Channel Islands as seen from Pine Mountain. Photo by Erika Klohe

Fall Equinox Nature Hike on Pine Mountain

September 30, 2018 @ 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Maricopa Plaza parking lot for carpool
1207 Maricopa Highway
Ojai, CA 93023
$25 adults, $20 and seniors 62-and-up, $15 students 13-18. Kids 5-12 can attend free, one per adult.
Coniferous forest on the north side of Pine Mountain

As the 42nd year of Herb Walks winds down, I will lead my 6th annual Fall Equinox Nature Hike in the peaceful Mixed Conifer Forest on Pine Mountain (elevation: 7000 feet) at the time of year when the pine nuts usually are dropping. This year it’s a week later due to my involvement in co-producing the Ojai Bowlful of Blues on Saturday, September 22, but still only a week after the equinox so the name sticks.

According to Craig Carey, author of Hiking and Backpacking Santa Barbara and Ventura, the Reyes Peak Trail along the northern slope of the peak is “quite simply one of the most beautiful stretches in the southern Los Padres.”  I promise that first time visitors to this area will be surprised and delighted to find a thick forest of pines, fir and cedar so close to the Ventura coast.

The outing will start at 9:00 a.m. with a carpool caravan of about 35 miles up Highway 33 from the Maricopa Plaza, (1207 Maricopa Highway, Ojai, CA 93023) to the Reyes Peak trailhead. The final 5.5 miles are on a narrow, winding paved road and the very last half-mile is dirt. Trucks or SUV’s are preferred for the last stretch but most passenger cars with high clearance can also make the drive.

Rondia at the trailhead

We will start walking into the Sespe Wilderness from the trailhead (where there is a restroom) at about 10:30 a.m. and return to the trailhead at 3:00 p.m. or so, arriving back at the Maricopa Plaza by 4:00 p.m. This hike will follow a well-used trail through Mixed Conifer Forest habitat. We’ll stop often to identify and discuss native trees, plants, birds, and wildlife. Midway, we will take 30-45 minutes to relax and enjoy our sack lunches and snacks in the peace and quiet of the forest.

Lunch in the pine forest. Photo by Chris Kudelka.

Pine Mountain is considered by scientists to be a “sky island,” isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments. We can expect to see several conifers like White Fir and Sugar Pine more commonly found in the Southern Sierra range than in Ventura County.

This intermediate level hike is suitable for moderately experienced hikers or physically fit beginners. There will be some minor elevation gain and loss skirting the north side of Reyes Peak, although sometimes traversing steep hillsides on a narrow trail. The total hiking distance will be a little over 3 miles.

Weather and marine layer permitting, we will have panoramic views of the Cuyama Valley to the north and the Channel Islands to the south.  The hike is another in a series of backcountry walks and hikes under an Operating Permit from the Ojai Ranger District Office of the U.S. Forest Service designed for guides who provide recreational and interpretive services to the public.

There is no prepayment required, just your promise to notify us in a timely fashion if your plans change. You will receive a confirmation email several days before with all necessary info.

The cost is $25 for adults, $20 for seniors 62 and older, and $15 for students 13-18. Kids 5-12 can go free, one per adult, by prior arrangement. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Lunch is not provided. No dogs or smoking, please.

Carpool: If possible, please be prepared to either take a few passengers or share in the gas cost as a passenger. There is no obligation to participate in the carpool but parking is limited at the trailhead and we like to cut down on our group’s gas consumption and exhaust emissions when we can.


Channel Islands as seen from Pine Mountain. Photo by Erika Klohe
View north of the Cuyama Valley from Pine Mountain

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