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Looking for the best bike trail in SoCal? Try Ojai

A person is seen from behind riding a bike on a concrete path next to bushes of bougainvillea.
Ojai there! This weekend, say hello to one of the best bike trails in SoCal.
(Matt Pawlik)

On those perfect SoCal summer weekends, I often have trouble choosing the day’s activity. A relaxing beach hangout? An epic biking adventure? A beautiful mountain hike? Or even just a walk about town? I call it “paradise paralysis,” and although the condition gets little sympathy from those in less-ideal climates, the struggle is real.

Here’s my standby for those times I want to do (and see) it all: the Ojai Valley Trail.

The incredibly scenic path runs 15 miles from the Ventura shoreline to the charming town of Ojai at the base of the Los Padres National Forest.

If you’re opting to do the 30-mile round trip, I recommend starting and ending your full-day adventure at the beachside city. There are plenty of entry points to the paved bike path, but park at the pier to begin your journey along the shimmering Pacific Ocean. Head through downtown Ventura (a great spot to explore on its own), charge up on a local breakfast burrito (try Lalo’s) and find easy access to the trail at Rex and Dubbers streets.

Paralleling California 33, the bike path gradually climbs 800 feet over 15 miles on its way to its Ojai terminus, with tons of unique sightseeing along the way, including metal mile markers with inspiring quotes to energize you at the beginning of your ride. You’ll even find Ventura Spirits, a craft distillery that is right off the path and worth a stop for tasting.

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As you leave town, the path becomes noticeably more scenic as you follow the Ventura River. Parks, campgrounds and hiking trails veer off into the chaparral, framed by rolling green hills in the background. Two highlights that are personal favorites are the quaint bridge passing over San Antonio Creek and the panoramic valley vistas that greet you upon reaching the small town of Oak View. Look for a bench and painted rock garden after passing Santa Ana Boulevard for the perfect rest spot.

At Rotary Community Park, you are greeted with a “Welcome to Ojai” sign and a beautiful stretch along the town’s greenbelt. You’ll pass by Topa Mountain Winery (you can enter directly from the bike path) on your way to Libbey Park, the town’s premier public green space, which hosts a summer concert series at the Libbey Bowl. It’s also a great spot to lock up your wheels and enjoy a picnic and a town walkabout.

Ojai, whose name derives from the Ventureño Chumash word for “moon” (it’s also the closest city to Los Angeles with a dark-sky ordinance), is known for its boutique shops and restaurants. I like Ojai Coffee Roasters for a midride pick-me-up, Topa Topa Brewing for a refreshing ale and Ojai Tortilla House for lunch. Don’t miss the historic museum, olive oil tasting or Bart’s Books, a wonderfully charming store for readers of all interests. If you seek more adventure, head to the nearby Los Padres National Forest for a multitude of hikes, like the accessible Shelf Road and Pratt trails, which explore the foothills.

The return trip to Ventura is just as rewarding and easier on the legs, primarily descending as it winds its way down to the coast. If you started early, you can easily make it back to enjoy a gorgeous sunset at the pier, though I also recommend checking out the nearby serene Ventura River Estuary, Surfers Point sand dunes and the harbor (try to spot sea lions).

5 things to do this week

Events are free unless otherwise indicated.

Swirling orange-y cloud and a hazy moon are seen above low scrubby mountains, with a trail in the foreground.
Revel in the moonlight on Mt. Baldy.
(Mt. Baldy Resort)

1. Enjoy hiking, BBQ and live music under the moonlight on Mt. Baldy. You cannot find a better place in the city to celebrate lunar love than on Mt. Baldy, the highest point (and, thus, closest to our planet’s natural satellite) in Los Angeles County. Although I’d recommend summiting the 10,068-foot peak, it’s optional at Mt. Baldy Resort’s Moonlight Hikes series, which runs the first weekends of the month through November. Starting Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m., enjoy a moonlight mountain stroll, delicious food and drinks and local bands at Top of the Notch Restaurant. (You can hike up and listen to music for free, but if you want dinner and lift tickets, the cost is $48 for adults, $24 for kids 12 and younger.)

A lanky bird with a long pointed beak and curved thin neck stands on a grassy shore.
Carin’ to see a heron? Visit Los Cerritos Wetlands.
(Will Cullen)

2. Go birdwatching on a Heron Hike. On Saturday at 8 a.m., environmental educators will be leading a two-mile walk through Long Beach’s Los Cerritos Wetlands. You’ll learn about the current conservation efforts for the freshwater marsh habitat and look for resident waterfowl, such as egrets, sandpipers, cormorants, pelicans and, of course, great blue herons. Meet at the parking area at 1st Street and Pacific Coast Highway (be sure to wear close-toed shoes). Looking for more guided bird walks? NPS is holding one Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at King Gillette Ranch, and the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society hosts an 8 a.m. trek Sunday through the Sepulveda Basin.

People do yoga in a park.
Work up a sweat, then cool down with yoga at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.
(Lauren Rogers)

3. Find your Zen in the land of Ken. It’s no secret that we Angelenos need to find time to slow down amid the hustle and bustle of the city. At Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, community organization Hike to Yoga L.A. aims to promote the benefits of focused breath and movement while connecting with nature, after a good cardio workout of course! Join participants every first Saturday of the month at the entrance at La Brea Avenue and Don Lorenzo Drive for an 8 a.m. hike through the chaparral environment and a 9 a.m. yoga session overlooking the surrounding metropolis. Read more about the group and its mission here, and check out other local methods of practicing self-care.

People with bikes stand in front of a large outdoor mural.
Ride bikes, find murals and make friends with People for Mobility Justice.
(Rafael Cardenas)

4. Cycle and search for art on an Eastside Mural Ride. Beginning at the East L.A. Civic Center next to Belvedere Park Lake, join People for Mobility Justice and Public Matters for their yearly ride celebrating the art and culture of the majority immigrant and Latinx community. Starting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, the trip explores a five-mile route that not only features beautiful murals but also encourages support of local small businesses and reflection on the impacts of gentrification.

A person stands in front of a sculpture on a green lawn. Trees, shrubs and a brick building are in the background.
Discover the artistry at UCLA’s Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden.
(Matt Pawlik)

5. Celebrate the great artdoors at the inaugural West L.A. Outdoor Sculpture Summer Festival. Experience some of the hundreds of outdoor sculptures scattered across Los Angeles via a two-day celebration designed by the Art Muse Academy this weekend from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, which offers guided tours, art activities and treasure hunts. On Saturday, discover a UCLA campus gem at the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden — as a post-art bonus, head to the university’s botanical gardens for a 1 p.m. tour (registration required). Sunday tours visit art at nearby Beverly Gardens Park. For a truly awesome indoor sculpture series inspired by the great outdoors, check out the Life Cycles exhibit at Japan House Los Angeles, where Tanabe Chikuunsai IV utilizes bamboo for “large-scale contemporary works” to highlight the importance of preserving bamboo forests.

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Hikes of the week

A collage of three hiking photos includes a woman on a trail and a man looking over scenery.
Celebrate Barack Obama’s birthday with a hike or three through his old Eagle Rock stamping ground.
(Matt Pawlik)

It’s Barack Obama’s birthday today (happy 61st!) and I thought I’d celebrate the 44th president with a few hikes in his old L.A. stamping ground. The honorary Angeleno spent part of his early academic days at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, and these three hikes highlight the area’s natural offerings. First, journey to the eponymous boulder via the brief one-mile out-and-back workout on the Eagle Rock Canyon Trail. The narrow path ascends through a fragrant mix of laurel sumac, sugar bush and oak and ends at the giant stone outcropping (with its birdlike ridge) overlooking the city.

Continue with another accessible hike: The Scholl Canyon Trail in neighboring Glendale roller coasters for 400-feet of gain over two miles. The views of downtown are incredible, but you’ll also have an interesting perspective of the CA-134, with a stretch aptly named the President Barack H. Obama Highway.

For a finale, head for a two-mile urban loop that features a tour of Occidental’s charming campus. The Fiji Hill Trail starts at the Yosemite Recreation Center and ascends steeply to views of the surrounding neighborhoods and mountain ranges, like the towering San Gabriels. The path descends into the campus by way of Coons Road; take time to enjoy the 120-acre Mediterranean-style grounds and reminisce about the undergraduate days of Barry O.

Wild things

Closeup of a sea otter lying on its back.
(Mark Newman / Getty Images)

Everyone loves sea otters. Although the adorable “water weasels” may be the smallest marine mammal, they have a huge effect on California’s nearshore environments. As a keystone species, sea otters help preserve our ever-important kelp forests by controlling the sea urchin population. But their own population has suffered, as pelt hunters dwindled down the population to near extinction by the early 1900s. Today, after a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal government is considering a restoration plan to reintroduce the threatened species in California and Oregon, Times writer Christian Martinez reports.

The must-read

A smiling woman sits in straw, her arms over a large sow.
Kathy Stevens is the founder of the Goat Games virtual fundraiser for animal sanctuaries.
(Catskill Animal Sanctuary)

The Stanley Cup, the NBA Finals, Wimbledon and … the Goat Games? Inspired by the Olympics and started by New York’s Catskill Animal Sanctuary, the Goat Games are a virtual event, from Aug. 12 to 15, to raise money and awareness for animal sanctuaries throughout the country via community exercise including walking, running, swimming, hiking, biking and even kayaking. Times writer Kevin Baxter recently penned a piece on the significance of supporting rescued farm animals and increasing awareness.

P.S.

Hikers enjoy the silent serenity of the Little Lakes Valley trail in the eastern Sierras’ Inyo National Forest.
(Matt Pawlik)

Last week, I shared one of my favorite outdoor activities — forest bathing — to practice mindfulness and reconnect to nature. Although this mental refresh can be done in any natural setting, I strive to find the most peaceful (ahem, quietest) environment to wander among the trees.

Quiet Parks International encourages everyone to get away from the noise. On July 18, the global nonprofit declared its first “certified quiet hiking trail” at Taiwan’s largest alpine lake in Yilan County. The 2.5-mile Cuifeng Lake Circular Trail, which meanders along “old tracks of a forest railway” and under a dense cypress forest, exhibits volume measurements of under 25 decibels (classified as “almost silent” via QPI). The reason may be due to the habitat’s thick moss carpet surrounding the trail and minimal human foot traffic on the path. Whatever the reason, it’s a great reminder for us to get out there and find serenity in nature’s silence.


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