Spring offers some of the best weather in Southern California and with the spring-break crowds back in school, the perfect time for an “outdoorsy” weekend getaway. Some of the most scenic, yet easy-to-get-to hiking and biking trails in California are found in VenturaCountyWest.
Start a relaxing bicycle or hiking adventure at the mouth of the Ventura River (there is free parking on Main Street) and head south. You will pass the Ventura County Fairgrounds, a bird sanctuary and then ride along a path with magnificent ocean views. Choose to stop at the historic Ventura Pier where you can eat lunch or travel a little farther and picnic at a grass-covered area at San Buenaventura State Beach.
For those that aren’t part of the beach crowd, hikers and bikers can travel along the Ventura River Trail. The trailhead is at the intersection of Rex and Dubbers streets and follows the old Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way. It is an easy 6.3-mile hike or bike ride to Foster Park where you can picnic under the shade trees. Be sure to stop at the interpretive signs along the path to take in the trail’s rich history.
Enjoy a four-mile hike from McGrath State Beach to McGrath Lake and try to spot some of the more than 245 bird species that make the park one of the best birdwatching areas in California. The trail takes you along the beach to enjoy the sun and surf and then you wind along the riverbanks of the Santa Clara Estuary Natural Preserve. To make a day of it, start from the McGrath State Beach trailhead and go all the way to Channel Islands Harbor, a worthwhile 12 mile round trip to relax at one of the waterside restaurants or walk along the marina and take in the outstanding views.
Bike rentals are available on Ventura’s Main Street at Ventura Bike Depot and at Wheel Fun Rentals, with locations at the Ventura Beach Marriott, Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Ventura Harbor, Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor, Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach and Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor Resort.
Near the base of the Conejo Grade is Camarillo Grove Park, which features easy to moderate hikes with panoramic views of valleys and hills. Hikers will come across a multitude of plant life including oak trees, sage and cactus. The area is a favorite location for birdwatching.
Channel Islands National Park
For a truly inspirational and freeing day, take an 11-mile boat trip with Island Packers and hike on one of the islands in Channel Islands National Park. Besides the breathtaking views of the ocean and coastline, the islands feature unique animals and plant life not found anywhere else in the world. Every level of hiking trail is available. Park rangers also offer guided tours.