Hike Ventura County Details
Wherever you live or travel in Ventura County, you’re close to a hiking trail. And Ventura is a county that embraces hiking as a top form of outdoor recreation and officially encourages kids and adult to get healthier outdoors. (See HealthyVenturaCounty.org)
The principal geographical features of Ventura have an east-west orientation; this east-west positioning means generous sunshine, with early morning light and long, lingering sunsets. Southern California locales with a southern exposure—most notably Ojai—often seem bathed in a magical light. Much of the vast backcountry of Los Padres National Forest shares this rare orientation, this special light.
Geographically, Ventura County is separated into east and west portions by the Conejo Grade. East County communities include Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Oak Park, Moorpark and Simi Valley. West County includes Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula and Fillmore. The mass residential construction in East County and along the Highway 101 corridor of decades past is increasingly rare these days because most cities were developed as master-planned communities and nearly built-out.
Nearly all the population centers are in the southern portion of the county. North of county-crossing Highway 126, Ventura County is mostly mountainous and mostly uninhabited. Los Padres National Forest holds some of the most rugged and remote wilderness remaining in Southern California.
In the beginning, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties were one. Ventura County was created from the southeastern portion of Santa Barbara County in 1872. While the counties split long ago, they continue to “share” locales for outdoor recreation, including the Santa Ynez Mountains and Los Padres National Forest.
A key influence on Ventura County’s history is its isolation. Inland, Ventura is walled-off by the high peaks and deep canyons of Los Padres National Forest. Access by roads from the north and south has long been challenging.
Ventura County became well known for its orange and lemon groves. The rich soil along the Ventura and Santa Clara rivers proved to be ideal for citrus growing. Compared to the L.A. metropolis, the Ventura-Oxnard and Simi Valley areas developed more slowly and less severely and have long enjoyed a more leisurely way of life.
The predominant climate of Ventura County is Mediterranean, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild winters; the predominant flora in the county is Mediterranean, too, including the coastal sage community and chaparral.
Lower hills and valleys are often oak-dotted grasslands. The county’s oaks include the ever¬green coastal live oak and deciduous valley oaks.
The Simi Hills are a critical wildlife corridor from the Santa Monica Mountains to the Santa Susana Mountains, and beyond to the Los Padres National Forest backcountry and San Gabriel Mountains. Oak woodland, grassland, coastal sage and chaparral are the common ecological communities in the Simi Hills.
Arising in the mountains surrounding Ojai, the Ventura River flows into the Pacific Ocean just down-coast from the city of Ventura. Observe native riparian flora, including sycamore and willow groves at Ventura River Preserve.
For more information about hikes on national forest land near Ojai and along Highway 33, contact Los Padres National Forest www.fs.usda.gov/lpnf/ at its headquarters), 6755 Hollister Ave., Suite 150, Goleta, CA 93117 (805) 968-6640 or the Ojai Ranger District, 1190 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 93023 (805) 646-4348.
Get the latest information about hiking Grant Park and Arroyo Verde Park from the city of Ventura’s parks department (www.cityofventura.net/pw/parks).
Learn more about the many trails in the Conejo Valley from the Conejo Recreation and Park District, (www.crpd.org), 403 West Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA (805) 495-6471, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (www.conejo-openspace.org) and nonprofit Conejo Open Space Foundation (cosp.org).