Hiking in the North Ranch Open Space in Thousand Oaks

The North Open Space is represented by several massive sections of nearly 2,600 acres located in the east side of Thousand Oaks. There is a section east of Erbes Road to Westlake Boulevard down to Hillcrest Drive on the west side (this area is referred to as the Hillcrest Open Space Preserve) as well as a section further east bounded by Westlake Boulevard on the west, Lindero Canyon Road on the east and Thousand Oaks Boulevard on south.

These hills are beautiful and quite prominent from throughout the Conejo Valley. Hiking, running and cycling these hills can be a challenge as they are quite steep in most sections.

A main trailhead into the North Ranch Open Space is on Bowfield Street, just east of the North Rancho Playfields. The trail is called the Saddle Pass Trail, winding up and down the hills south towards Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

There are various other neighborhood trail entry points throughout the vast area. One of these is located at Canyon Oaks Park, 6200 Hedgewall Drive, Westlake Village. There's a walkway and a small bridge that leads to a quite intense looking path up the hill. And indeed, it is a very steep path. Definitely not for everyone. This is a path into the Bowfield/Saddle Pass Trail, which is maintained by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency.

Small COSCA sign at the bottom of the steep hill from Canyon Oaks Park leading into the North Ranch Open Space.

Small COSCA sign at the bottom of the steep hill from Canyon Oaks Park leading into the North Ranch Open Space.

A view of Canyon Oaks Park from about a third of the way up the hill.

A view of Canyon Oaks Park from about a third of the way up the hill.

There are roughly 3 or 4 miles of trails up here, mostly the Saddle Pass north/south trail but other connector trails to nearby neighborhoods, such as the townhome complex on Via Colinas above Thousand Oaks Blvd and the new Westlake Village Community Park and YMCA.

These hills get quite dry and hot during the summer months but in the spring green up nicely. You may even get the opportunity to enjoy some wildflowers.

Orange beauties can often be seen in the March time frame off the Saddle Pass Trail south section.

Orange beauties can often be seen in the March time frame off the Saddle Pass Trail south section.

Here's another section of trail that connects homes off of Via Colinas into the North Ranch Open Space. Most of these connector trails are quite steep, though generally well maintained!

Here's another section of trail that connects homes off of Via Colinas into the North Ranch Open Space. Most of these connector trails are quite steep, though generally well maintained!

California poppies on March 16, 2019.

California poppies on March 16, 2019.

Triunfo Creek Park in Westlake Village

Note: Park was closed as a result of the Woolsey Fire of November 2018, but was reopened January 11, 2019. There was some extensive damage in section of the park.

Owned and maintained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, 600-acre Triunfo Creek Park in Westlake Village/Agoura provides deep oak woodland, native grasslands and blankets of wildflowers in the springtime. The main feature of the park, the Pentachaeta Trail, is named after the Pentachaeta lyonii, a federally-listed endangered flower found in the park. The yellow, daisy-like flower is found only in Southern California, and blooms between April and June.

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An informational kiosk at the trailhead interprets the Pentachaeta lyonii, as well as other unusual wildflowers found on the site such as the Chocolate Lily, and the White Globe Lily. The site also provides access to hiking trails on the Westlake Vista parcel, also owned and managed by the Conservancy.

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Pentachaeta Trail to the east. Westlake Vista Trail towards the Las Virgenes Reservoir on the west.

Pentachaeta Trail to the east. Westlake Vista Trail towards the Las Virgenes Reservoir on the west.

Pretty flowers off the Pentachaetta Trail in March 2016.

Pretty flowers off the Pentachaetta Trail in March 2016.

Views from Westlake Vista Trail towards, well, but of course, Westlake Village

Views from Westlake Vista Trail towards, well, but of course, Westlake Village

Las Virgenes Reservoir in close proximity to Westlake Vista Trail (but surrounded by a fence, so don't get your hopes up!)

Las Virgenes Reservoir in close proximity to Westlake Vista Trail (but surrounded by a fence, so don't get your hopes up!)

The Westlake Vista Trail takes you to a fence that encloses the Las Virgenes Reservoir, where you may be treated to sounds of birds and other wildlife. Find the trail that parallels the fence up the mountain and you will be treated to gorgeous views of the area down to Westlake Lake and beyond and the Santa Monica Mountains to the south.

Views towards Westlake Lake from the Westlake Vista Trail.

Views towards Westlake Lake from the Westlake Vista Trail.

Directions: The main trailhead with kiosk is on Triunfo Canyon Road east of the southern terminus of Lindero Canyon Road. There are a small number of off-pavement parking spots there. The other end of the trail is at the west end of Triunfo Canyon Road about 1.5 miles west of Kanan Road.

Directions: From the 101 Freeway in Westlake Village exit Lindero Canyon Road. Take Lindero south to Triunfo Canyon Road. Turn left. The trailhead is located opposite Oak Forest Mobile Home.

Visit mrca.ca.gov/parks/park-listing/triunfo-creek-park for more information.

Map courtesy of Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy at   THIS LINK  . (Note that Truinfo is a typo on map; actual spelling is Triunfo. But at least is was consistently misspelled not once, not twice, but seven times lol.)

Map courtesy of Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy at THIS LINK. (Note that Truinfo is a typo on map; actual spelling is Triunfo. But at least is was consistently misspelled not once, not twice, but seven times lol.)

Demolished car sitting near Westlake Vista Trail.

Demolished car sitting near Westlake Vista Trail.

Sunset Hills Trail in Thousand Oaks

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The Sunset Hills Trail is easily accessible off of Erbes Road in Thousand Oaks, just 7/10ths of a mile north of Sunset Hills Boulevard, just past Fernleaf Court.

There's a triangular dirt parking lot on the east.

There's a triangular dirt parking lot on the east.

This is a pretty easy mile or so trail that takes you past the Bard Lake Reservoir. The reservoir is of course is fenced in but you'll be treated to its beauty as you make your way up. Lake Bard is owned by the Calleguas Water District for storage of up to 10,000 acre-feet (3.3 billion gallons) of water used to meet peak summer demand and emergency requirements.

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In fact, most all the way up this fairly gentle, hilly slope, you'll get some great panoramic views of the entire area, including the Conejo Valley, Simi Hills and looking west towards Camarillo/Oxnard. Continue east and you will reach the Woodridge Open Space in Thousand Oaks.

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The Sunset Hills Trail is maintained by the Conejo Open Space Foundation. More information at www.cosf.org/website/html/sunset-hills-trail.html.

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An additional, and perhaps more popular hike provides even better view of the Bard Reservoir. Take the additional loop in the shape of Maine (kind of) either clockwise or from the first juncture or counterclockwise after cresting the hill. If you go to the top of the hill take the trail on the left and continue onwards. You will see some steps and a bench to take in the views along the way.

map image courtesy of conejo open space foundation

map image courtesy of conejo open space foundation

After cresting the first hill from Erbes Road, find the loop trail on the left.

After cresting the first hill from Erbes Road, find the loop trail on the left.

A short walk to this bench that overlooks Bard Reservoir.

A short walk to this bench that overlooks Bard Reservoir.

Continue on the trail until it loops around and goes south., parallel to Highway 23

Continue on the trail until it loops around and goes south., parallel to Highway 23

Soon you will be back at the main trail, passing through this tree-tunneled section.

Soon you will be back at the main trail, passing through this tree-tunneled section.

Hillcrest Open Space Preserve in Thousand Oaks

The Hillcrest Open Space Preserve is an area bound on the south by Hillcrest Drive, on the east by Westlake Boulevard and on the west by La Granada Drive. I don't know the exact boundary on the north side. Years ago I ran the trails from time to time back there but it had been some time, so I took the kids over to the White Sage Trail trailhead off of Hillcrest Drive, just west of Blue Mesa Street, about half a mile west of Westlake Boulevard.

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There is zippo parking to be found on that stretch of Hillcrest Drive and the nearest crosswalks from the other side of Hillcrest Drive, where you can find parking on residential streets, is at Westlake Boulevard (1/2 mile east) and Duesenberg Drive (1/3 mile west). I've parked on Blue Mesa Street and run across Hillcrest but would not recommend that as the cars speed along on that busy boulevard.

In any case, this is a fun little excursion, particularly if you enjoy a steep hill to climb and beautiful panoramic views of the area.

The hill looks a bit intimidating but the grade actually, in my humble estimation, ain't that bad.

The hill looks a bit intimidating but the grade actually, in my humble estimation, ain't that bad.

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You can also continue on to the top of the hill and do a loop of roughly 3 miles or so.

You can also continue on to the top of the hill and do a loop of roughly 3 miles or so.

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Another access point to the Hillcrest Open Space is the southeast endpoint of La Granada Drive (at Crown View Ct), east of Erbes Road in Thousand Oaks.  This 4 1/2 mile, hilly loop is a great way to view the local scenery, from the Conejo Grade to the Civic Arts Plaza and most everything else. More on the Hillcrest Open Space Loop trail on the COSF website.

Trailhead access point at the end of La Granada Drive.

Trailhead access point at the end of La Granada Drive.

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In greener times.

In greener times.

Chumash Indian Museum / Oakbrook Regional Park

Reported 11/11/18: Oakbrook Park sustained fire damage and the replica Chumash village was completely lost in the Woolsey Fire of 2018. However, a majority of the oak trees survived. Many trails are not accessible due to fire damage, however.

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Located in Lang Ranch at the top of Westlake Boulevard near Avenida de los Arboles at 3290 Lang Ranch Parkway, Thousand Oaks, the Chumash Interpretative Center / Chumash Indian Museum contains Chumash artifacts and historical items, nature walks and tours of the beautiful local Oakbrook Regional Park area.  The museum is open Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. Admission price is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors 65+ and $3.00 for children under 12. There is no charge to walk the trails in the park.

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The Chumash Indian Museum is located on a historical Chumash village site and contains a large collection of Chumash artifacts.

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Stroll around the 436 acre Oakbrook Regional Park, a Ventura County historical landmark #90 (designated in 1983). 

Contact the Center for more information about these and other events, field trips, weddings and birthday parties at www.chumashmuseum.org or 805.492.8076.

To protect the wildlife, dogs are not allowed here.

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Lynnmere Trail in Thousand Oaks

The Lynnmere Open Space contains 4 ot 5 miles of ridgeline trails in 114 acres in the area south of Wildwood Park and west of Lynn Road in Thousand Oaks.  Awesome views of Wildwood Park, Mount Clef Ridge and the Conejo Canyons Open Space.

Views from Lynnmere Trail looking north towards Wildwood Park and Mount Clef Ridge

Views from Lynnmere Trail looking north towards Wildwood Park and Mount Clef Ridge

As you can see in the map below (provide courtesy of the Conejo Open Space Foundation), you can actually hike a nice loop on the Lynnmere Trail and connect to other trails in the area.

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There are a number of places where you can enter the Lynnmere Trail, including:

The hike outlined in the image above is the fairly strenuous, seven mile Arroyo Conejo/Lynnmere Loop hike described at www.cosf.org/website/html/arroyo-conejo-lynnmere.html. Park at the Rancho Conejo Playfield at 950 N. Ventu Park Road and the Arroyo Conejo trailhead is on the right.

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After about a mile and a half of rolling hills, there's a descent into the canyon. You'll come across the creek at the bottom, where you'll find a foot path. Soon after crossing the path, you'll find a sharp right (unmarked to my knowledge) turn up the barranca to the Lynnmere Trail, and you're on your way.

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You may come across this bench at the peak of the southern section of Lynnmere Trail.

You may come across this bench at the peak of the southern section of Lynnmere Trail.

After the winter rains it greens up nicely here and other Conejo Valley trails.

After the winter rains it greens up nicely here and other Conejo Valley trails.

Malibu Creek State Park

Malibu Creek State Park sustained severe damage in the Woolsey Fire of November 2018. State Parks lost some structures, such as employee residences, the historic Sepulveda Adobe, Red House, White Oak Barn and Reagan Ranch. The park was reopened 12/18/18 - only the campground area remains closed until future notice at this point.

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Malibu Creek State Park is accessible in Calabasas, at 1925 Las Virgenes Road, south of Mulholland. The park contains over 8,000 acres of rugged, beautiful hills, trails and scenery. It stretches from Agoura Hills down to Malibu, down to Malibu Lagoon State Beach, covering much of the 25 mile Malibu Creek that flows from Boney Mountain down to the Lagoon. Malibu Creek is the only stream channel that crosses through the Santa Monica Mountain range.

There are three natural preserves in the park, Liberty Canyon, Udell Gorge and Kaslow, which protect Valley Oaks, rare plants and volcanic formations.

Things to do in Malibu Creek State Park include hiking, running, biking, camping, picnicking, fishing and checking out the wildlife. There are over 35 miles of trails and fire roads throughout the park. A fun added bonus is the old M*A*S*H series set, filmed from 1972 to 1983, that resides there.

Dogs are not allowed in Malibu Creek State Park trails.

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Malibu Creek SP contains roughly three dozen different trails, many easy, and some...extraordinarily challenging. such as the Bulldog trail, taking you to 2,500 foot peaks with panoramic views out to the ocean and surrounding peaks and valleys.

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Parking for the day at Malibu Creek State Park is currently $12, or you can park at the corner of Mulholland and Las Virgenes and make your way into the park via the Grassland Trail. The park has 62 campsites and 4 RV sites. Visit www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=614 for more information.

The old M*A*S*H site is about 2 1/2 miles from the parking area.

The old M*A*S*H site is about 2 1/2 miles from the parking area.

M*A*S*H site with plenty of picnic tables

M*A*S*H site with plenty of picnic tables

The Visitor Center is only a 10 minute walk from the parking lot and is generally open from noon to 4pm on weekends.

The Visitor Center is only a 10 minute walk from the parking lot and is generally open from noon to 4pm on weekends.

There's also an interesting visitor center about 1/2 mile from the main entrance to the park. It is open on Saturday/Sunday from noon to 4pm, subject to availability of docents. Worth a stop as there are some neat things to see in there, including wildlife and rocks/artifacts and other useful information. You can also purchase drinks in there as well as a small assortment of other items.

Hike to the Rock Pool at Malibu Creek State Park!

Century Lake Hike at Malibu Creek State Park

Lizard Rock Hike in Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks

Lizard Rock is just over a mile from the main entrance to Wildwood Park at the west end of Avenida de los Arboles. Walk/run/hike the Mesa Trail towards Lizard Rock and you will be treated to beautiful views of the surrounding spaces where shows like Gunsmoke and The Rifleman were filmed.

The entrance area and dirt parking lot at the Wildwood Park main trailhead.

The entrance area and dirt parking lot at the Wildwood Park main trailhead.

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Lizard Rock in the distance

Lizard Rock in the distance

View from on top of the lizard

View from on top of the lizard

Trail sign south of Lizard Rock indicating Lizard Rock Trail to Wildwood Canyon Trail

Trail sign south of Lizard Rock indicating Lizard Rock Trail to Wildwood Canyon Trail

You can make this hike a 4 1/2 mile loop past Paradise Falls and the Indian Creek Trail by reviewing the map on the Conejo Open Space Foundation website at www.cosf.org/website/html/lizard-waterfall-creek.html.

El Rincon, El Cerro and Las Brisas Trails in Dos Vientos Section of Newbury Park

In the heart of Dos Vientos (Spanish for Two Winds), there are three trails that are accessible from multiple spots by walkers, hikers, runners and bikers. These are the El Rincon, El Cerro and Las Brisas trails. These trails are all nicely maintained, single track and provide great views of the surrounding areas. Other trails surrounding Dos Vientos include the Vista Del Mar Trail, Sierra Vista Trail, Sumac Trail (kind of parallels Sierra Vista Trail), El Encanto Trail and Powerline (Edison Road) Trail, as well as the Potrero Ridge Trail.

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Access to the El Rincon Trail is near the corner of Via Rincon and Rancho Dos Vientos. The trail is about 4/10ths of a mile and connects with the El Cerro and Las Brisas trails.

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Access to El Cerro and Las Brisas trails is at the juncture of Via Las Brisas and Calle Del Prado and several other points. Visit www.cosf.org/website/html/dos-vientos-map.html for a trail map on the Conejo Open Space Foundation website.

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Ventura Raceway

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Ventura Raceway is a world-famous dirt track located at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.  Ventura Raceway became world famous in the early 1990s when it hosted several years of the ESPN Thunder Series on television. 

With weekly racing events held on most Saturday nights from March through October, Ventura Raceway has a worldwide following of short track racing fans.  Most Saturday nights you can find the powerful VRA 360 Sprint Cars racing at the 1/5 mile oval.  These 600+ horsepower, open wheel racers hit speeds in excess of 80 mph on the track that is smaller than a high school oval track. 

Beyond the sprint cars, there are classes for seniors (age 45 and up) down to kids as young as 5 years old in a family friendly environment. 

Located at 10 West Harbor Blvd, Ventura. Admission (as of January 2019) is $15 for adults, $11 for 60+, military and students with ID and free to 12 and under (with adult). Visit www.venturaraceway.com or call 805.648.RACE for more information.

Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons in Agoura Hills

NOTE: The park was charred quite a bit in the Woolsey Fire of November 2018. However, it is open to the public. The normal artery into the park, Chesebro Road, has a one lane bridge that was destroyed by the fire and is closed until further notice. The National Park Service created a temporary parking area off of Chesebro Road, just prior to reaching the bridge, to allow the public access to the park.

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Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons include 4,000 acres in the northernmost section of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, in the Simi Hills. Stroll to Sulphur Springs or hike to the top of Simi Peak for panoramic views of Oak Park, Agoura Hills and Simi Valley. The Chumash lived in these canyons for thousands of years. Many trails within the canyons may have originated with the Chumash and then were expanded by the ranchers who followed.

Cheeseboro Canyon has some of the best cycling and running trails in the area. The lower trailhead is accessed from Cheseboro Road and there is plenty of parking. (On a side note, no one has been able to explain to me why Cheseboro Road is spelled differently than Cheeseboro Canyon.)

Cheeseboro Canyon Trail (CCT) is a 4.6 mile, fairly easygoing main artery into the park, whereas the 4.4 mile Palo Comado Canyon Trail, which largely parallels the CCT, is much more challenging. The Cheeseboro Ridge Trail also parallels the CCT and seems to be favored by cyclists with its long, rolling hills, though distance runners also will enjoy this trail.  Take CCT up through Sulphur Springs and you'll be running through a small (usually) stream bed and a brief rotten egg smell. Then soon the trail becomes more desert-like as you make your way up to the Sheep Corral Trail and the Shepherds' Flat area. It is really beautiful up there though it can get pretty hot, so carry some water!

While there are plenty of steep hills in this area, this is also a great place for strollers, as many of the trails are quite wide and flat.

The only bathroom that I'm aware of in these trails is at the Cheseboro Road trailhead and is not particularly pleasurable to use...just a heads up.

Visit www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/placestogo.htm to learn more and to access a nice pdf trail map. The trailhead is located at 5792 Cheseboro Road. Contact the visitor center at 805.370.2301. Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash at all times.

Excerpt of Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon Map (Courtesy National Park Service)

Excerpt of Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon Map (Courtesy National Park Service)

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Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park in Moorpark

Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park in Moorpark is a 3,000 acre wilderness area with 12 1/2 miles of trails maintained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. I've hiked back here from time to time and rarely see anyone in these quiet canyons!

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There are a couple entry points to Happy Camp Canyon. The one shown above is adjacent to Rustic Canyon Golf Course, 15100 Happy Camp Canyon Road, Moorpark. The other, main entry point shown below is at 14105 Broadway Avenue, Moorpark. Park here and hike to the canyon entrance point.

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If you're looking for relatively flat trails well suited for comfortable hiking, mountain biking and horse riding, Happy Camp Canyon is a good choice.

You can take the main Happy Camp Canyon Fire Road for quite a ways and either head back the way you came or take the more strenuous Middle Range Fire Road back and catch some great views. I veered north up a steep maintenance road to some power lines shown below.

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Or try the 8 mile, strenuous, South Ridge Loop (via the Middle Ridge Fire Road).  Begin at the canyon gate; about 100 yards beyond, turn right and follow a dirt road up to the ridge top. Continue east along the Big Mountain Ridge to a junction, enjoying views on your right of Moorpark, Simi Valley, the Santa Monica Mountains, and all the way to Channel Islands. At the junction, turn north and drop down into Happy Camp Canyon. When you reach an old corral (and picnic area), turn west and walk back to the entrance gate on Happy Camp Canyon Fire Road (in the canyon bottom), approximately four miles. 

There is no cost for parking here. For more information, visit mrca.ca.gov/parks/park-listing/happy-camp-canyon-regional-park.

NOTE: Because of sensitive habitat, dogs are not allowed past entrance gate.

It greens (and purples) up quite nicely after the winter rains in Happy Camp. March/April/May are the months to check it out.

It greens (and purples) up quite nicely after the winter rains in Happy Camp. March/April/May are the months to check it out.

Malibu Lagoon Field Trips Hosted by Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society

The Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society (SMBAS) hosts Malibu Lagoon Field Trips the 4th Sunday of every month.

Adult Walk starts at 8:30 a.m. for 2-3 hrs. The group meets at the metal-shaded viewing area next to parking lot. SMBAS makes a special effort to make these monthly Malibu Lagoon walks attractive to first-time and beginner birdwatchers. Brings binoculars and cameras.

Metal shaded viewing area next to parking lot.

Metal shaded viewing area next to parking lot.

Children & Parents Walk starts at 10:00 a.m. for a 1 hr session. Meet at metal-shaded viewing area next to parking lot. SMBAS leaders are experienced with kids so by all means bring them down to the beach to enjoy nature. Binoculars will be provided.

Upcoming dates as of 12/21/18: 12/23/18, 1/27/19, 2/24/19, 3/24/19, 4/28/19, 5/26/19, 6/23/19, 7/28/19, 8/25/19, 9/22/19, 10/27/19, 11/24/19, 12/22/19, 1/26/20.

If you have a Scout troop or other group 7 or larger, please call Lu at 310.395.6235 to make sure SMBAS has enough binoculars and docents on hand.

Visit smbasblog.com to learn more.

Directions: Malibu Lagoon is located at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road in Malibu. Bring water and sun protection; look around for people wearing binoculars and hats.

Parking: Self-serve parking machine in lot, $3/hr, $12 day ($11 seniors); credit cards accepted. Annual passes accepted. You may also park (read all signs carefully) on PCH west of Cross Creek Road, on Cross Creek Road, or on Civic Center.Way north (inland) of the shopping center. Lagoon parking in shopping center lots is not permitted.