Socal - Ventura County - Ojai (nearest) NickNames: #RoseValley
From Ojai, drive north in CA-33 past Matilija Hot Springs to the Rose Valley/Sespe Creek Road which goes east. Drive this road to the Rose Valley Campground spur road. Park near a small lake just before the campground. Parking in the campground cost $5 for an overnight stay. Thomas Guide page 366-K5
At the ridge you have the option of going West over to Howard trail for a short loop (a mile or so West, first trail North is Howard), returning on the pavement for about an 8-mile loop.
Go East on the ridge road, climbing a bit more to Cheif Peak. The roadway will then make a series of long, sweeping turns that are very fun and fast. Then you get to climb a little more and you're at Sisar saddle. Continue East for a little more climbing. Watch for Condors, you're getting close to their turf (I've never seen one, but maybe you'll get lucky). In another couple miles you'll find Lion Trail going North back into Rose Valley. Take a last look at Topatopa.
The first couple hundred yards of Lion Trail is ridable, then you'll encounter a boulder chute that's ridable if you're good at trials riding. Welcome to Lion Canyon. Carry through this section and the rest is ridable. The creek in the canyon is the boundry to Wilderness. Continue down for another few miles until you get to a marshy area with grass puff-ball things. You'll lose the trail here, it's extremely over-grown, but if you follow the general direction of the creek you'll find it okay. It's that rocky stuff going into those bushes that looks like a deer trail. Once through that continue another half-mile or so until you come to a junction marked by a broken sign-post (only about 18" of it remains). This is the connecting trail back to Rose Valley Campground (continuing forward will take you to Middle Lion Camp). Go left here and again the trail vanishes. Push through the willows to the stream (about 30 or 40 yards - I've broken branches to mark the way). You have to ride in the stream about 10 yards to the other side to pick up the trail again (it's marked with a line of large rocks in the stream), again pushing through the willows for another 10 yards or so. The FS needs to do some trimming back there! The next mile or so will be mostly climbing, but that's the last of it. And some of it is in the shade. Then a fun, fast downhill section with a nasty set of switchbacks that are a blast. Then you're deposited back at the truck, if you parked on the West end of the small lake.
The ride is almost entirely in the sun, there is very little shade. Bring sun screen and plenty of water as the temperatures can be murderous back there. Think you have enough water? Bring more. This ride can take a while to do, 2.5 hours if you're a racer, 4+ hours for the rest of us. The roadway is nicely graded on the ridge and fast in the downhill sections (watch for the few ruts). Lion Trail is rocky and loose but in pretty good shape, generally. Watch for a couple fallen trees that were sawn-off right at helmet level. And a couple that haven't been cleared. Everything is dry and dusty this time of year. Next time I'll bring a machette and hand-saw and will attack the over-grown areas. Be alert for ticks, they are often thick back there. The trail above the marsh area is pretty clear of brush, below the marshy area needs some help. No one seems to be riding back there, mine were the only tire tracks, and I saw no one on the trail, and 8 4x4 vehicles on the road.
Be aware while climbing the paved portion, 4x4 vehicles going up (or down) the road will NOT slow down and you'll be forced off the road in the narrower sections. Wave at the folks in their air conditioned trucks.
I rate this one Intermediate, but it has some Advanced elements to it. Most of the trail is pretty rocky and will test you often. I brought a couple novice riders on this ride a couple years ago (the trail was in terrible shape), the only reason they didn't kill me was because they needed a guide to get out! So be kind to your friends. I don't think they enjoyed the ride, and they haven't ridden with me since. This is one of my favorite rides, but it's not for everyone.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: 16 miles Elevation change: 1800'
Singletrack=50% Dirt Road=35% Paved Path=15%
Catfish a 41 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a heavy, old bike from Ventura URL: Lion Canyon Topo Map (TopoZone)