Rice Canyon Trail
1) At the Oso Trailhead hike west make a quick right before heading west again crossing the Ventura River. The river bottom is very rocky but the trail evens out after the crossing. After you cross there’s a sign indicating that you are hiking on the Orange Grove Trail, which runs south along the Ventura River. Continue on and shortly you’ll see the Rice Canyon Trail running west.
2) After a short distance the trail begins to bend north and on your right side there’s a nursery and water tank. The Ventura River Preserve Nursery, built in March, 2008 has a 6,000 gallon storage tank. The nursery stores plants that are planted on the preserve, so that it can continue its restoration process. Shortly after the nursery and over the bridge you’ll approach the Kennedy Ridge Trail junction (0.24 mile).
3) At 0.69 mile the trail merges with a fire road intersecting the trail; continue west on the fire road, which is still Rice Canyon Trail. At 0.79 mile you’ll run into a joint USFS/OVLC pass-through gate. There are sections of trail the public uses on portions of Rice Canyon and Wills Canyon Trail, belonging to the USFS that OVLC helps maintain. OVLC users can pass through the green metal spring-loaded gates when entering and leaving USFS land. The land is maintained as a cattle grazing allotment and fuelbreak.
4) This portion of road runs on USFS land for about a mile and offers great views. The trail is surrounded by live oaks on the north facing slopes and chaparral/coastal sage scrub on the south facing slopes. Along this trail you’ll come to a clearing, which is a nice spot to see the surrounding mountains. After the clearing you’ll reach the trail’s high point (1,130 feet) that offers fantastic views.
5) Once you walk through the metal gate you’ll be back on OVLC property (1.87 mile). Hike down the slope and you’ll soon come to a split in the trail (2 miles). Both trails take you to the same junction on Wills Canyon Trail. The trail that splits east takes you through El Nido Meadows. If you skip the meadows and stay on Rice Canyon Trail you’ll come to a fire road curving west, which dead ends on private property. The meadows has native bunchgrass and viewing opportunities for many types of birds. If you’re lucky you might spot an American badger or some deer. Two benches are located along the meadows, so feel free to take a break and enjoy the scenery.
6) When you have reached the end of Rice Canyon Trail you’ll see a series of trails coming together in the same spot (2.35 miles). At this point Rice Canyon meets up with the trail that detoured through the meadows as well as Wills Canyon Trail. There’s a small bridge and bench shaded by oak trees. Your options are to turn around and head back on Rice Canyon Trail toward Oso Trail (2.35 miles) taking the Chaparral Crest Trail west toward Oso Ridge Trail, or take Wills Canyon Trail east toward any of the three trailheads to complete a loop (4.75 to Oso, 6.65 miles to Riverview).