Homer's Travels: Hiking Ventura County #46: Howard Creek Trail To Nordhoff Peak

Friday, February 29, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #46: Howard Creek Trail To Nordhoff Peak

I'd planned to hike the second part of the Los Robles trail this week but I changed my mind at the last second and decided to return to Nordhoff Peak instead. The weather forecast called for a clear day and I figured I should get up there while the views were clear. This time I would take the Howard Creek Trail up the backside of the ridge.

The trailhead is by a gate on Rose Valley Road about a half mile from highway 33. I was starting at a higher elevation so the amount of vertical was going to be less then the Gridley Trail. I walked around the locked gate and headed up the dirt road. My head must have been a million miles away as I missed the trail junction. Fortunately the dirt road ends only a quarter mile past the junction. I reached the end, looked around in confusion, and walked back towards the car. I saw the trail marker and I couldn't believe I'd missed it. It wasn't a big sign or anything but it was a standard park service trail marker as clear as the nose on my face.

I took the trail and headed for the ridge. This first section of the trail was a road once - a long time ago I would guess. The trail is dirt, gravel, and patches of disintegrating asphalt lined with tall bushes and shrubs. This changes when you reach the base of the ridge and begin climbing.

At the base of the ridge the trail becomes a narrow, well maintained path. The views as I climbed were nice, everything green and all. From one turn you could see a pond with a dock and picnic tables. It looked like a nice place to be on a hot summers day. The path continued up passing small patches of snow. Nothing big mind you but surprising nevertheless since the temperature had been in the 70s the past few days. The trail is mostly shaded and passes through forested areas. Forested areas always make me feel good - something about being surrounded by trees that warms my heart. On other parts of the trail you could hear the creek down below. The trail crossed three or four small streams that were feeding into the creek. The sound of the water was relaxing.

Howard Creek Trail ends at the top of the ridge which is about two and three quarter miles from the trailhead. The climb to the crest of the ridge is about 956 feet. As you crest the ridge you have a great view of eastern Ojai Valley. At the road I turned right and looked off in the distance where I could just barely make out the watch tower.

From the Howard Creek Trail-Ridge Road junction you follow the dirt road to the Gridley Trail-Ridge Road junction about a mile away. The road drops 671 feet during that mile.

The Gridley Trail-Ridge Road junction marks the inflection point on the road. The road starts to climb back up to Nordhoff Peak going up 758 feet in about 1.3 miles. On the way up I searched for a geocache that I had skipped last time, "Checkin' Out Nordhoff's Backside", and became the first to find it. Cool!

I reached the tower and, since there was no one around, I decided to search for another first-to-find cache opportunity, "Nordoff Ridge Tower". Unfortunately I could not find it and, after exchanging e-mail with the hider, I think it is no longer up there. Oh well, the chance to have two first-to-finds in a row didn't materialize.

I sat on the tower and ate my lunch before I attempted to take a 360° panorama. It came out but there are some serious discontinuities on the railing. You can see a bigger version by clicking on the panorama.

I started back down. The sun decided to become hot at this point and the hike down, then up, the ridge road became grueling. There is no shade on the road and I couldn't wait to get to the Howard Creek Trail to get in the shade. Since I had missed the park service sign on the way up, I was worried that I would miss the park service marker at the upper end as well. I was a little paranoid since it seemed longer going back but I saw the marker without any problems and started back down the trail. The shade felt wonderful.

I was hurting when I got back down to the car. Despite the fact that the hike was shorter that the Gridley Trail, being only 10.23 miles, and despite the fact that the total climb is less than the Gridley Trail, being only 2,385 feet, I was totally pooped. In other words, it was a great hike. A few pictures can be found here.


  1. Heh heh. You're not the first hiker to pass a trail junction.

    Not that it's ever happened to me.


  2. GH: I know but the marker was soooo obvious. My mind was not on the trail.

    What? You miss a marker? Say it isn't so!! HA HA