- Location: Corner of Avenida De Los Arboles and Big Sky Drive in Thousand Oaks. From the 101 freeway, take the Lynn Road exit and go north for 2.5 miles. Take a left on Avenida De Los Araboles and drive a mile to the park entrance. Make a U-turn at the corner with Big Sky and enter the park. From the 23 freeway, take the Olsen Road exit. Head west for 3.5 miles (Olson becomes Lynn Road on the way), and take a right on Avenida De Los Araboles.
- Agency: Conejo Recreation and Parks District (Phone: 805-495-6471)
- Distance: 6.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 1.000 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain)
- Suggested time: 3 hours
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo map: Newbury Park
- Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
- More information: here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
Most hikers know Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks for its famous Paradise Falls, but if you’ve already seen it and want to do a more challenging route, try the Santa Rosa Loop. The bad news is that this trail never really escapes the sights or sounds of civilization nearby. The good news is that, in addition to providing a challenging workout, it also provides wide-ranging views of the Conejo Valley, the Santa Monica Mountains and the ocean, and gets close to some of the area’s characteristic geology.
From the parking lot, enter Wildwood on the Mesa fire road. As you head west, you’ll see some large volcanic outcrops to the right. In 0.3 miles, you’ll pass the Santa Rosa Trail, your return route (the hike can be done in either direction, but clockwise is more scenic; it also allows you to warm up your legs before the serious climbing begins.)
After about a mile, stay right as the trail to Lizard Rock (a nice side-trip) branches off. You begin descending into Box Canyon. A spur leads to an overlook where you get a nice view. The trail drops steeply into the canyon, bordered by towering volcanic cliffs on both sides. Stay right at a junction where another trail leads toward Lizard Rock.
The Canyon Trail ends at Rocky High Road, a private street (but accessible to hikers). You follow the road for about half a mile, passing some large farm properties and picking up an unsigned single-track (the Santa Rosa Trail). You continue heading northeast, through a somewhat monotonous stretch where you won’t much feel like you’re in nature due to the proximity of nearby Santa Rosa Road. However, a few interesting rock formations on the right side of the trail provide some variety.
At 3.5 miles from the trail head (a mile past the end of Rocky High Road), turn right at an unsigned junction. This is the Shooting Star Trail, which wastes no time in climbing up the north side of the Clef Mountain Ridge. You climb 500 feet over the next mile, meeting up with the Santa Rosa Trail. With nice views of the Los Padres National Forest to the north, this makes a good place to stop and catch your breath.
From the intersection, head left (southwest) on the Santa Rosa Trail, which follows the ridge of Mt. Clef. Stay straight as a spur branches off to the left, leading to Wildwood Avenue. At 5.5 miles from the start, you reach the high point of the loop (1,076 feet), where another short spur brings you to an overlook. Here, you get nice views of the Santa Monica Mountains and the ocean, as well as a panorama of the Conejo Valley below you.
Soon afterward, you reach a junction where the Santa Rosa Trail head left and starts descending. You make a few sharp switchbacks, weaving in between some large stone outcrops, and finally you arrive back at the Mesa Trail. Turn left and retrace your steps 0.3 miles back to the parking lot.
Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.