Trails of

Nordhoff Ridge from Rose Valley to Ojai
including Gridley and Pratt Trails
 


         Looking west on Nordhoff Ridge towards Nordhoff Peak

Overview

Nordhoff Ridge, running east-west, separates the Ojai Valley from Rose Valley to the north. The area of this map is generally bordered on the west by Highway 33, on the east by Lion and Sisar Canyons, on the south by Ojai and on the north by Sespe Creek. All of this area is outside of wilderness areas and so the many trails are open to mountain biking as well as hiking and equestrians. Nordhoff Ridge, and the trails that lead up to it, provide some spectacular views into the Ojai Valley and Rose Valley and the rugged moutains of the Los Padres National Forest that surround them. However, there is not much shade so these trails are best travelled in the cooler months, but note that Nordhoff Ridge is high enough to get snow in the winter.

The two most accessible and popular trails are probably Gridley and Pratt. They both climb from the north edge of Ojai to Nordhoff Peak where you can get great views of the Ojai Valley and, on a clear day, the Channel Islands. Both trails are narrow, quite steep and somewhat technical. Even so, these trails have quite different characters. Gridley, with a few exceptions, is firm all the way up, but rocky and sometimes rutted. Pratt is more variable, but has more sections with looser, crushed rock on the surface. It's also steeper in general, so Gridley is easier to climb for mountain bikers. The two roads at the bottom, Fuel Break Road and Shelf Road, run generally parallel and east-west so are used to connect the bottoms of Pratt and Gridley for the last leg of a loop.

Ojai is a real hotbed of geocaching with a number of real enthusiasts living nearby. As such, all of the trails have geocaches hidden along them at least every quarter mile. If you like being on the trails and geocaching, or are interested in learning more about the sport, this is a great place to be!


Map Key

Printable map (1.7 MB)


Aerial View

Trailheads

a. Pratt Trailhead, just west of the north end of N. Signal Street. Map and Directions. There is also room for a few cars at the side of the road at the north end of N. Signal Street for Shelf Road.
b. The Gridley Trailhead at the north end of Gridley Road. Map and Directions. There is also room for a few cars just down the street at the east end of Shelf Road.
c. Sisar Canyon Road, at the north end of Sisar Road. Map and Directions.
d. Rose Valley Campsite. Map and Directions.
e. Cozy Dell Trailhead on Hwy 33 north of Ojai. Map and Directions.
f. Piedra Blanca, Middle Sespe and Sespe River Trailheads. Map and Directions.
g. Horn Canyon Trailhead in the Thacher School, north end of McAndrew Road. Map and Directions.
h. West end of the Middle Sespe Trail on Hwy 33. This trailhead is hard to see from the road because a mount of dirt blocks the old road. Check the satellite photo so you'll know what to expect. There is no adjacent parking, but there is some nearby. Map and Directions.
i. Middle Lion campground. Map and Directions.

Geocaches

Trails

[1] Nordhoff Ridge Road (5N08)

Description This broad fireroad travels along Nordhoff Ridge, giving commanding views into the Ojai Valley to the south and Rose Valley and the Sespe Wilderness Area to the north. Several trails lead up from the valleys below and end at this road. Nordhoff Ridge Road ends at the Sespe Wilderness Area in the east, below Topatopa Bluff. It provides convenient access to a number of trails, but there is no shade for long stretches and it can get very hot in the summer, so plan accordingly.

This road is open to 4-wheel drive vehicles in the summer and fall until the rain or snow in the winter washes it out. A permit is required to drive on this road. They are available from the Ojai Valley Ranger Station. Access to the road is via the Nordhoff Ridge Access Road (5N42).

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T1

 Length (miles)

 14.5

Climb (feet)

 

Descent (feet)

 

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[2] Nordhoff Ridge Access Road (5N42)

Description This broad and sometimes very steep fireroad starts at the Rose Valley campground south of the east end of Rose Valley Road (aka Sespe River Road; 6N31)) and travels up to Nordhoff Ridge Road. This road is open to 4-wheel drive vehicles in the summer and fall until heavy rain or snow in the winter begins. A permit is required to drive on this road. They are available from the Ojai Valley Ranger Station.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T1

 Length (miles)

 2.2

Climb (feet)

 1600

Descent (feet)

 100

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[3] Sisar Canyon Road (aka 4N15)

Description  Sisar Canyon Road is a fireroad that starts at the north end of Sisar Rd in Ojai and climbs 7.8 miles to Nordhoff Ridge Road. There is a locked gate at the bottom and also 3.2 miles up were the Lower Red Reef Trail starts. If either of these gates is open, do not drive your vehicle through them because they may be locked when you return. The first 3.2 miles of the road is permanently closed to vehicular traffic but the rangers may leave them open temporarily, then relock them without checking if anyone has passed through.

Sisar Canyon Road is very popular with hikers and mountain bikers. The first two miles is almost completely under cover of an oak canopy. From there it climbs out of the canyon into the chaparral where there are great views of Ojai Valley and Sulphur Mountain far below. The road is maintained for forest service vehicles but the 3.2 miles that are closed are rockier than the other roads in this area.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2

Length (miles)

 7.8

Climb (feet)

 3200

Descent (feet)

 200 (estimated)

Trail Profile       Back to the Top

 

 

[4] Pratt Trail (23W09) from Nordhoff Peak


View of the Pratt Trail from Nordhoff Ridge, with the Ojai Valley in the background.

Description Pratt Trail is one of the two main trails from Ojai to Nordhoff Peak, the other being Gridley. The character of the trails is quite different. Pratt is a little steeper (1.5 miles shorter with slightly more elevation change) but has a less rocky tread, but some sections of decomposed granite that is a little loose.

The Pratt Trailhead is at the Stewart Canyon Debris Basin. The trail starts off quite rocky, winding between the houses for almost a mile. It follows the pavement up briefly before turning onto a fireroad for another mile. Then it turns off the fireroad as a singletrack, climbing 2.75 miles to Nordhoff Ridge. From there it is another 0.9 miles to Nordhoff Peak.

For mountain bikers, the Pratt is a fun alternative to Gridley for returning to the valley. The last mile is particularly fun, with many small steps and drops through the rocks.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating From Nordhoff Peak to Cozy Dell Rd, T4.5 . Dirt road section, T1.5 . Lower Pratt, T3.5 .

 Length (miles)

4.6 (Trailhead to Nordhoff Ridge Rd)

Climb (feet)

100 (Estimated)

Descent (feet)

3100 (Estimated)

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[5] Gridley Trail (22W05) and Nordhoff Ridge Rd (5N08) to Nordhoff Peak.


 Climbing Gridley just past the horse trough

Description This is a beautiful singletrack that affords some spectacular views along the way. Mountain bikers will find some technical challenges in the form of rocks and tight switchbacks. For an added challenge, mtn bikers can climb the very steep Nordhoff Ridge Rd to the old fire lookout tower at Nordhoff Peak before coasting all the way back down to the start.

The trail begins with a somewhat rocky but firm climb up a short connector trail to get to a dirt road that skirts an avocado orchard. After the avocado trees are passed, the old road becomes more rutted, rocky and narrow, but is still firm and not very steep. About a third of the way to the top is the horse trough, a good spot for a rest. After that the trail is noticibly more technical, even though it's not really any steeper for the most part. However, it's narrower, rutted and has rocks protruding from the firm dirt of the trailbed with a few rocky switchbacks. For mountain bikers, this part of the trail is best for people with good technical riding skills, especially for the return trip. At the top is a very steep fireroad about a mile long that leads to an old lookout tower at Nordhoff Peak.  On a clear day, the views from the top make the extra climb up worth the effort. 

The trip back down can be really fun if you love narrow and rocky downhill! An alternative is to make a loop by continuing west and down on Nordhoff Ridge Road about a mile and then descending the Pratt Trail on the left. Keep in mind that Pratt is a little steeper overall than Gridley.


View of the valley from two-thirds of the way up Gridley Trail 

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

If you think this trail is steep, see how it compares to other steep trails.

Technical Rating From the bottom to the horse trough, T3 . From there to the top, T4.5 .

 Length (miles)

6.0 to Nordhoff Ridge, 7.3 to Nordhoff Peak

Climb (feet)

2600 to Nordhoff Ridge, 3300 to Nordhoff Peak (estimated)

Descent (feet)

100 (estimated)

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[6] Cozy Dell Trail

Description This is a very pretty and justifiably popular trail. It starts at the west end at Hwy 33 with a moderately steep, switchbacked climb for about 0.8 miles. The trail here has lots of shade from oak trees. The tread is firm but rocky in spots with many rock steps. This section of the trail is rated T4 . From the top of the climb, the trail becomes gently rolling, smoother and broader in places. It is about 50% shaded by trees and tall chaparral and there are great views in every direction. This part of the trail, to where it ends in the east at Cozy Dell Canyon Road, is rated T2.5 .

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T4 , T2.5

 Length (miles)

1.9

Climb (feet)

900 (Hwy 33 to Cozy Dell Canyon Road)

Descent (feet)

400

Trail Profile

   Back to the Top

[6b] Cozy Dell Canyon Road

Description Cozy Dell Canyon Road is a very pretty trail that continues the road section of Pratt Trail at the top, runs downhill to the south-west, passes the west end of Foothill Trail then the east end of Cozy Dell Trail, contining another half mile then stops at a dead end where it runs into private property. The road is moderately steep and heavily shaded by oak trees. It is very pretty and highly recommended.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T1

 Length (miles)

1.1 from Pratt to Cozy Dell Trail, 1.7 total

Climb (feet)

100 from Pratt to Cozy Dell Trail, 100 total

Descent (feet)

800 from Pratt to Cozy Dell Trail, 1000 total

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[7] Foothill Trail

Description The Foothill Trail is a pretty singletrack that starts at the west end at Cozy Dell Canyon Road, a hundred feet or so above where the Cozy Dell Trail ends. It ends at the fireroad section of Pratt Trail in the east, but just before it ends, it splits into a short section that runs parallel to the Pratt fireroad and then joins the road.

From the west end, the trail is an old roadbed that has narrowed down to a singletrack. It climbs moderatly steeply for about 0.4 miles, where it enters a meadow. From the meadow, you can follow a short use trail south to get to the edge of the ridge for a fantastic view down into the Ojai Valley. You can't see the valley from the main trail. East of this meadow, the trail narrows to a true singletrack.

Overall, the trail is firm and smooth with a decent amount of shade T2 , but the section parallel to Pratt road at the east end is quite a bit more rocky and rutted, T3.5 .

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2 ,  T3.5

 Length (miles)

1.3

Climb (feet)

500 (Cozy Dell Cyn Rd to Pratt)

Descent (feet)

420

Trail Profile

   Back to the Top

[8] Shelf Rd (AKA Valley View Rd)

Description This dirt road very closely follows the contour of the hills and so has much less climbing and is much easier than Fuel Break Rd when connecting the bottom of Pratt with the bottom of Gridley. It is accessible on the west end from the north end of Signal St, and from Gridley Rd at the east end.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T1

 Length (miles)

1.7

Climb (feet)

approx 300

Descent (feet)

approx 300

   Back to the Top

 

[9] Fuel Break Rd (AKA Hermitage Rd)

Description This is a good route to connect the bottom of Gridley with the bottom of Pratt Trail. Towards the west end is a singletrack section that avoids private property and connects with a dirt road that leads to the bottom of Gridley at the start of the avacado orchard, 0.4 miles from the trailhead. It's not very long, only 2.3 miles, but it's surprisingly hilly, especially after climbing Gridley and descending Pratt!

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating Fireroad section T1 . Singletrack, T2.5

 Length (miles)

 2.3

Climb (feet)

 500, traveling west to east

Descent (feet)

 1000, west to east

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

 

[10] Horn Canyon Trail (22W08)

Description The trail climbs from the trailhead at the Thacher School to Nordhoff Ridge Road, crossing Sisar Canyon Rd along the way. It is a very popular, pretty and well-maintained trail, but it is somewhat steep. The trail gets steeper as you get towards the top, and more rocky and loose. But the views from the upper section, and the beautiful oak canopy in the valley are well worth the effort!

The trail starts as a dirt road, but quickly narrows to a singletrack. There are some stream crossings near the bottom and you have to watch out for poison oak creeping in from the trail edge in this shaded, damp area. After about 1.3 miles the trail climbs out of the canyon so the poison oak is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, for the most part, so is shade. However, about 2.5 miles up you come to Pines Camp, a beautiful shaded area with several dozen mature pine trees. There is water here, at least in the spring. I don't know if it flows year-round.

To see more what this trail is like, view a photo gallery of a hike up this trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T4

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[11] Lower Red Reef Trail (21W08, AKA White Ledge Trail, Sisar Canyon Trail)

Description This trail climbs from the gate on Sisar Canyon Rd (where vehicle access is blocked down to the valley) to Nordhoff Ridge Road. Including 3.2 miles of Sisar Canyon Rd, the hike is just over 6 miles with 3500' of climbing to get from parking at the bottom of Sisar Canyon Rd to Nordhoff Ridge Rd.

This is a popular and really pretty trail. At the bottom, Sisar Canyon Rd has already climbed out of the valley far enough that the vegetation is mostly low chaparral, but on this trail you are soon back under oaks and tall chaparral, providing lots of shade. The trail here crosses a steep hillside so is quite narrow with a steep drop on the downslope side. A mile up the trail is the White Ledge Camp, a beautiful, semi-open and very well shaded area. There is water here (at least in the spring; I don't know if it flows year-round). This can be a good place to have a snack before turning back down the trail if you don't want to climb to the top.

Above White Ledge Camp, the trail changes somewhat. It climbs high enough out of the canyon that there is no longer tall chaparral, only low chaparral and very little shade. The trail is wider, and a little steeper, but the cross-slope isn't as steep so there's not as much of a drop-off on the downslope side.

In general, the trail has a firm tread and is fairly even, but there are some rocky or rutted sections. There are great views in many places, both south down Sisar Canyon to Ojai Valley, and north-east to Topatopa Bluffs. No wonder this trail is so popular!

View a photo gallery of a hike up this trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T3.5

Trail Profile       Back to the Top

 

[12] Lion Canyon Trail

Description This trail starts at the Middle Lion Campground, near the north-east end of Rose Valley Road, and climbs up to Nordhoff Ridge Road in 5.6 miles. It starts with a relatively gentle climb along the floor of the canyon (T2.5 ), then becomes moderately steep when it starts to climb out of the canyon after about 2 miles. It maintains a fairly steady grade all the way to the top.

This is a very popular and quite well-used trail, and once you hike it, you'll understand why. It's very pretty and offers ever-changing views as it twists and turns around the contours of the ridge. It crosses steep slopes, which gives great views into the main and side canyons. However, this also presents significant exposure in many areas, and in combination with its narrowness and sometimes quite loose tread, earns it a rating of T4 for the last 3.5 miles up to Nordhoff Ridge Road.

View a photo gallery of a hike up this trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2.5 - T4

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[13] Rose - Lion Connector Trail

Description I have not yet been on this trail so I can't provide any description. I downloaded the GPS track from Redtrails.com and derived the elevation profile from that.

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[14] Middle Sespe Trail

Description This trail travels through the very scenic Sespe River Valley from Highway 33 in the west to the end of Rose Valley Road in the east. It is open to mountain bikes, but the middle third is pretty rugged and it would be a tough ride. It's best hiked when the water level in the Sespe River is low because the trail crosses it twice (and several other streams that feed it), and outside of tick season because parts of it are overgrown enough that you can't avoid brushing against the chaparral.

The trail is mostly fairly flat with an elevation gain of only about 400' from the east end to the west end. However, there is a 550' hill about 2 miles from the west end (5 miles from the east).

From both ends, the trail is generally broad, firm and not rocky T2 . As you get closer the 550' hill, the trail gets narrower and rockier. The trail on the hill itself is not maintained as well as the rest. Here the trail becomes very narrow, has a serious off-camber slope, can be loose, and and can have significant exposure or has chaparral overgrowing it. This part of the trail is rated T4.5 . Nevertheless, it's a great hike with fantastic views in the right season!

View a photo gallery of a hike up this trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2 to T4.5

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[15] Piedra Blanca Access

Description Piedra Blanca is an area of immense light-colored rock surfaces and faces that lies just north of the Sespe Creek at the end of Rose Valley Road. The rocks can be accessed by an informal trail that follows a small, usually dry stream north from the Middle Sespe Trail, starting about 1.3 miles from the parking at the end of Rose Valley Road. The trail is somewhat overgrown along the stream, but when you get a little higher, you reach the bare rocks where you can trek wherever you like. Still, because of the steepness, many areas are inaccessible. However, you can easily climb to the north edge and look down a steep cliff into the valley of what looks like a major waterway when it has water in it.

When exploring this area, it's best to use a GPS to help you find your way back. Don't count on following your footprints across the large expanses of bare rock!

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T5

 Length (miles)

1.1 or more

Climb (feet)

600 or more

Descent (feet)

150 or more

Trail Profile         Back to the Top

 

 

This page last updated on January 31, 2014

 

Thanks for looking at Steve's guide to trails in Ventura County, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) and other locations.