Homer's Travels: Hiking Ventura County #43: Happy Camp Canyon

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #43: Happy Camp Canyon

Thursdays are hiking days and this Thursday I hiked the Happy Camp Canyon. With a name like Happy Camp, how can it not be a good hike. This is the 43rd hike that I've done over the last year. When I started hiking a year ago I doubted that I could keep up the one hike per week pace. I came pretty close doing a hike every 1.2 weeks - not bad if I say so myself.

Happy Camp Canyon is located near Moorpark. This is a popular horse trail so watch out for horse exhaust. There are three parts to this hike, each different from the other giving this hike some variety.

The first part is the trail from the parking area to the kiosk. This trail is about a mile one-way and crosses a rolling meadow which was very green after the rains we had last week. When I got out of the car the winds were whipping and I thought it may not bode well for an enjoyable hike but fortunately the winds died down once I reached the canyon itself. Since it was still early, the wind was really cold. This time , though, I was prepared as I had some gloves in the car. They were there from our failed whale watching tour. On the way to the kiosk the wind did manage to blow off my new hat. I had to run to catch it and managed to spear it with my walking stick after chasing it some 15 - 20 feet. I'm a pathetic runner so it must have looked comical. Fortunately there wasn't anyone there to witness my flailing. I'm not sure I like wind on hikes. I'm sure GeekHiker would agree. It keeps you cool but it really plays havoc with the ol' hat.

On the way to the kiosk and gate I found a couple geocaches: "
Happy View" and "Happy Rebirth".

The second part of the hike starts at the kiosk and gate and follows an Edison road along the floor of the canyon. This part of the hike is sheltered from the wind and is relatively flat. There is evidence of a stream or river in the bottom of the canyon but there was little water. I assume this is because all the rain we had just seeped down into the sandy soil of the canyon. The soil here is almost like beach sand. The width of the river bed hints at flash floods and a lot of water in the past. I lost the trail where it crossed the riverbed but managed to get back to it quickly.

As I walked along I could hear birds singing and there were birds of prey flying overhead.

The canyon was ravaged by fires in 2003 but the vegetation is coming back nicely. The only evidence I could see were a few burned out Oaks that looked like they belonged in a Halloween display. The canyon is lined with oak trees that were leafing out. I imagine this part of the hike will be beautiful later this spring once the trees are fully leafed and the wildflowers start blooming.

I found four geocaches along this part of the hike: "
Happy Bush", "Happy Bobble Head", "Happy Camp, Still", and "Happy Valley". The last two geocaches took me on short spur trails into side canyons and meadows.

On the way back to the main trail from one of the spurs I munched on some SweeTart Hearts that the Wife had put in my hiking kit. I ended up with two 'Kiss Me', two 'Be Mine', and one each of 'Kiss', 'Love Ya', and 'Yes'. They were originally a gift to the Wife for Catholic Schools Appreciation Week. (Thanks Ashley!). I'm able to confirm that they were sweet
and tart at the same time.

The second part ends at the
William W.Mower III trail rest area. The area has a couple picnic tables and places to tie up horses. I took time to stop here and eat some lunch. To reach this point I had hiked about 5 or 6 miles. I contemplated a lost hat left behind by someone as I ate my lunch.

After a rest I started the third part of the hike. The trail narrows and climbs up to the top of the ridge that had been on my right side during the second part of the hike. The trail climbs over 1,000 feet before you reach the top. The trail is steep and washed out in places and, in a few years, may be difficult to navigate unless they do some trail repairs. Once the trail reaches the top of the ridge, it flattens out and becomes much easier. As you walk west along the ridge you have views of the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark to your left and Happy Camp Canyon and
snow covered mountains to your right. Awesome views on both sides. I found one geocache on the ridge: "Happy Campin' Baby".

The ridge trail, more of a road actually, takes you back to the Kiosk and gate area. I rested at the gate watching some
bees go about their business.

At this point you follow the first part of the hike back to the car. I located one last geocache, "
Off Broadway Again", before reaching the car.

This was a nice hike despite the brief fight with the wind at the start. The rain we had last week really greened up everything. This spring will be a lot better for wildflowers. The green and the cool air made the hike invigorating and relaxing. Total distance was 11.25 miles with 1,230 feet of vertical.
A few Pictures are here.


  1. I love that kind of open-country, wide-open-spaces hike. Great pictures.

    Wind... ugh...

  2. GH: Thanks. Except for the initial wind, it was a nice hike. It will even be better when the wildflowers bloom.