“Springtime by the Sespe”
From “The Newsletter of the Keep the Sespe Wild Committee.”

There’s still plenty of water in Sespe Creek and its tributaries – even the risk of flash floods in late rainstorms. The air is clear, the sun not yet too hot – the perfect season to explore the 250 square mile watershed of Sespe Creek. (The only thing better about summer hikes is the warmer water temperature for enjoying a swim.)

Rose Valley holds the greatest number of trailhead opportunities for day hikes. First, less than a mile along Rose Valley Road, on the right is the trailhead (it starts as a road) for the Howard Creek Trail uphill to the Nordhoff Ridge, overlooking the Ojai Valley – about 3 miles to the top.

View of Ojai from Pratt Trail below Nordhoff Peak.

Nordhoff Peak
At the ridge, you can head west 2.5 miles to the lookout tower on 4500′ high Nordhoff Peak. There are two options for coming back down from this part of the Nordhoff Ridge to the Ojai Valley – the 4.5 mile Pratt Trail, one mile west of Nordhoff Peak, or the 6 mile Gridley Trail, starting a mile east of Nordhoff Peak. An alternative loop from where the Howard Crerek Trail meets the Nordhoff Ridge is to go east for 1.5 miles and descend back north to Rose Valley by the 4-wheel drive road, 2 miles down to Rose Valley Campground.

Rose Valley Falls
Rose Valley Campground is the closest point to access the base of the Rose Valley Falls (Don’t climb up beside the falls – people die there regularly.), less than half a mile from the campground.

Chief Peak
Rose Valley Campground is the closest trailhead to climb to the top of Chief Peak. Head up the 4-wheel drive road to the Nordhoff Ridge and head east on the ridge road, which passes to the north of Chief Peak. Round trip is about 10 miles, 4 miles of it to the ridge and back, the rest on the ridge road, with a short track up to the chief’s nose.

West Fork Lion & East Fork Lion
You can also leave Rose Valley Campground and head east on the Rose Lion Connector Trail, which leads to both West Fork Lion or East Fork Lion. Returning the way you came, back to Rose Valley Campground, means about a 5-mile day hike, but you can hike the same distance and return instead to Middle Lion Campground (where you can leave a second car).

Topa Topa Bluffs
From Middle Lion Campground you can also hike south and uphill to the Nordhoff Ridge near the western edge of the Topa Topa Bluffs, about 5 miles to the ridge. Lion Canyon, which this trail follows, is a pretty tributary to Sespe Creek, usually with good flow until midsummer or beyond, after average winter rains.

Please travel with a map until you know the area well. For maps, go to the US Forest Service’s Ojai Ranger District Office at 1190 East Ojai Ave. 805-646-4348. There’s a map of southern Los Padres national Forest, or the Tom Harrison Sespe Wilderness Trail map. (Real Cheap Sports sells Tom Harrison maps.)

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