Horn Canyon Trail to the Pines Campground (Ojai)

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Sunset on the Horn Canyon Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA
Sunset over Ojai Valley from the Horn Canyon Trail
Pines Campground, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA
Pines Campground

Horn Canyon Trail to the Pines Campground (Ojai)

    • Location: Thacher School, Los Padres National Forest foothills northeast of Ojai. From Highway 150, take Reeves Road (3.4 miles east of downtown Ojai; 14.4 miles northwest of Santa Paula) 1.1 miles to McAndrew Road. Turn left and follow McAndrew 1.1 miles to the Thacher School. Enter the grounds (the gate should be open during daylight hours) and follow the road, taking three consecutive right turns. After the third, the paved road becomes dirt. Follow it a short distance to a lot where you’ll see a wooden sign for the Horn Canyon Trail.
    • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Ojai Ranger District
    • Distance: 5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,800 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 3 hours
    • Best season:  October – May
    • USGS topo map: Ojai
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
    • More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here, here (inaccurately lists the distance as 3 miles round trip) and here; area trail map here
    • Rating: 8
Horn Canyon Trail Head, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA
0:00 – Horn Canyon Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

For Thanksgiving, we present a hike that will surely help you burn off a scoop or two of mashed potatoes and gravy, also providing some excellent views in the bargain. Horn Canyon is one of the more rugged and scenic areas of the Ojai front country and the variety of sights on this hike make it worth the effort.

Stream crossing on the Horn Canyon Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA
0:13 – Stream crossing (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the signed trail into the canyon, passing by a few turnoffs and entering an attractive grove of oaks. You cross the stream bed several times, make a few switchbacks and enter another wooded canyon, about 1.1 miles from the start. With the majority of climbing still ahead of you, this peaceful spot is a good place to rest up for the energy about to be exerted.

Woodland on the Horn Canyon Trail, Ojai, CA
0:29 – Woodland retreat before the steep climbing begins

After crossing the stream bed, the trail becomes noticeably steeper, with wooden beams forming “steps.” Soon you exit the shade of the canyon and make a few switchbacks. The good news is that as you climb, the views–both of the canyon below and Lake Casitas (and the ocean and Santa Cruz Island on clear days) are excellent.

At about 1.9 miles and 1,400 feet of elevation gain from the start of the hike, you make a sharp turn and briefly follow the north side of the ridge. It’s here that you’ll get a glimpse of your destination: a bunch of Coulter pines on a bench some 3,100 feet above sea level. After a couple of more switchbacks, the trail finally levels out, following a ridge between Manzanitas and chaparral, finally reaching the trail camp at 2.5 miles.

Climbing through hills on the Horn Canyon Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA
0:42 – Climbing higher above Horn Canyon

The Pines Campground is very attractive, providing not only an elevated, shaded retreat but glimpses of the valley below and the ocean in the distance. Several benches carved from tree branches allow hikers to sit and rest and enjoy the serenity before negotiating the steep descent. For the adventurous, the Horn Canyon Trail continues beyond the camp, another steep 2.5 miles to Nordhoff Ridge Road.

Distant view of the Pines Campground, Horn Canyon Trail, Ojai, CA
0:58 – Pines Campground in the distance

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

View from the Pines Campground, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA
1:30 – Looking southeast from the Pines Campground


  1. Hi David – did this a couple weeks ago. It’s a nice hike, tho’ as you suggest, it doesn’t get you into the higher range, just the front range/foothills. And, the campground has been hit by the borer beetle (I think I have my insect correct) and 2 dozen of those gorgeous pines have been cut down, with probably more to follow. Camping is not allowed because of the fire hazard. We also ran into 13 mounted horses on the trail! The trail is quite dug in and worn – and one can see why. But still a nice hike.

    1. Hi Dianne, glad you enjoyed the hike. I had the impression the trail went all the way up to Nordhoff Ridge but maybe that was based on outdated info, I’ll look into it. Sad to hear too that the campground has been damaged by bugs (my guess is Bark Beetles; I believe the borer preys on oaks, not pines, but an entomologist I am not.)

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