7 Amazing Hikes in Ventura County
A list of hikes to do this spring, varying from only a couple miles to those that may warrant an overnight trip
Never knew Ventura County could be so beautiful? Neither did I. With sweeping ocean views, crisp coastal air and oak tree lined paths that make you feel like you've been suddenly transported to Northern California, Ventura County has hikes that will take your breath away. Here is a list of seven great hikes to do in Ventura County.
1. Two Trees
Distance: 1.6 miles | Elevation Gain: 626 feet
The city of Ventura's most iconic hike, "Two Trees"--as it's commonly referred to--is a short, easy hike that's great for kids too and offers stunning views of the city and the ocean at the top. The Two Trees hike is a pretty heavily trafficked out and back trail that is located in the city of Ventura. In the spring and summer it features beautiful wild flowers and although it's rated as "moderate" on All Trails, it's actually pretty easy. The trail is accessible year-round, but can get pretty muddy in the rain. The trail is dog-friendly, there are a few steep parts that would be difficult for a small dog to navigate. Although technically on private property, this is a hike that locals have been doing for the years, and the property owners turn a blind eye.
Sadly, the namesake trees were damaged in the Thomas Fire in December of 2017, so only one of the trees actually remains. Hikers will be able to still revel at the beauty of the old oak that remains, and will see the charred remnants of the other, as part of the trunk is still standing.
To get there, head up Foothill Road and turn onto Hilltop Drive. Hilltop turns into Breaker Drive. Once you get to where Breaker Drive and Whitecap Drive intersect, park on the street and head northwest toward the hills and through a vacant lot to get to the start of the trail.
2. Matilija Creek Canyon
Distance: 8.5 miles | Elevation Gain: 1,056 feet
Just off the 33 in Ojai, the Matilija Creek trail is an 8.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail that leads you along a dry creek and features a waterfall at the end. The hike is moderate in difficulty, as it is both long and on rocky terrain, sometimes requiring hopping rocks over a dry or sometimes wet creek bed. The trail can be difficult to follow, so be sure to download your AllTrails map ahead of time so you know you're going the right way. Don't rely on being able to use your phone--there's no service once you turn off onto Matilija Canyon Road.
Dogs are welcome but must be kept on leash. There's little to no shade, so in the summertime be sure to bring lots of water and don't forget to wear sunscreen.
To get there, head north on the 33 in Ojai. Turn left on Matilija Canyon Road and drive all the way to the end of the road. You'll follow the path, going across one wet creek, and then turn right when the trail makes a "Y", going through the Blue Heron Ranch. In the spring, you'll see a grove of cherry blossom trees, which will tell you you've gone the right way.
3. Cozy Dell Trail
Distance: 3.6 miles | Elevation Gain: 1,187 feet
A great 1.5 to 2 hour hike that's just 15 minutes from Ventura, Cozy Dell offers sweeping views of Ojai. Located just off the 33 in Ojai, you'll see parking on the left-hand side of the road and a sign that reads "Cozy Dell Trail" to the right. The trail is well marked and leads you up the hill, through dense trees and in the hills toward a dry creek bed.
4. Willett Hot Springs
Distance: 19 miles | Elevation Gain: 500 feet
This nearly 20 mile out and back hike follows Sespe Creek to a relaxing hot springs, and although it can be done in one day, it's preferable to backpack in and stay overnight. Enjoy natural hot springs waiting as your reward after a strenuous day of hiking.
To get to the trailhead, drive north on the 33 toward Ojai. Continue through Ojai and stay on the 33. Wind through Ojala and Wheeler Springs until you reach Rose Valley Road. Turn right off of the 33 onto Rose Valley. Continue on Rose Valley for about 5.6 miles. At the end of the road, you'll reach a parking lot at the base of the Piedra Blanca Trailhead. It's almost an hour drive from Ventura. Note that you'll need an adventure pass for overnight parking.
5. The Punchbowls
Distance: 8 miles | Elevation Gain: 800 feet
This hike ventures up rugged Santa Paula Canyon to a waterfall and a Punchbowl of pools and cascades in Santa Paula Creek by Big Cone Camp. The hike is located near Santa Paula and is open year round. Like Matilija, dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash. It is not recommended to try this hike after heavy rains, as the trail can get washed out.
To access this hike, take highway 150 toward the Thomas Aquinas College’s entrance. The trail starts right after the college, and takes you along Santa Paula Creek. As you make it further along the trail, you'll find a number of swimming holes, as well as a spectacular 25-feet waterfall at the end.
To access this trail, you will need to enter private property, so please be respectful. All Trails describes: following signs, go past an oil rig and through an avocado farm. You will walk past a large red gate, then on to another oil pumping rig. Go left around the rig to the trailhead, where you will be greeted by the sounds of the Santa Paula Creek.
For a really great, detailed description of this hike, including turn-by-turn directions, head to Hikespeak and read their article, HERE.
6. Mugu Peak
Distance: 6.5 miles | Elevation Gain: 1,250 feet
This out and back hike from La Jolla Canyon to the 1,266-foot summit features superb ocean and canyon views. It's very steep at times--and a real quad and buttock burner--but once you're at the top you'll surely feel a real sense of accomplishment.
The photo shown below was taken on a foggy morning, but in the afternoons you're almost guaranteed to get unobstructed views of the incredible Pacific Ocean.
Just inland from Point Mugu, Mugu Peak offers sweeping views of the beautiful Pacific Ocean from an elevation of 1,266 feet. The hike begins at the bottom of nearby La Jolla Canyon and heads straight up the hill to several different mountain peaks. There is also a longer option to reach the peak: the 11.75-mile La Jolla Canyon Loop hike.
To get there, drive south on the PCH (Highway 1) and park on the left hand side of the road where there is a small dirt parking lot. You can access Google coordinates HERE. You can't miss the trailhead: head straight up the hill from there. The trailhead is just 15 minutes south of Ventura. Plan appropriately and enjoy lunch at nearby Neptune's Net after your hike.
6. Boney Mountain Overlook Trail
Distance: 9.1 miles | Elevation Gain: 2,670 feet
I have to admit, before doing this hike I had no idea that such a beautiful and large expanse of terrain existed less than 20 minutes from our home. The Boney Mountain Overlook Trail, one of many trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area, is a 9.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Newbury Park that features a waterfall and is rated as "difficult" on All Trails. I would say it's probably only difficult because of the length, as the incline isn't too strenuous and the terrain is relatively easy. There are several overlooks, where you'll get wonderful views of this beautiful state park, where you can sometimes see all the way to the ocean.
7. Paradise Falls
Distance: 2.5 miles | Elevation Gain: 260 feet
Another great hike in the east county area is Paradise Falls. This loop visits a 40-foot waterfall in Wildwood Park, an open space in Thousand Oaks. The beginning of the trail follows Moonridge trail and looks down upon Indian Creek. The trail then travels down in elevation toward a bed of volcanic rock, with a stunning 70 foot waterfall plunging into a large pool. The return of the loop is an easy trail that meanders along the banks of Indian creek, with a number of really great picnic spots along the way.
To get to the trailhead, take the 101 south toward Thousand Oaks from Ventura. Take the Lynn Road exit and turn left to go north over the freeway. Follow Lynn Road until you get to the intersection with W Avenida de Los Arboles. Turn left. Keep going until you get to the end, where you'll see signs for the trailhead. Or get directions to this point HERE.
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