Difficulty PG13 Distance 5.1 to 10 miles General information: Dogs allowed Rating: 7-8 Santa Barbara/Ventura Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Howard Creek Trail (Ojai)


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Howard Camp, Los Padres National Forest, CA
Looking north from Howard Camp
Howard Camp, Los Padres National Forest, CA
Looking south from Howard Camp

Howard Creek Trail (Ojai)

  • Location: North of Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest. From the town of Ojai, head north on highway 33 for 14 miles (25 miles from Highway 101 in Ventura) to Rose Valley Road.  Turn right and go 0.4 miles to a medium sized, unsigned dirt lot on the right. Park in the lot, making sure not to block the gate to the service road. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Ojai Ranger District
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,150 feet
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain)
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: Lion Canyon
  • Recommended guidebook: Hiking and Backpacking Santa Barbara and Ventura
  • More information: Trail information here; trip descriptions here and here; Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 7
Howard Creek Trail head, Ojai, CA
0:00 – Start the hike on the service road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This trail, which climbs the north slope of Nordhoff Ridge, isn’t as well known as other Rose Valley hikes such as Piedra Blanca or Rose Valley Falls, but with panoramic mountain views and ocean vistas from the top, it makes a worthwhile destination. The trail is moderately graded with enough ascent to provide a good workout. The only drawback is the noise from the nearby water treatment facility but as hikers, we can appreciate the importance of good hydration. Ticks can be a problem as well so keep an eye out.

Howard Creek Trail, Los Padres National Forest, CA
0:03 – Start of the single track (times are approximate)

From the parking area, head north on the service road for 0.1 mile. Turn left and follow the Howard Creek Trail as it makes its way around the north side of a ridge, leveling out at half a mile and briefly descending to a saddle. Here you get good views in both directions before resuming the ascent, taking in better and better views of the Sespe and Rose Valley regions, including the Piedra Blanca formations.

Howard Creek Trail, Los Padres National Forest, CA
0:15 – View from the saddle

At 1.3 miles, the facility comes into view. The trail weaves its way in and out of a couple of tributaries of Howard Creek, traverses a slope pleasantly shaded by black oaks and reaches a Y-junction (2.7 miles.) Bear right and follow the trail a short distance to a ridge top, getting your first views south. The Ventura coastal plain spreads out before you. Follow the trail through a meadow as it veers left and makes a short but steep and loose descent to Nordhoff Ridge Road (2.9 miles.)

Howard Creek Trail, Ojai, CA
0:39 – The water treatment plant

Turn left and follow Nordhoff Ridge uphill a short distance. Another sharp left brings you to Howard Camp, where you can sit at a picnic table and enjoy excellent views in all directions. Southeast are the western Santa Monica Mountains; southwest is Nordhoff Peak and its lookout tower. Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands are visible. To the north is the Topa Topa Ridge and east is Chief Peak. If you are comfortable with night hiking and have headlamps, this can be an outstanding place to watch the sunset. With the trail’s steady grade, clear condition and ease of navigation, descending in the dark is a viable option, especially for hikers who are in groups, have the gear and exercise appropriate caution. The Sespe/Rose Valley area is particularly serene at night.

Ventura County, Howard Creek Trail, Ojai, CA
1:24 – Looking south from the saddle just before the road

Text and photography copyright 2016 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.

Sunset view from Howard Camp, Los Padres National Forest, CA
1:30 – Sunset from Howard Camp

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