Basics: Last week I happened to be driving through the Santa Paula/Ojai area for work. The peaks around here are a nice departure from the flatlands of Davis and Sacramento. After looking at some local trail guides, I quickly set my sights on the Topatopa Bluffs. The hike to the top is 14+ mile (roundtrip) and follows both dirt roads and single track trails. The trail climbs over 4000 ft. Like much of the Southern Los Padres National Forest, it can get kind of ridiculously hot in the summer, making this an ideal winter hike.
Directions to Trailhead: From Highway 150 in the Upper Ojai Valley, turn North up Sisar Road. You can follow Sisar Road all the way up to the Forest Service gate if you have 4WD and high clearance. If you do not, park at the water tanks and walk the extra 0.4 miles to the trailhead. [Google Maps link to parking area]
Trail Description: Rob reluctantly agreed to go on a hike, but said 12 miles was about the maximum he wanted to do. Unfortunately this trail ends up being over 14 miles roundtrip, but I somehow talked him into it (those last couple of miles are all downhill on a well graded and somewhat shady dirt road).
We woke up at 5:30am (not fun on a Saturday) and the sun was just coming up when we parked at the trailhead. It was really cold, but I knew that wouldn’t last. The forecast for Ojai said 80 degrees (seriously, in January! I love California).
The first 3.5 miles of the trail climbs up a dirt trail at a relatively easy grade. When I say easy, I should clarify: most of this hike is not terribly steep, but the climb is relentless. The total elevation gained is around 4500-ft over nearly 8 miles. This is not easy; it’s the type of hike that just completely wears you down. But worth it.
After 3.5 miles, we came to a locked gate. There the road makes a sharp turn to the left, and a single track trail heads up the mountain towards White Ledge trail camp (1 mile past the junction). White Ledge is completely shaded, overgrown, and decidedly creepy. I guess I prefer to camp in open spaces with epic views.
The trail continues steeply on from the campground for another 1.7 miles.
It was getting warm, and we were getting slower, but we finally made it to Nordhoff Ridge Road – a dirt Forest Service road. From there, our destination looked a lot closer which gave me the extra kick of motivation that I needed. We had about 1.3 miles to go.
From the road, a single track trail splits off to the right, ascending steeply up the mountain. It is marked with a sign for “Last Chance Trail.” If the road starts descending around the back side of the bluffs, you’ve gone too far.
One last, steep climb and we were on top!
Beautiful day in Ventura County. The descent was of course brutal, but the view up top was worth it!