Cradled between the Topatopa and Sulphur mountains sits the town of Ojai. This tourist destination is known for its boutique shops and hotels, thriving arts scene, pink moment, and of course, superb hiking. Having rarely explored this part of Southern California myself, I wanted to find a trail that gave me a sampler of the area. This hike was exactly that. With interesting foliage, several river crossings, and an enjoyable balance of shaded forest and wide-open beautiful vistas, this hike truly shines. Oh, and the trailhead is only 15 minutes from downtown Ojai, too.
As you drive up Sisar Road, you’re met with signs stating that trailhead parking is very limited. We found them to be accurate, as there was a dirt lot that fit only about 10-15 cars. However, even at midday on a Saturday, we had no problems finding a place to park. We did notice, however, that amenities were nonexistent. After lacing up our hiking boots, we hiked around a large iron gate to start our trek along the dirt Sisar Canyon Road.
You’ll immediately start hiking uphill, steadily climbing all the way to the campground, so pace yourself accordingly. Sisar Creek, another constant on your trek, is to your right. Looking around, you’ll notice a diverse amount of plant species thriving in the Mediterranean climate. We identified Poison oak, Longstem buckwheat, and California sagebrush. After half a mile of decent sun exposure, the trail becomes lusher and more shaded as it meets up with the creek.
At mile 0.6 you’ll cross Sisar Creek – we rock-hopped our way across to stay dry. Continuing your gradual incline, you’ll now notice the river switched sides and is now on your left. While this section of trail gains a decent amount of vertical distance from the creek, its low hum is still audible. Even with the huffing and puffing that comes with uphill hiking, the river’s soothing sounds mixed with the verdant vegetation make for a tranquil experience.
At mile 1.6, the trail again intersects with Sisar Creek. Like the first, this crossing was simple, and we navigated it with little difficulty. Hike on, the river once again to your right.
Two miles in, you’ll reach an intersection. Head left to stay on the correct path. Then 0.4 miles later, you’ll reach your first switchback. Here is where you’re first treated to incredible views of the surrounding mountains, Upper Ojai Valley, and Topatopa Bluff (which you can hike to). We took a quick break at the second switchback to soak in the sights.
The trail now takes you high above Sisar Creek. It’s fun to peer down into the valley every so often and see how green the ecosystem is by the river. As for the foliage closer to the path, two of the more interesting plants we identified were vinegarweed and Chaparral yucca. We saw a snake and a tarantula here too – acute reminders to pay attention to where we were walking.
At 3.8 miles, you’ll walk past a gate and find a sign pointing you toward the White Ledge Camp 1 mile away. It’s here where you leave behind the wide and well-groomed trail for sometimes rocky and washed-out single-track.
This last push to the campground is difficult at times, so don’t be afraid to take breaks when you need them. Plus, it’ll give you more time to soak in the views, which continue to become more impressive the higher you climb. Finally, at mile 4.8, you’ll cross Sisar Creek for the third time (a much smaller crossing compared to the first two) to reach White Ledge Camp.
While we didn’t explore the area much, we did notice several campsites complete with rock fire rings and metal grills. Overall, this backcountry campground is pretty cush and is a great destination for those looking for a quick weekend getaway or a stopover on the way to the top of Topatopa Bluff.
When you’re ready, head back the way you came, enjoying the downhill all the way back to your car. And once back, treat yourself to some Ojai delights. We celebrated the completion of our hike with a stop at Tipple & Ramble wine bar before enjoying a pasta dinner at Osteria Monte Grappa and a frozen yogurt dessert at Ojai Bliss & More. I’d say it was a day well spent.