Happy Camp Canyon

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Looking north from the Middle Ridge Fire Road
Looking north from the Middle Range Fire Road
Middle Ridge Fire Road, near the end of the loop
Middle Ridge Fire Road, near the end of the loop

Happy Camp Canyon  

  • Location: 14105 Broadway Road, Moorpark.  From L.A. and the Valley, take the 118 Freeway to Princeton Ave.  Turn left and go 1.4 miles to Spring Road.  Turn right and go 1.3 miles to Walnut Canyon Road (Highway 23).  Bear right and go one mile.  The road bends sharply to the left; go straight and make an immediate right onto Broadway Road.  Drive 0.3 miles to the park entrance.  From Thousand Oaks, take the 23 Freeway to East Los Angeles Avenue.  Turn left and go 0.8 miles to Spring Road.  Turn right and go 1.7 miles to Walnut Canyon Road (highway 23).  Bear right and go one mile to Broadway Road.  Turn right and drive 0.3 miles to the parking lot at the end of the road.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy; City of Moorpark
  • Distance: 10.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map:  Simi Valley
  • Recommended gear: insect repellent; sun hathiking poles
  • More information:  here; trip report (slightly different route) here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - View from the trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)
0:00 – View from the trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

It may have a kitschy sounding name, but Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park is one of the premier hiking destinations in the Simi Valley/Thousand Oaks area.  This ten-mile-plus tour of the park takes hikers away from the sights and sounds of civilization nearby, providing an escape that’s only half an hour from the San Fernando Valley and an hour or so from downtown L.A.  The rolling landscape  is similar to that of the nearby Cheesboro/Palo Comado area, but this park tends to get fewer visitors.  Dogs are allowed on the first mile of the trail.

0:13 - Head right and downhill into the canyon (times are approximate)
0:13 – Head right and downhill into the canyon (times are approximate)

The long loop described here visits the canyon itself and climbs to a ridge, providing great views of the area. Much of the trail is exposed, so plan accordingly. The good news is that if you do the loop clockwise, as described here, most of the climbing happens under the shade trees of the canyon.

0:25 - Bear left on the fire road
0:25 – Bear left on the fire road

From the parking area, head north on a trail following the west ridge of the canyon, above the golf course. Stay right at the next two junctions and begin a descent into the canyon, reaching the Happy Camp Fire Road at 0.9 miles.

0:33 - Gate at the mouth of the canyon
0:33 – Gate at the mouth of the canyon

Bear left and head north into the canyon. At 1.2 miles, you reach a metal gate (the cut-off point for dogs.) Beyond the gate, the trail splits. Stay left (the right road is your return route.)

1:26 - Stay right at the junction
1:26 – Stay right at the junction

The walk through the canyon is pleasant, as you get a lot of shade from the oaks. At 4.1 miles, stay right as Wiley Canyon Road braches off to the left, and at 4.7 miles, you reach another intersection, just before a red water tank (a remnant of the area’s ranching history). Bear right and follow a spur to a picnic area, a nice place to sit and rest before making the biggest ascent of the hike.

1:53 - Picnic area
1:53 – Picnic area

After leaving the picnic area, the fire road becomes more like a single-track, going through an open field and then beginning a steep climb south, making switchbacks up the ridge. There are a few places where the trail is eroded, so be careful. Your efforts are rewarded with nice views to the north, which include the Los Padres National Forest as you get higher on the ridge.

2:04 - Climbing the ridge
2:04 – Climbing the ridge

The trail levels out and reaches the Middle Range Fire Road at 5.5 miles. Here, you get a nice (albeit through a fence) view of the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills to the south. Turn right and follow the road, heading generally downhill. Views in front of you include Boney Mountain, Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands and Mount Clef. Off to the right are the higher summits of the Los Padres National Forest.

2:27 - Top of the ridge (turn right on the fire road)
2:27 – Top of the ridge (turn right on the fire road)

After almost four miles on the fire road, it makes a twisting descent back into the canyon, completing the loop. Retrace your steps for the last mile-plus back to the parking area.

3:18 - Water tank on the Middle Range Fire Road
3:20 – Water tank on the Middle Range Fire Road

Text and photography copyright 2013 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.

4:05 - Back into the canyon, shortly before completing the loop
4:05 – Back into the canyon, shortly before completing the loop

2 comments

  1. Big – Long – Hike… This placed bored me. There are some off route single track trails that spur off to the road above. This place gets stupid hot in the summer and it has very little shade. If I ever come back here, it will be on a mountain bike…

    1. Yeah, it can be a little monotonous to do by yourself, but I enjoyed the shade inside the canyon and the views from the top of the ridge were great. It would be nice if the actual wilderness area was closer to the parking lot, that mile-plus each way isn’t inspiring.

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