Running with Painted Lady Butterflies on the Sandstone Peak Trail, Santa Monica Mountains

The Painted Ladies are back in a big way. Everywhere I look…in the backyard, driving, on the trails….I see them. I enjoyed running with them this morning on the Sandstone Peak Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.

As we know, the Santa Monica Mountains were severely torched in the Woolsey Fire of November 2018.. The Sandstone Peak Trail gives you some perspective on the burn, while presenting plenty of regrowth and spring colors.

Other than the blackened trees and shrubs surrounding the trail, the only noticeable change is that the somewhat iconic “Sandstone Peak: Highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains - Elevation 3111 feet” sign at the base of the final ascent up to Sandstone Peak - is gone. Disintegrated. Perhaps it will be replaced.. The wooden staircase along the lower portion of that trail is also gone, and a new trail, just west of where the staircase used to be, has been cleared , leading to the top.

This is where the final ascent up Sandstone Peak began before the Woolsey Fire of 2018  destroyed the staircase and sign.

This is where the final ascent up Sandstone Peak began before the Woolsey Fire of 2018 destroyed the staircase and sign.

The iconic sign at the base of the staircase, before the Woolsey Fire destroyed it.

The iconic sign at the base of the staircase, before the Woolsey Fire destroyed it.

Fire or no fire…the views from Sandstone Peak have not changed.

Fire or no fire…the views from Sandstone Peak have not changed.

Compilation of Great Trails and Hikes In and Around Ventura County

TrailSign1.JPG

Looking for a good hike around Ventura County and nearby areas? We've highlighted a number of our favorite hikes in the Do Something section of Conejo Valley Guide.

HIKE TO A CONEJO VALLEY BENCH WITH A VIEW

HIKE TO AUTOMOTIVE RELICS IN THE CONEJO VALLEY OPEN SPACE

SEVEN FLAT, STROLLER FRIENDLY TRAILS IN THE CONEJO VALLEY

DOG-FRIENDLY TRAILS IN THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS

Reminder: Please refrain from using the trails during rain events and afterwards, until they have dried. Doing otherwise causes damage to the trails.

Lone Oak at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa

Lone Oak at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa

Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa in Newbury Park

Fossil Trail Loop in the Boney Mountain Wilderness

Oakbrook Vista Trail in Thousand Oaks

Rancho Potrero Open Space in Newbury Park

Hill Canyon, Hawk Canyon and Western Plateau Trails in Thousand Oaks CONEJO CANYONS BRIDGE CLOSED (3/30/19 UPDATE)

Western Plateau Trail Loop From Newbury Park

Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks

Lynnmere Trail in Thousand Oaks (south of Wildwood Park)

Conejo Canyons Bridge in the Western Plateau of Thousand Oaks BRIDGE IS CLOSED BUT CONEJO CANYONS IS OPEN

Tarantula Hill Hike in Thousand Oaks

Arroyo Conejo Trail in Thousand Oaks

Sunset Hills Trail in Thousand Oaks

North Ranch Open Space in Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village

Hillcrest Open Space Preserve in Thousand Oaks

Powerline Trail in Newbury Park to Conejo Mountain

Lake Eleanor Open Space Hike in Westlake Village

Conejo Valley Botanic Garden in Thousand Oaks

Triunfo Creek Park in Westlake Village

Potrero Ridge Trail in Newbury Park

Marview Drive Trail in Thousand Oaks

Pentachaeta Trail and Westlake Vista Trail in Westlake Village

Rabbit Hill (Knoll Open Space) in Newbury Park

Lynnmere Open Space views to the west.

Lynnmere Open Space views to the west.

Views from the Ray Miller Trail in Malibu.

Danielson Road trail in the Boney Mountain Wilderness.

Danielson Road trail in the Boney Mountain Wilderness.

Views of Simi Valley from the peak of Mt. McCoy in Simi Valley.

Views of Simi Valley from the peak of Mt. McCoy in Simi Valley.

Sunset Hills Trail in Thousand Oaks.

Sunset Hills Trail in Thousand Oaks.

Tree encampment along Los Padres Trail in Thousand Oaks.

Tree encampment along Los Padres Trail in Thousand Oaks.

The Annual Appearance of Ground Bees at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa in Newbury Park

Every spring that I can remember, I’ve stopped in my tracks at some point by the annual appearance of ground bees in Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa.

Hundreds and hundreds of bees, burrowing about in holes in the ground, these are male ground bees - looking for females to mate with and foraging for nectar. But the good news is that these male bees have no stingers. The females can sting, but will not generally do so unless provoked.

Most importantly, these bees are pollinators, which is a good thing. So just…let them BEE if you come across them.

I’ve personally seen these ground bees on the Lower Satwiwa Loop Trail, near the junction of the Satwiwa Loop Trail, on the north Satwiwa Loop Trail (the one that connects to the Satwiwa Native American Center) and on the Wendy-Satwiwa Connector Trail. See map at THIS LINK.

Hillcrest Open Space in Thousand Oaks is Abloom in Mustard and Lupine

The hilly Hillcrest Open Space Preserve is covered yellow and purple in a display worthy of view. In fact, I’ve never seen this much lupine in one place in my 25+ years in the Conejo Valley. The Hillcrest Open Space main trailhead is not the easiest place to access due to the lack of any parking on Hillcrest Drive in that area, but there’s also another entry point highlighted in THIS POST. You will also enjoy the colors just driving by.

Not particularly the best trail for young kids as it is one of the hillier trails in the area. But not a problem for some. (On that note family and stroller-friendly local area trails at THIS LINK.

Hillcrest Lupine 4.11.19.JPG
Lots of yellow going on around here (achoo!)

Lots of yellow going on around here (achoo!)

Just a small smattering of poppies in the Hillcrest Open Space.

Just a small smattering of poppies in the Hillcrest Open Space.

A Compilation of Automotive Relics in the Open Space of the Conejo Valley

As a resident of the Conejo Valley for over 20 years, a long distance runner and a father with active kids, I've run, walked, hiked and rolled over thousands of miles of trails within and surrounding the Conejo Valley.

Over the years I've noticed interesting, old items on the sides of the trails. These relics from the past always make me wonder how they got there and why they remain. I've attempted here to document these automotive blasts to the past on the trails of the Conejo Valley.

Read More

Seven Flat, Stroller and Family Friendly Hikes in the Conejo Valley

There is a ring of about 15,000 acres of open space with 140 miles of trails for public use surrounding the Conejo Valley. All too often on the Conejo Valley Guide Facebook Page we hear requests for which trails are "stroller friendly" and/or suitable for young children. Here is a sampling of some of the more popular ones in the area.

Wildwood Park to many is the single greatest spot for family hikes and stroller-friendly trails. With 14 trails covering 17 miles, including the popular hike to Paradise Falls and the teepee as well as some wide, relatively flat sections along the Mesa Trail towards Lizard Rock.

It takes a bit of driving via the Norwegian Grade and Santa Rosa Road to get there, but the Conejo Canyons Bridge in the Western Plateau area of the Conejo Open Space leads to several miles of nice, flat, well-maintained family-friendly trails leading to tree-canopied picnic areas. NOTE: THE BRIDGE WAS SEVERELY DAMAGED IN THE HILL FIRE OF NOVEMBER 2018: The COSCA site at www.conejo-openspace.org will provide updates regarding when the bridge is re-opened.

Shaded picnic area off the Hawk Canyon Trail from the Conejo Canyons Bridge

Shaded picnic area off the Hawk Canyon Trail from the Conejo Canyons Bridge

The 1 mile Spring Canyon Trail is a mostly flat trail that runs from Lynn Oaks Park in Newbury Park to the Los Robles Trail.  There are some moderately hills but with a park nearby, makes for a fun little excursion with the little ones.

Speaking of the Los Robles Trail, another great little hike to take with the kids is the Oak Creek Canyon Loop Trail. The first 4/10th of a mile of the trail, accessible off of Greenmeadow Avenue in Thousand Oaks, is the Oak Creek Canyon Whole Access Interpretive Trail. This is a nice, shady, flat trail picnic benches along the path. The remainder of the loop is not quite as stroller friendly, with a couple moderately steep sections that can be navigated on foot.

Picnic trails and shade abound at the Oak Creek Canyon Interpretative Trail.

Picnic trails and shade abound at the Oak Creek Canyon Interpretative Trail.

The Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa area managed by the National Park Service in Newbury Park has over several miles of trails to explore, most of which are flat and stroller-friendly. The Satwiwa Loop Trail takes you around the area and the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center makes for a fun stop with the family when open on weekends. 

Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons offer great family hiking opportunities. While there's definitely hills surrounding these canyons, try the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail, the 4 to 5 mile main artery into the park. Flat and kid/stroller friendly it is. Also try the Doubletree Trailhead connector to the Palo Comado Trail. Flat, fun and scenic.

PaloComadoSign.JPG

Although you will encounter pretty significant hills in the Lang Ranch/Woodridge Open Space in Thousand Oaks, it is worth checking out with the kids for its wide open trails and interesting sandstone rock formations. If you are really strong, strollers are possible here, but do know that you will encounter some hills like the hill shown in the image below.

This hill in the Lang Ranch/Woodridge Open Space at the Autumn Ridge Trail is a bit daunting but worth the climb.

This hill in the Lang Ranch/Woodridge Open Space at the Autumn Ridge Trail is a bit daunting but worth the climb.

NOTE: THE GROUNDS OF OAKBROOK REGIONAL PARK WERE SEVERELY DAMAGED BY THE WOOLSEY FIRE OF NOVEMBER 2018. AS A RESULT, THE GROUNDS HAVE BEEN CLOSED. A GOFUNDME FUNDRAISER HAS BEEN ESTABILISHED AT www.gofundme.com/chumash-indian-museum-wildfire-fund TO HELP RAISE FUNDS TO REBUILD.

We're going to throw a bonus trail into the mix. The several miles of hiking trails in the Oakbrook Regional Park Archaeological Area in Thousand Oaks is an outstanding place for a flat, picturesque and oak-tree canopied place for a short hike with the kids. The Chumash village reproduction is an interesting place to explore with the kids. SEE NOTE ABOVE REGARDING IMPACT OF WOOLSEY FIRE.

For a more comprehensive compilation of trails in the Conejo Valley and throughout Ventura County, visit THIS LINK.

Views Abound at the Zev Yaroslavsky Las Virgenes Highlands Park in Calabasas

In greener times (April 2018).

In greener times (April 2018).

The Zev Yaroslavsky Las Virgenes Highlands Park is located on Las Virgenes Road, just south of Mureau Road and north of Highway 101 in Calabasas.

In greener times (April 2018).

In greener times (April 2018).

This is not a park in the traditional sense, with grass, a playground and BBQs. This park is nearly 200 acres of grasslands dotted with oak trees facing drivers on the 101 as they reach the bottom of the Calabasas Grade.

A steep trail takes you to peaks that offer panoramic views towards the Santa Monica Mountains, Agoura Hills, Calabasas,  Simi Hills and beyond.

View from near the top facing south.

View from near the top facing south.

These photos were taken in November 2015, after four years of drought. After the winter rains, these hills green up quite nicely.

The land is also known as "Firehouse Hill" as it is situated next to Los Angeles County Fire Station 125 on Las Virgenes Road.

To access the park from the 101 coming east, you go north on Las Virgenes and there's a small, dirt parking lot on the left. Problem is, there's no left hand turn lane to the lot and there are "No U Turn" signs for like a mile. So you could make right on Mureau Road and turn around and make a left turn back onto Las Virgenes to get to the parking area. Or you can drive half a mile north and do a U turn at Thousand Oaks Blvd.

This land was acquired by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) for $6.25 million in 2010. It was previously owned by Fred Sands and at one point was owned by Bob Hope. 

The park was named in honor of former long-time L.A. County Supervisor and City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who retired from office in 2014. Zev worked with a coalition of parties to make this preservation of land happen.

About MRCA: MRCA is a local government public entity established in 1985. It is a local partnership between state agency Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy the Conejo Recreation and Park District and the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. The MRCA is dedicated to the preservation and management of local open space and parkland, watershed lands, trails, and wildlife habitat. MRCA manages and provides ranger services for almost 72,000 acres of public lands and parks that it owns and that are owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy or other agencies and provides comprehensive education and interpretation programs for the public.

LVHighlands4.6.18_2.JPG