodge for which it was named, burned down in the 1950s.) The trail is not in great shape in some spots and the fires of a year ago charred much of the landscape. Still, the beauty of Pine Mountain Lodge makes the effort worthwhile; I will certainly hike it again! Be sure to bring plenty of water; I would reccomend three quarts!

Filed By: Ann (Ojai, CA)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Landmarks were excellent. Guidebook very helpful. Matijila Canyon to Middle Fork camp, lunch, swim, beautiful surroundings, shade, and sun.

More Information

Contact Information:
Ojai Ranger District, 1190 East Ojai Avenue , Ojai, CA, 93023, Phone: 805-646-4348, Fax: 805-646-0484, TTY: 805-646-3866

Additional Information:
Los Padres National Forest - Los Padres National Forest lies in the beautiful coastal mountains of central California. It stretches almost 220 miles, from the Carmel Valley area to the western edge of Los Angeles County.


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