Oh Hi – Let’s Give Ojai’s Dirt a Try

I went to college in Santa Barbara (UCSB Gaucho pride, yo).  When I met and started dating my future wife, she lived in Camarillo.  In all that time, I never once visited the quaint “zen” town of Ojai (which btw comes from a Chumash word meaning “moon”) which is just a bit inland from Ventura.   Kinda bummed it took me so long, because it’s a pretty fun town…. Better late than never.


This fun little park was next to our hotel.  I heard it used to be a gas station and sat dormant for years before it became a park designed around native landscaping.  Hoot!

For our 14th wedding anniversary (OMG we’re getting old!!!), wifey and I decided to take the kids for a quick, midweek getaway – and man, it hit the spot.  Ojai is only an hour from where we are currently staying in Calabasas, but it could’ve been Sedona, AZ.  This short trip was all about relaxing at the pool, drinking beer and eating froyo, but I did manage to test the local trail dirt with an early morning sesh.


Lucy getting her bubble bath on at the in-room jacuzzi tub.  We all dug the Chantico Inn – quaint, good rates, dog friendly, great location

I did some research on MTB Project and found the “Ventura River Preserve Lollipop”.  As has become the norm, I also checked the area on the TrailForks app as backup and found some less known singletrack in the preserve.  The Ventura River Preserve is a pretty kick ass place to ride bikes, hike, or just hang by the river.  There have been plans to develop it into an exclusive golf course and condos, but luckily the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy fought to keep this hidden jewel the way it remains today.


Views from crossing the Ventura River at the beginning of the ride.

Just after crossing the river, I started the lollipop – but hit a little snag.  The Rice Canyon Trail had a bridge burnt out during last year’s fire, and there’s no ride around.  No biggie… I made up my own ride which wound up being super fun and rewarding nonetheless…


Climbing up Wills Canyon through an area affected by last year’s fire.


About a mile past this sign (at the top of the climb) I snuck off to the Friends Trail before reaching the missing bridge.  Friends Trail is so much better than doubletrack Rice Canyon anyway!! – BOOM

I warmed up on Orange Grove Trail, and climbed Wills Canyon Trail to Rice Canyon Trail from the other side.  At the top of the climb, I jumped on Friends Trail (not on any maps, but was on TrailForks).  This wound up being a super welcome singletrack surprise that was the highlight of the ride… and keeps you away from the poop that’s so prevalent on the main trails (although I never saw a horse, you could tell equestrian use is very popular).  Above it all, a glorious slender ribbon of brown love escorted me through ridge lines and saddles with open views to the valley floor below.  Simply fantastic!


Views from Friends Trail as you slither your way up and down the ridge lines back to the river.

But like most good things, this ride and trip came to an end way too fast.  Glad I got a taste for the local riding though.  I can’t wait to come back and explore more… I’ve heard good things about Sisar Canyon, Nordoff Peak / Gridley, Sulfur Mountain, etc.


A refreshing flight at Topa Topa Brewing

Another fun fact about Ojai – chain stores are prohibited by city law to promote small businesses and keep the town unique.  Pretty cool…

So yeah, no trip is complete without beer and tacos.  To fill that void, we hit Topa Topa Brewery which has Sama Sama Kitchen inside.  Angela and I shared a flight of the local brew (really dug the Casey’s Kolsch and Chief Peak IPA) and we all devoured tacos, tater tots, and “crack wings”.  BOOM!  Then a little froyo down the block for dessert.  LIFE IS GOOD!

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