Distance-7 miles round trip to the summit of Reyes Peak
Elevation Gain-1,600’ to the summit but relatively level the first several miles
Trail Conditions- Trail is in good shape
Difficulty-Easy first several miles, moderate for the entire round trip
Take Hwy. 101 to the outskirts of Ventura and turn north on Hwy. 33. Follow this for 10 miles until you are almost into Ojai and look for the point where Hwy. 33 turns left and heads up into the backcountry. From there it is a bit more than 30 miles to the Pine Mountain turnoff. Look for it just after Milepost 42. From there it is 7 miles to the trailhead.
THINGS TO KNOW
No gas or food beyond Ojai and you’ll need an Adventure Pass. Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center is open on the weekends and you can get maps, info and passes there. Otherwise, get what you need in the Ojai area before you head up Hwy. 33.
As you make your way up the road (it’s a bit rough even though paved but passable for even the lowest slung vehicles) the chaparral gives way to a scattering of Ponderosa and Jeffrey pines and before you know it you are in solid forest. With the exception of Mt. Pinos and Figueroa Mountain, this is the only place in the southern Los Padres National Forest you can drive up into stands of Sierra-like trees such as here. However, with the views in either direction, the massive sandstone boulders that dot the landscape and the feeling of being on top of the world, there is no better place to get out into what some would call a “real forest”.
Getting to Pine Mountain is relatively straight forward, though from Santa Barbara it’s a bit of a drive. Fortunately, the drive north on Hwy. 33 is overwhelmingly beautiful (Hwy. 33 is a national scenic highway), Stops along the way in Wheeler Gorge (for information) or at many of the turnouts along the road will stretch out the drive even a bit more, but they’re worth it.
Among them include the turnoff to Rose Valley which provides access to a handful of other day hikes as well as access to the Sespe Wilderness, the rock climbing wall about 10 miles further up the road as well as several day hike routes that lead north up toward the Pine Mountain range. More about these in another article.
You’ll spot the Pine Mountain turnoff a bit after Milepost 42 and at the saddle that marks the upper end of the Sespe drainage and that of the Cuyama. Once you’re on the summit road (LP Forest Road 6N06) it’s seven slow miles to the top, but with the views you won’t mind too much. There are several picnic areas along the way, all placed in spectacular pine and sandstone settings, so a picnic after the hike at one of these will provide a pretty nice way to end the day. There is also a limited number of camp spots here as well (first come, first served) so it’s possible to make this a weekend retreat too.
Several reminders about this part of the forest. There is no food or fuel to be had beyond Ojai so if you need either make sure you’ve got both before heading on up Hwy. 33. The Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center is open on the weekends and you can get a few additional items there, including maps and interpretive guides as well as have your questions answered. Yes you will need an Adventure Pass, which will set you back $5 for the day.
At the seven mile point you’ll reach the end of the road. Here, you’re at the Reyes Peak parking area and the start of the Sespe Wilderness. The hike out to Reyes Peak (7,514 foot elevation) and back will take several hours, which might sound like a bit of time but the hiking is fantastic: loads of forest, beautiful sandstone, great views and most remarkable of all, the ridgetop hike is mostly level with short ups and downs most of the way out along it.
By Ray Ford