- Location: North end of Gridley Road in Ojai. Gridley Road is on Highway 150, 15.7 miles west of the intersection with Highway 126 in Santa Paula and 2 miles east of the intersection with Highway 33 in downtown Ojai. Head north (turn left if you’re coming from the west; right if from the east) and follow the road 1.5 miles to its end. Park where available and pick up the signed Gridley Trail on the west side of the road.
- Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Ojai Ranger District
- Distance: 13.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 3,300 feet
- Difficulty Rating: R (distance, elevation gain)
- Suggested time: 7 hours
- Best season: November – May
- USGS topo map: Ojai
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; sun screen
- Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes Around Santa Barbara
- More information: Area trail map here; trip descriptions here and here (a loop with the Pratt Trail); article about the hike here; Map My Run report here
- Rating: 9
Mountain views, ocean views, deep canyons, avocado orchards and a historic lookout tower: the hike to Nordhoff Peak via the Gridley Trail has something for everyone. Hiking just a short distance on the trail can be enjoyable, but for hikers up for an endurance test, the views from the summit are a great payoff.
Start on the signed Gridley Trail, which climbs steadily through a wooded canyon to meet Fuel Break Road at half a mile. Bear right onto the fire road, enjoying views of the valley as you ascend at a more moderate grade. You enter an avocado orchard and soon reach a junction. Take the signed trail heading straight, continuing through the orchard and then hugging the west wall of Gridley Canyon.
At 2 3/4 miles from the start, you reach the small Gridley Springs Camp (elevation 2,480), a good place to rest. Soon after, the trail makes a sharp left turn and beginning a series of switchbacks. Sharp-eyed hikers may be able to get a glimpse of the tower on the summit. The ascent becomes steeper before leveling out, half a mile before Gridley Saddle.
At the saddle (5 3/4 miles from the start; elevation 3,800), your efforts are rewarded with views of the ocean and Gridley Canyon to the south and Rose Valley to the north. Turn left and follow the Nordhoff Ridge Fire Road, which makes an S-curve as it steadily ascends for almost a mile, crossing from the north to south sides of the ridge. Follow a signed spur on the right a short distance to the summit.
From the 4,485-foot peak, you can enjoy a 360-degree view. To the south, you can see Lake Casitas, Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands. Southeast are the western Santa Monica Mountains. To the east is the distinctive triangular summit of Chief Peak. To the north and west you can see deep into the Los Padres National Forest. The lookout tower is a steel frame from a structure that burned in the 1970s (itself a replacement of a lookout that burned in 1948). It now functions as an observation deck. Hikers who prefer not to climb the steep steps can relax at a picnic table underneath the platform.
Text and photography copyright 2015 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.