Chaparral Crest Trail
Chaparral Crest Trail has three different access points: Oso Ridge Trail, Upper Wills Canyon Trail, Fern Grotto Trail. For the purposes of this description we’ll start at the bottom of the Oso Ridge Trail junction, which can be accessed from either the Riverview Trailhead or Old Baldwin Road Trailhead. If using the Riverview Trail proceed south and follow the trail markings toward Oso Ridge Trail. If using the Old Baldwin Road Trailhead follow the trail north toward Oso Ridge Trail. Although it’s not marked you’ll be on West River Trail where there’s a fenced in drainage area to the north as you hike up some gradual switchbacks. After the switchbacks you’ll cross Cooper Canyon Road (Casitas Water Company’s road) onto Oso Ridge Trail. Follow Oso Ridge north for a short distance until you reach the Chaparral Crest Trail entrance.
1) Chaparral Crest Trail is one of the preserve’s natural gems, offering spectacular views of the river and surrounding canyon. The southern entrance of Chaparral Crest Trail begins with a steep downhill into the Olive Creek drainage. You’ll descend into a small canyon surrounded by thick brush and a steep ridge facing west. This part of the trail is shaded and cool. At the bottom of the downhill is where Olive Creek crosses the trail, which is small and easy to cross.
2) After you cross the creek the trail begins to climb steep switchbacks bringing you out of the canyon. After the switchbacks you’ll reach a trail marker (0.2 mile) where the trail ascends through a meadow. In the spring the meadow is filled with Blue Dicks, wildflowers and Wavyleaf Soap plants.
3) After the meadow the trail begins to steepen. About three quarters of a mile on Chaparral Crest Trail you’ll reach a point-of-interest marker that directs you to a gorgeous vista of the Ventura River. This is a great spot to sit down and enjoy surrounding views of the valley.
4) Back on the trail you’ll head north until the trail turns west. Once you start heading west on Chaparral Crest Trail you’ll have some great 360-degree views of the Ventura River Preserve. Looking to the north you’ll see trees in the crevices of the mountains that are greener than all other trees. These trees are growing in the crevices of mountains right where rainwater runoff flows through to merge with the surrounding creeks and rivers.
5) After 1.35 miles on Chaparral Crest Trail you’ll reach the Fern Grotto Trail junction. This junction connects to Wills Canyon Trail. If you choose to take Fern Grotto down to Wills Canyon Trail you can head back toward the trailhead to complete a loop, or head west toward the Rice Canyon Trail/Wills Canyon Trail junctions.
6) Bypassing Fern Grotto Trail and continuing west on Chaparral Crest Trail is a great option. After two miles on Chaparral Crest Trail you’ll reach a notable spot and come to a small clearing on the trail with a view of the El Nido Meadows. You can also see the Rice Canyon Trail and surrounding areas.
7) Shortly after 2.4 miles you have reached the end of Chaparral Crest Trail where you’ll meet Wills Canyon Trail, heading north and Oso Ridge Trail heading south. This is near the preserve’s high point offering spectacular views.