Ojai Valley Trail
By Misty Hall
Want a good bike ride with a beachy reward at the end? Just hop on the Ojai Valley Trail. Known more commonly by its nickname, “The Bike Trail” is a paved trail that runs 9 miles from Soule Park Golf Course all the way to west Ventura. It connects to the Ventura River Trail, which runs a few more miles and ends just a few blocks from the beach.
Described by several outdoor bloggers as one of the better “urban” trails in Southern California, it features two parallel trails, one paved and the other unpaved, bordered by a wooden fence in most places. You can walk it or ride your bike or horse, but motorized vehicles are prohibited for safety. Leashed dogs are also welcome.
Paving over what was once a railway into the valley, the Ojai Valley Trail weaves through the Ojai Valley and travels through oak forests, over creeks, and around bends that open up to incredible vistas. From its beginnings in the downtown Ojai area just south of Ojai Avenue, it crosses the Highway 33/150 junction near Vons and follows Highway 33 down into Mira Monte. It continues just west of Oak View with excellent views of the river bottom, eventually dropping into Casitas Springs as it meets back up with Highway 33 and makes its way toward Foster Park. In good rain years, the nearby Ventura River can be seen and heard.
At this point it becomes the Ventura River Trail, and soon passes the surprisingly interesting Ventura Water Purification Plant and the old Petrochem plant (which is definitely worth a Google search). As you continue south with the Ventura River on your right, you’ll again cross Highway 33 and enter the western edge of Ventura known as The Avenue. From there, you’ll parallel Highway 33 almost all the way to the beach, stopping just a few blocks north of the Patagonia headquarters on Olive Street.
While the Trail used to end there, you can now easily link up with other trails that border the beach — one heading south toward Surfers’ Point and the Ventura Pier, and the other heading north up to Rincon Point. If you’re an experienced rider, you can do a good 30-plus mile loop on these trail networks, barely ever having to share the road with vehicles.
The more casual rider/walker/equestrian, however, will find the best thing about the Ojai Valley Trail is its convenience. From most points in the valley, you’re never too far from it; and although at times you’ll feel miles from anywhere as you travel along the quiet, tree-shaded stretches, civilization is always close by. It’s easy to make a detour for a drink, whether at Westridge Midtown for water, Topa Mountain Winery for a rosé, or JJ’s Sports Zone in Oak View for a beer (and maybe a Dodger game in the bar!).
Have kids? Hop on the Trail and head to Libbey Park playground — the Ojai Valley Trail cuts right through the middle of it, between the upper and lower tennis courts — then cross the street and grab a treat at Ojai Ice Cream. Want some time on the greens? Both the Soule Park Golf Course (public) and the Ojai Valley Inn (private) are easily accessed from the Trail; and since both rent clubs, you can travel light. If you’re around on a Sunday morning, peddle along the Trail to Montgomery Street and head north a couple of blocks to Matilija Street for the Ojai Certified Farmers Market.
The Ojai Valley Trail is also a great way to get to Ojai’s many festivals from all over town. Imagine packing a picnic and peddling up to Art in the Park (May 25-26), the Ojai Music Festival (June 6-9), Lavender Festival (June 29), the Independence Day Parade and fireworks (July 4), or a free Wednesday night Concert in the Park with The Ojai Band (mid-July to mid-August) … and that’s just within the next few months in downtown Ojai! Even better — there’s no need to fight traffic or find parking!
Increasingly, Ojai events offer additional bike parking and even free bike valets, so you won’t have to worry about a safe place to stow your ride. Just be sure to stop at all stop signs placed at the street crossings and, like your mom always said, look both ways. (Having covered many “vehicle vs. bicycle” accidents in my years as a journalist, I can tell you — the bicycle has never won.)
Need to rent a ride? Check out The MOB Shop or Boku Superfoods; both offer electric bike rentals. The MOB Shop also offers traditional bike rentals. Reservations at both are strongly recommended, especially in peak seasons.
For more information, check out ventura.org/parks-department/ojai-valley-trail-venturaojai, or just get out there and start exploring this amazing (and free!) trail.