Ray Ford: Discovering the Harmon Canyon Reserve in Ventura | in the fresh air

Sometimes the best surprises come in faraway places.

Driving up to Ventura’s Harmon Canyon Preserve is an easy ride—it’s less than 10 minutes off Highway 126 on the Kimball Road to the road.

As you drive into Harmon Canyon, it may seem a little unimpressive, and at first glance you think there is not much to offer.

But it turns out to be a great place to explore whether for an hour or so along the canyon riparian trail or for a long hike in its upper course.

Beans and cattle grazing Lima

The old farm road winding up the valley is six miles long, much longer than you’d imagine from the trail.

A number of trails along the east side provide opportunities to get out of the way and go on the singletrack.

Along the way you’ll discover the rusty remnants of old equipment used for little bean cultivation and cattle grazing for nearly half a century. There are also the remains of a house of some kind along one of the lanes.

Preserving the future and sharing with the public

Harmon Canyon Preserve.  It's just over half a mile off Interstate 126.
Click to view larger
Harmon Canyon Preserve. It’s just over half a mile off Interstate 126. (Photo by Ray Ford)

Harmon Canyon Preserve was acquired by the Ventura Land Trust in 2020 as part of their mission to permanently protect the land, water, wildlife and scenic beauty of the Ventura region.

Unlike many other open space areas in Ventura County, along with conservation values, the Land Trust has fully embraced the concept of public recreation in Harmon Canyon.

Agricultural machinery from the days when the reserve was dedicated to farming and herding livestock.
Click to view larger
Agricultural machinery from the days when the reserve was dedicated to farming and herding livestock. (Ray Ford photos)

“We are a conservation organization. Protecting and preserving wildlife habitats is our number one priority,” said Conservation Director Dan Holst. “But we also understand and I think it’s critical that we also connect our community with open spaces like this.”

Those at the Ventura Land Trust seem to understand an important concept that other open space organizations such as The Nature Conservancy seem to have missed: providing opportunities to re-establish and establish connections to the land is critical to conservation as a whole.

Building pathways for the future

The mid-canyon section of Harmon Canyon Trail is a mile off the trail.
Click to view larger
The mid-canyon section of Harmon Canyon Trail is a mile off the trail. (Ray Ford photos)

Given that the reserve is barely two years old, there are actually a few single-track trails open for hikers, road riders, and mountain bikers to use.

Grouped on the eastern side of the Lower Valley, it is the first of a planned group of trails that will encompass the entire reserve in the next few years.

The Sage Trail Alliance crew returns from a working day on the 2.5-mile section of the new trail that will connect the side trails to the upper valley.
Click to view larger
The Sage Trail Alliance crew returns from a working day on the 2.5-mile section of the new trail that will connect the side trails to the upper valley. (Ray Ford photos)

“In the past eight months, we’ve built about four miles of trails,” Holst said. “We have a conceptual plan for the property with the development of additional pathways laid out in three phases. Each stage involves building a new trail of about 10 miles.”

I think that means 30 miles of new tracking opportunities. This is as close as many miles to the entire Santa Barbara outpost!

Currently, most of the tracks have been completed in Phase One. Work is now underway to complete construction on a 2.5-mile section that will connect to the upper valley and eventually the tracks of Phase 2 planned for construction next year.

The set of local tracks going to work

A view of what will become Trail 203. It's under construction.  Note that the path leads to the foothills of the upper eastern hills and over the following hills.
Click to view larger
A view of what will become Trail 203. It’s under construction. Note that the path leads to the foothills of the upper eastern hills and over the following hills. (Ray Ford photos)

Trail construction is being overseen by the Santa Barbara-based Sage Trail Alliance.

“The project was perfect for Sage,” said Dillon Oselger, Group CEO.

Formerly known as the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers, the group has made the decision to broaden its focus to include the interests of other trail users, including hikers and trail runners.

Intricate oak along the Price Family Trail.
Click to view larger
Intricate oak along the Price Family Trail. (Ray Ford photos)

“Besides supporting these other groups, we also wanted to get more involved in environmental restoration and educational programs,” Osliger said.

This was exactly what the reserve was looking for.

restore cooperation

Along with Sage’s lead role as trail construction contractor for Harmon Canyon Preserve, Hulst and Osleger have conducted regular volunteer work projects.

A mountain biker rides the Trail 105 in the upper valley.
Click to view larger
A mountain biker rides the Trail 105 in the upper valley. (Ray Ford photos)

“Winter and spring are our busiest months,” Holst said. “On average, Dan and I coordinate three or four volunteer projects per month.”

Oselger added that Saturdays are usually “dirty days”. “Sundays are what we call invasive species days, when the documents are provided by the reserve and some of the Sage crew.”

On the road

A view from the top of what is now the Farr Family Trail as it was being built in April 2021.
Click to view larger
A view from the top of what is now the Farr Family Trail as it was being built in April 2021 (Ray Ford photo)

It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon. Temperatures as low as 70 degrees, light breezes and lush hills radiating greenery.

The oaks are particularly stunning, and many of them extend well in their aged limbs at the point where they begin to droop a bit, giving them a character that I love.

Map of the Harmon Canyon underpass system.
Click to view larger
Map of the Harmon Canyon underpass system. (Photo: Harmon Canyon Reserve)

Amazingly, many of them managed to survive the Thomas Fire.

“The property burned down in its entirety during the fire,” Holst recalls. “But fortunately, it burned at different speeds and different heat levels.”

It may have helped save many of those I was enjoying advancing down the valley.

A fork in the road

A third of a mile down the trail and just after crossing the first creek, Route 102 leads east. Road or driveway – what should I take? Most of them seem to prefer the road. some trail.

Taking the road is simple, so I decided to continue along it for now and take the east side trails down. very easy.

From this point it is 1.3 miles high up to the point where the trails will run down and about 1.6 miles along it. After the first ten minutes on the trail I plugged it in. The return trip via single track is well worth it. In the spring, the scenery of the river is amazing. The charming oak woods and ruins of the old Walker family home are an added treat.

Give me nature, not dirt roads.

For the first time, a warning: It’s easy to get confused given the number of connecting lanes leading to the road. It is better to have a picture of the save map on your phone and refer to it often.

Far Family Trail

Bonus Trail: If you take the Price Family Trail on the way back, a few hundred meters along it, find a trail that goes left and starts switching back and forth uphill.

This is the Farr Family Trail, a 1.7-mile loop that leads steeply to the eastern summit, then follow it for half a mile before descending down to join Trail 105 near Walker’s home.

The altitude will leave you breathless. It is possible due to the uphill climb that will take you to reach the ridgetop; But most likely, the views across the entire Santa Clara River Valley and south to Point Mugu will be the cause. unbelievable.

Hiking in the Upper Canyon

Hikers, cyclists, and trail riders will want to continue the farm trail into the upper valley. There are a number of trail options that lead to high points with equal views of those along the Farr Family Trail.

Unfortunately, at the moment there are no trails in the Upper Valley although that will change in the next few years as the Sage Trail Alliance continues to complete additional trail portions in Phases 2 and 3.

You should know that dogs are not allowed in the upper valley in case you decide to continue.

For those who continue to walk, there is another 0.8 miles on the end of the valley and the start of some intense climbing. leads east to a high point along Long Canyon Trail and Preserved Boundary; The north takes you to another viewing point at the top of Harmon Canyon Trail; The third is up the western road to the hills.

They all offer intense workouts, great looks, and unfortunately, they’re all underdeveloped.

Feel free to visit Harmon Canyon. Green flowers and herbs won’t last much longer.

Click here for a map of Harmon Canyon Preserve.

– Noozhawk outdoor writer Ray Ford can be reached at . (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to access their website, SBoutdoors.com. Follow him on Twitter: Tweet embed. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: