Chief Peak from Horn Canyon

Basics: Chief Peak is one of the pointiest summits looming above the Ojai Valley. At 5560 ft, it’s also the fourth tallest mountain in the Topatopa range. The majority of visitors hike this peak from Rose Valley – 9 miles round trip. Alternatively, it’s possible to hike a strenuous 15 miles round trip from Horn Canyon in Ojai. Once atop the narrow summit, you will be rewarded with impressive 360 degree views. This hike is steep, sunny (hot on many days), and uncrowded.

Directions to Trailhead: From Highway 150, east of downtown Ojai, veer left on to Reeves Road. After a mile, make another left on McAndrew Road. Follow signs for Thacher School and make a right to turn into the school grounds. Head towards the right (follow signs for Gymkana Field). A dirt road leads through a small orchard – the trailhead is easy to spot at the intersection with another dirt road and a locked gate. We parked at the trailhead, but it looked like parking is also available in the visitor’s lot for the school. [Google Maps link to trailhead]

[map kml=”” download=”no” elevation=”yes” style=”width:100%; height:400px” /]Note: GPS based distance is approximate. Download gpx of this route. Download kml of this route.

Trail Description: We set out shortly before 8 am. It was a little confusing finding the trailhead. We were on school grounds, then in an avocado orchard with multiple “private property” signs along the road, then out of nowhere, the Horn Canyon trailhead appeared. We parked next to the sign (no other cars yet) and hit the trail.

For a short time, the trail was relatively flat. We crossed a dry creek bed several times. There was quite a bit of poison oak on this section of trail. Soon, the trail began climbing and we left the leafy green canyon behind. We were immersed in chaparral and had views into the canyon and back towards Ojai. The trail was narrow and steep so I spent most of my time looking at my feet.

After 2.5 miles and almost 1800′ of elevation gain, we made it to The Pines Camp. It was already hot on the trail, so the camp made for an excellent break spot. We rested, ate, and Rob dipped his hat in the cool spring water at the edge of the camp.

There are some pretty nice benches at The Pines. Apparently these were cut by some firefighters in 2011 when they came to the camp to remove a problem Coulter pine.

After briefly questioning whether we should turn around, we pushed onwards up the slope. From The Pines, the trail became noticeably more overgrown. After another 1.6 miles and 1500′, we made it to Sisar Road.

We turned left on the road and followed it for 0.8 miles to the junction with Nordhoff Ridge Road (though I think the sign called it Hines Road or something). We made a left on to Nordhoff Road and followed it for about two miles to the base of Chief Peak.

Chief Peak from a distance.

There is a trail on the northern side of the peak – most people take this path when hiking from Rose Valley. We did not want to circle halfway around the mountain, so we headed up the fire break on the S-SE side of the peak. Our route was pretty easy to follow- we hiked towards the ridge on our left, then climbed straight towards the rocky rib that goes all the way to the top.

Climbing the rocky ridge up to the top.

We scrambled up the rocks to the top and had the summit all to ourselves. We spent a good hour eating lunch and taking in the views.

At the summit, we saw what looked like a red fuzzy ant. It's actually a type of wasp, but is called a red velvet ant or "cow killer." I'm glad I didn't get too close because it apparently has an extremely painful sting.

More Info: There’s a nice water -proof, tear-proof map of the area made by Tom Harrison:

Any thoughts?