Ventura River Preserve
Please note: Google Maps shows old roads on this preserve that no longer exist. Please follow the marked trails on our pdf map and trail signs when hiking.
A lesser known trailhead is located at the end of Old Baldwin Road off Highway 150 in Ojai. The Old Baldwin trailhead is great for equestrians and has an ADA accessible trail. Hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the summer and 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the winter.
Whether nature’s pleasure for you is an invigorating hike or a mountain bike ride, the Ventura River Preserve offers nearly 1,600 acres for your enjoyment.
Located in the western Ojai Valley, the Ventura River Preserve protects three miles of the Ventura River and surrounding canyons. Diverse topography creates ideal conditions for a variety of plant communities. Steep north facing slopes in Wills Canyon offer refuge for shade-loving plants while chaparral blanketed hillsides are open to summer sun. Pockets of grasslands and meadows offer a colorful variety of spring wildflowers and grasses.
Once the sprawling Rancho El Nido ranch, this land has remained relatively untouched and is a haven for over 300 animal and plant species. The preservation of this property is made even more significant by its location adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest and the Ventura River watershed. The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy is actively involved with the protection and restoration of the Ventura River watershed, which is the sole water source for the entire Ojai Valley.
A Bit of History
The Ventura River Preserve was twice slated to be developed as a high-end community with an exclusive golf course. The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy worked tirelessly on a plan to preserve this property. In 1999 as the property changed hands from one developer to another, the southern steelhead trout was declared an endangered species, and water availability from the river for a golf course and new homes suddenly became hot issues.
Knowing the Land Conservancy’s interest in preserving the property, the California State Coastal Conservancy gave $3.1 million of the $4 million it would take to purchase and maintain the 1,591-acre property and an adjacent 160-acre conservation easement. Fundraising for additional acquisition and stewardship monies needed were a challenge, but the Ojai community stepped up to help keep this land as open space. The Church of the Living Christ granted a trail easement through their land for a trailhead and parking area off Rice Road.
Once habitat to grizzly bears, this property is still home to a variety of wildlife, including black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, badger, coyote and mule deer. Abundant food, shelter, space and water make this a key habitat for local wildlife. In wet months frogs, salamanders and other amphibians live in the seasonal creeks. Birds of prey such as Great Horned Owls and a variety of hawks soar over the oak savanna.
Before building Matilija Dam, significant runs of steelhead trout inhabited this stretch of the Ventura River. During high stream flows, the endangered southern steelhead trout still swim along three miles of the preserve’s property. Protecting the deep pools on this section of the river will play a critical role in steelhead recovery.
Go Visit the Ventura River Preserve
The Riverview Trailhead on the preserve is located on Rice Road just south of El Roblar in Meiners Oaks, the Oso Trailhead is to the north and Old Baldwin Trailhead to the south. Parking is available at all three locations.
There are miles of trails to explore and we offer guided hikes several times a year. See our calendar for dates and times.
Hiking, horseback riding, dog walking, bird watching and photography are some of the activities you can do.
For the preservation of natural habitat, protection of wildlife, and safety of all visitors:
- Please stay on marked trails
- Keep dogs on lease at all times
- No fires, fireworks or smoking
- No firearms are permitted on the preserve
- No motorized vehicles are allowed
- Carry your cell phone in case of emergency
- No overnight camping
- Please carry out trash
- Trash cans are located at the trailheads
Please make sure your dogs are on a leash for the protection of wildlife and other preserve users. When wild animals detect the scent of dogs who have strayed off trail they no longer feel safe. Please respect the leash law and encourage others to do the same.
Are Events Allowed On The Preserve?
While commercial use for educational and recreational purposes may be approved any proposed business use of the property, including rides, tours, hikes, photo or video filming will be subject to the Land Conservancy’s approval. We respectfully ask that commercial users consider contributing a small portion of profits to the ongoing stewardship of the preserve. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and how to secure written approval.
While certain educational activities are permitted on the preserve, private events such as weddings, reunions or parties are not permitted. Please contact us at email@example.com for commercial use inquiries.
How Can I Help?
It takes a community to steward this land. There are many ways you can help us.
- Volunteer for preserve patrols, trail maintenance or restoration projects
- Leave the land as you found it, leave no trace
- Bring a bag to pick up trash left on the trail by others
- Call (805) 649-6852 to report emergencies or inappropriate activities If there’s no answer, please follow the prompts on the Preserve Manager’s cell number
- Please consider making a donation to the Ventura River Preserve stewardship fund