Grotto Trail Hike at Circle X Ranch in Malibu

Although it takes a bit of patience getting from the Thousand Oaks area to Circle X Ranch nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu, Sandstone Peak (highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains), the Mishe Mokwa Trail (including the amazing Balanced Rock) and the Grotto Trail make it a worthwhile trek.

The Grotto Trail is a 3 1/2 mile round trip hike from the Ranger Station at Circle X Ranch at 12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu

You can park in front of the Circle X Ranch building, then follow the signs down to the Grotto Trail trailhead adjacent to the group campground. Parking is free. There is a restroom and drinking fountain along with maps available. A park ranger may also be on hand to answer any questions.

The mostly single track trail leads you on rolling terrain down to an area called The Grotto, where you will find a creek and, in winter months, a waterfall. The trail is a bit rocky but can be done by most ages. The hills are rolling, the terrain varies with rocks, a areas with steps, etc. There is also ample amounts of poison oak growing on the sides of the trail various section, so do be aware. That said, I've been here several times with the kids and we managed to avert any issues.

Bikes are not allowed on the Grotto Trail. Dogs are allowed on leash, until you reach the streambed at the bottom of the canyon.  Learn more at www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/circlexranch.htm.

Grotto Trailhead sign adjacent to circle X campground

Grotto Trailhead sign adjacent to circle X campground

So what makes the Grotto Trail special? Well, you hike down through a canyon leading to the west fork of the Arroyo Sequit. Plenty of shade and views all over. Once you reach the bottom of the trail, there is a creek. You'll hear running water pretty much year-round (though in late summer it can be a trickle). If you keep trekking down the unimproved creek bed, you'll come across large boulders and rock formations down to the "Grotto," a caved area with pooled with water. But to get down there is not for everyone by any stretch. You'll want to have both hands available as you climb down the boulders to the cave below. It is pretty cool though and you can explore without actually getting into the water. Photos below.

About .4 mile into the hike, you'll see see this sign for the canyon view trail, which takes you .6 mile up to a small parking area off of Yerba Buena Road (about halfway between Circle X Ranger Station and Sandstone Peak trailhead)

About .4 mile into the hike, you'll see see this sign for the canyon view trail, which takes you .6 mile up to a small parking area off of Yerba Buena Road (about halfway between Circle X Ranger Station and Sandstone Peak trailhead)

watch out for the poison oaks on the sides of the trail...there's plenty of it but you can avert it if you are aware.

watch out for the poison oaks on the sides of the trail...there's plenty of it but you can avert it if you are aware.

Another sign, the final sign you'll see, .7 miles from the trailhead

Another sign, the final sign you'll see, .7 miles from the trailhead

Some nice views of the surrounding canyons and towards sandstone peak

Some nice views of the surrounding canyons and towards sandstone peak

Eventually you'll reach this tree-lined area next to a creek that leads to the grotto area.

Eventually you'll reach this tree-lined area next to a creek that leads to the grotto area.

continue your way to the grotto through this unmarked, increasingly rocky section

continue your way to the grotto through this unmarked, increasingly rocky section

For many, this may be the endpoint for your hike once you see these boulders. But there's a path (I won't call it a trail, because it isn't) on the right hand side that, with a bit of patience, will get you to the cave below.

For many, this may be the endpoint for your hike once you see these boulders. But there's a path (I won't call it a trail, because it isn't) on the right hand side that, with a bit of patience, will get you to the cave below.

Not exactly easy but do-able. After the boulders there's a dirt path that I slipped on and flew nearly parallel to the ground, landing my lower back on a tree root. I survived but my utterances had to be bleeped out censors.

Not exactly easy but do-able. After the boulders there's a dirt path that I slipped on and flew nearly parallel to the ground, landing my lower back on a tree root. I survived but my utterances had to be bleeped out censors.

View of the grotto cave from the outside. You can go inside there either through the water if you are prepared or through a hole formed by boulders above the cave, which we opted not to attempt. maybe Next time. It is pretty cool in there!

View of the grotto cave from the outside. You can go inside there either through the water if you are prepared or through a hole formed by boulders above the cave, which we opted not to attempt. maybe Next time. It is pretty cool in there!

Definitely an interesting place to explore. this is above the cave area. But do watch for snakes and such down here too 

Definitely an interesting place to explore. this is above the cave area. But do watch for snakes and such down here too 

Mullin Automotive Museum

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Opened in Spring 2010 and located at 1421 Emerson Avenue in Oxnard, the Mullin Automotive Museum is a 47,000 square foot facility with a collection of over 50 French Art Deco cars from the 1930s and 1940s, including Bugattis, Delages, Delahayes, Hispano Suizas, Talbot-Lagos and Voisins. Peter W. Mullin is the founder/owner of the Museum and the collection.

The Museum is open to the public generally only 1-2 days per month. Click here for more RSVP information. Visit www.mullinautomotivemuseum.com or call 805.385.5400 to learn more and to purchase tickets. As of January 2015, admission is $15 for adults, $10 for 65+, $8 for ages 3 through 11 and free for 2 and under. Active Military FREE with ID. Private visits also available for $40 per person.

Upcoming 2015 dates (as of 8/27/15) are as follow (you must buy tickets in advance to reserve a spot):

Sat, Sep 12, 2015

Sat, Sep 26, 2015

Sat, Oct 10, 2015

Sat, Oct 24, 2015

Sat, Nov 7, 2015

Sat, Nov 21, 2015

Sat, Dec 12, 2015

This museum and its contents are STUNNING to say the least!! More photos at THIS LINK.


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Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Path - Pacific Palisades to Torrance

We love driving down to Will Rogers State Beach from time to time, bring the bikes and enjoy the Marvin Braude Coastal Bicycle Path along the Pacific Ocean. 

This fun 22 mile path takes you from Pacific Palisades as far as Torrance.  Depending on how far you want to go and if you have kids with you, there are so many spots to stop along the way. 

To get to Will Rogers State Beach from the Conejo Valley, take the 101 to Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road south to PCH, then about 9 miles down PCH to Will Rogers (17000 PCH), just east of Gladstones and Sunset Boulevard. Parking at Will Rogers as of August 2015 is $10 for the day.

The path doesn't actually start at Will Rogers Beach as it is a walking path only at this point. Ride the bike through the parking lot to the start of the bike path at Temescal Canyon Road. And, you're off!

From the start of the path, here are some approximate distances to destinations:

  • Santa Monica Pier - 3.2 miles
  • Venice Pier - 5.8 miles
  • Marina del Rey - 8.7 miles
  • Playa del Rey - 9.9 miles
  • Dockweiler Beach - 12.5 miles
  • Manhattan Beach Pier - 16.5 miles
  • Hermosa Beach Pier - 18.2 miles
  • Redondo Beach Pier - 20.4 miles
  • Torrance Beach - 22.3 miles (endpoint)

With younger kids, the Santa Monica Pier makes a perfect 6 1/2 mile round trip destination as you can stop, eat lunch and have some fun at Pacific Park, then ride back. Or kick it a few notches and ride to/through Venice Beach for all the action. 

Pacific Park up ahead

Pacific Park up ahead

There are plenty of restrooms water stops and of course non-stop BEACH to enjoy here, making this one of my favorite destination for bicycling with the family. And of course, you don't have to park at Will Rogers...you can park anywhere on PCH in and around the bike path to enjoy it.

Of course you do have to be careful of sand on the path, pedestrians/beach goers crossing and walking on the path, other cyclists, runners, roller bladers and crowds. 

CLICK HERE FOR DOZENS OF FAMILY-FRIENDLY BIKE PATHS BACK UP IN THE VENTURA COUNTY AREA!

The Shoppes at Westlake Village

The Shoppes at Westlake is a 240,000 sq ft retail shopping center that opened at 30770 Russell Ranch Road, Westlake Village in the summer of 2014. It is anchored by a large Target store on the east side of the center with three dozen other shops and eateries, including a unique appointed In-N-Out Burger on west side. It is a nicely appointed outdoor center with plenty of parking, outdoor eating spaces and a nice fountain area. 

Retail stores include Guitar Center, BCBC Nail Spa, Lighthouse Salon Suites, Tilly's, The Walking Company Rx, Kirk Jewelers and others. There's also a Total Woman Gym & Spa.

Eateries include Jeannine's Gourmet Food Hall, Olio e Limone Ristorante, Olio Pizzeria, Gallery Seafood, Hook Burger, Greens Up, Los Agaves Restaurant, Bowl of Heaven, Tifa Chocolate & Gelato and soon Which Wich and Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.

Learn more at shoppesatwestlakevillage.com.

Bike Path in Oxnard at Oxnard Beach Park to Channel Islands Harbor

There's a bike path that starts at the ocean side of Oxnard Beach Park at Mandalay Beach Road at Beach Way and takes you south all the way to Hollywood Beach and Channel Islands Harbor. Alternative you can just park at the Oxnard Beach Park and go from there.

Cross Harbor Boulevard and make your way into Channel Islands Harbor, where you can ride all the way to the south end of the harbor.

Entrance to bike path at Mandalay Beach Road and Beach Way

Entrance to bike path at Mandalay Beach Road and Beach Way

There's a loop you can do around Oxnard Beach Park

There's a loop you can do around Oxnard Beach Park

The bike path continues south and goes around the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel

The bike path continues south and goes around the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel

Soon after passing the hotel, the path swing east towards Harbor Boulevard

Soon after passing the hotel, the path swing east towards Harbor Boulevard

At Harbor Boulevard, you can cross over to Channel Islands Harbor or veer right (west) on West Channel Islands Boulevard towards Hollywood Beach. 

At Harbor Boulevard, you can cross over to Channel Islands Harbor or veer right (west) on West Channel Islands Boulevard towards Hollywood Beach. 

plenty of sand at Hollywood Beach. There's a restroom facility here. You can bike along Ocean Drive, which parallels the beach, to an entry point. do note that you are no longer on a bike path. you can continue south on Ocean Drive until its endpoint, where you turn left on South Harbor Boulevard past Channel View Park, where you will soon reach Channel Islands Harbor. 

plenty of sand at Hollywood Beach. There's a restroom facility here. You can bike along Ocean Drive, which parallels the beach, to an entry point. do note that you are no longer on a bike path. you can continue south on Ocean Drive until its endpoint, where you turn left on South Harbor Boulevard past Channel View Park, where you will soon reach Channel Islands Harbor. 

On S. Harbor Boulevard going north now, you will be able to take a right (east) turn on Albacore Way to get to the nice pedestrian/bike path along Channel Islands Harbor. It will take you past the channel islands Maritime Museum and marina, where there are restaurants and other things to do.

On S. Harbor Boulevard going north now, you will be able to take a right (east) turn on Albacore Way to get to the nice pedestrian/bike path along Channel Islands Harbor. It will take you past the channel islands Maritime Museum and marina, where there are restaurants and other things to do.

Pretty cool place to ride bikes at the harbor...and rarely crowded in my experience.

Pretty cool place to ride bikes at the harbor...and rarely crowded in my experience.

If you and the kids are up to it and want a longer ride, after reaching the north side of the Harbor, you can take Harbor Boulevard back over to W. Channel Islands Boulevard over the bridge to the middle of the Harbor. There's a popular Toppers Pizza over there. Or go the east side of the Harbor. 

If you and the kids are up to it and want a longer ride, after reaching the north side of the Harbor, you can take Harbor Boulevard back over to W. Channel Islands Boulevard over the bridge to the middle of the Harbor. There's a popular Toppers Pizza over there. Or go the east side of the Harbor. 

Other options of course include parking at the Channel Islands Harbor somewhere and cycling your way up to the Oxnard Beach Park. And you can also pedal your way over to S. Victoria Avenue and take the bike lane all the way down to Silverstrand Beach (or even park at Silverstrand and ride your way up from there...though do take not that this is not a bike path). Have fun!

Arroyo Simi Bike Path in Simi Valley

The Arroyo Simi Bike Path is a two lane bike path in Simi Valley that runs from Madera Road, just south of Easy Street on the west, ending at Cochran Avenue between Fig Street and Ralston Street on the east. Roughly 6 to 7 miles. It is also referred to as the Arroyo Simi Greenway.

The Arroyo Simi is a waterway that begins at Corriganville Park in east Simi Valley and extends west  all the way through Simi Valley until into merges into Arroyo Las Posas and Conejo Creek into Calleguas Creek. It is managed by the County of Ventura but the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District has access to the pathway for recreational use.

What a great bike path this is! While it may not be as visually appealing as bike paths along Ventura Beach and such, the Arroyo Simi Bike Path is almost entirely flat and allows passageway along much of Simi Valley from east to west. You can really do a lot of exploration from this artery. We like to park at the East Street entry point and bike to Rancho Simi Community Park (2.2 miles one way), Rancho Santa Susana Park (6 miles one way) and various other areas.

Because this path is so long and flat (and not crowded), it is a nice destination for learning to ride. However, do be aware that there are a number of street crossings where you are asked to walk your bike across. They are protected by lights and signs, however.

Arroyo simi bike path entry point at easy street and madera

Arroyo simi bike path entry point at easy street and madera

Arroyo Simi Bike path may not be the most picturesque path but is nicely flat and goes a long way!

Arroyo Simi Bike path may not be the most picturesque path but is nicely flat and goes a long way!

There are numerous entry points to the path, which largely parallels Los angeles avenue; this one is just east of ralston off of los angeles avenue

There are numerous entry points to the path, which largely parallels Los angeles avenue; this one is just east of ralston off of los angeles avenue

Beaches Spanning From Carpinteria Through Ventura County to Malibu

My kids and I love going to the beach but for many years we seemed to go to the same ones all the time. So I stopped by the Automobile Club and asked them if they had a brochure on all the local area beaches open to the public. They shrugged their shoulders and said no such guidebook existed. They handed me a fold out map, which was of no use to me as I wanted to know exactly how to get to these beaches, if they have restrooms, parking, etc.

Then I started searching around for information and found bits and pieces in various locations that were marginally useful. So I decided to consolidate this information into one place where I could find out about where to go to the beach around Ventura County on up the coast to Carpinteria and Santa Barbara and down to Malibu. So I hope you find the following links helpful in finding local area beaches in Ventura County and surrounding areas!

Carpinteria to Ventura

Oxnard to Malibu

Santa Barbara Area Beaches

This took a lot of time to compile over 50 local area beach areas, so I truly hope you benefit from these lists! So enjoy and provide feedback if you have comments and/or additional information.

If you have a great photo you'd like to share, perhaps post it to the Conejo Valley Guide Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ConejoValleyGuide!

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Western Plateau Trail Loop Hike From Newbury Park

If you're looking for a trail a bit off the beaten path, check out the Western Plateau Loop from Conejo Center Drive in Newbury Park.

The trailhead for this hike is adjacent to the City of Thousand Oaks Household Hazardous Waste Facility at 2010 Conejo Center Drive, Newbury Park. You can actually park in the dirt lot next to the trailhead and head on your way.

The trailhead on Conejo Center Drive. 

The trailhead on Conejo Center Drive. 

It is mostly downhill over the first half mile or so of this 5 mile round-trip hike until you get to the Hawk Canyon Trail turnoff. 

It is mostly downhill over the first half mile or so of this 5 mile round-trip hike until you get to the Hawk Canyon Trail turnoff. 

The trailhead on Conejo Center Drive. It is mostly downhill over the first half mile or so of this 5 mile round-trip hike until you get to the Hawk Canyon Trail turnoff. You can either go straight from here and do a clockwise loop via the Western Plateau Trail or you can turn right on Hawk Canyon, which is a direct route to the Conejo Canyons Bridge.

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Hawk Canyon Trail is a fairly narrow, mostly single-track trail.The Hawk Canyon Trail is a fun, narrow trail surrounding by trees and other vegetation, like you're in the middle of nowhere. There's an old car in a crevice as you approach the Conejo Canyons towards Santa Rosa Valley.

Odd to see this old car out in the middle of nowhere. steep embankment makes it somewhat challenging reaching it. 

Odd to see this old car out in the middle of nowhere. steep embankment makes it somewhat challenging reaching it. 

Bring a snack and sit at a picnic table in the middle of what feels to be nowhere. Then either head back the way you came or find your way to the Western Plateau Trail and loop back counter-clockwise back towards where you parked.

See the Conejo Open Space Foundation's map of this trail at www.cosf.org/website/html/western-plateau-hikes.html.

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Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

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The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is located at the Santa Barbara Waterfront Center and is a beautiful, high tech facility. The mission of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is to preserve and celebrate the maritime heritage of the California Coast and present it to the public in an interesting and exciting way.

Exhibits include boat models, surfing artifacts, historic Goleta cannons, interactive environmental displays, rescue and emergency equipment, fishing and diving technology, shipwreck displays, a children's gallery and more. 

My young boys particularly enjoyed 3 things at the museum - the interactive fishing game (combines a video game with an actual fishing pole as you attempt to catch a variety of virtual fish), the kids computer area and the U.S. Navy periscope exhibit. The periscope is interesting for all ages because it is an actual, working example from a submarine that they've set up so that you can check out 360 degree scenes around Santa Barbara.

The museum is bright, packed with numerous items and has a large video viewing room upstairs. Go check it out!

The museum is located at 113 Harbor Way Suite 190, Santa Barbara. Open every day except Wednesday from 10am to 5pm. Admission (as of August 2015) is $8 for adults (18 to 64), $5 for seniors 65+, $4 for kids 6 to 17 and students (with ID). Under age 6 is free of charge. Active military is free. The 3rd Thursday of each month is free admission!

Hours 10am to 5pm from Labor Day to Memorial Day and 10am to 6pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day. More information at www.sbmm.org or call 805.962.8404.

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Ventura Flea Market - Ventura County Fairgrounds

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The Ventura Flea Market is held near the ocean in Ventura and is a great place to shop. The event features antiques, used and new merchandise sold by over 500 vendors, more than 5,000 buyers visit the Market each time it is held.  The Ventura Flea Market is held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. A special Early Bird admission is available from 6am to 9am at $10.00 per person. Regular admission starts at 9 a.m. at $5.00 per person, all children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.  (Prices current as of August 2015.) No pets are allowed.

Upcoming Dates as of 8/28/15

  • September 27, 2015
  • November 22, 2015

Visit www.rgcshows.com/Ventura.aspx or call 323.560.SHOW (7469) for more information.

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Ojai Valley Trail

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The Ojai Valley Trail is a 9 to 10 mile trail that parallels Highway 33 from Foster Park on the outskirts of west Ventura, to Soule Park in Ojai. One side of the trail is paved for bicyclists, walkers, joggers and people exercising their pets. Post-and-rail wood fence separates the paved path from a dirt bridle path for horseback riders. Sections wind through wooded areas and past riverbeds. While most of the path is offset from Highway 33 (the main thoroughfare in Ojai), it does have a number of street crossings. If staying in Ojai and you run or bike, you will no doubt cross paths with this path!

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Ojai Valley Trail near Foster Park

Ojai Valley Trail near Foster Park

Red Brick Art Gallery and School in Ventura

Red Brick Art is a fine art gallery located at 4601 Telephone Rd #112, Ventura with a strong focus on art classes as well as free events and cultural outreach.

Exhibits change change bi-monthly and feature the work of talented artists who host workshops at the studio. Artists of all mediums are represented including a wide variety of glass art (fused, blown, cracked and mosaic), clay, stone, metal, mixed media, wood, photography and all forms of painting. 

Classes for adults and youth are offered each weekend for beginning and intermediate students. Adult classes include photography, Photoshop, watercolor painting, pastel, acryllic painting and mosaics.

Additionally, painting parties are offered both at the Red Brick Studio (these classes do not include wine) as well as at local tasting rooms "Paint and Sip" events like Four Brix Winery, Sunland Vintage Winery and Aldabella Custom Crush.

Learn more at redbrickart.com.