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Wills-Rice Loop at Ventura River Preserve

5.2 mile trail near Ojai, California
id_4454385
Difficulty: Unknown
Length: 5.2 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours

Overview :  Ventura River Preserve, Wills-Rice Loop is about 5.2 miles long and located near Ojai, CA, California. The trail is great for hiking... more »


The Wills-Rice loop hike is approximately 5 miles long, starting at the Oso Trailhead.  You begin the hike at an elevation of about 700 feet.  The climb is fairly gradual up to a maximum elevation of 1100 feet, whether you choose to go up Wills Canyon first (the southernmost), or Rice Canyon (the northernmost).    If the weather is hot, keep in mind that Wills Canyon is by far the more shaded of the two.

Shortly after leaving the parking area at the Oso Trailhead, you will arrive at the Ventura River.  There will be quite a bit of water here year round, but also a lot of rocks, so crossing is not difficult.  EXCEPTION:  Winter rains could make this crossing dangerous to impossible.  Coming out of the river, the trail makes a left turn to the south.  In a few hundred yards, you come to a junction:  to the right is Rice Canyon, or continuing straight to parallel the river for another half mile, you will come to Wills Canyon, where trail turns westward.  It's your choice on which way to make the loop, but I prefer to do the uphill part of the loop in Wills Canyon which is more shaded.  Also, there are quite a few benches strategically placed in Wills Canyon which make nice rest stops.

After walking about a mile up Wills Canyon, you will come to one of those benches at a trail junction.  This is a beautiful place to stop and take in the lovely surroundings of the oak forest.  The trail to left is the Fern Grotto trail.  You will continue going straight farther up Wills Canyon.

In a little less than half a mile you will arrive at another junction.  The trail to the right goes through El Nido meadow, but both trails end up joining again.  If you take the trail to the left, you will quickly come to another junction where you continue going straight, not taking the trail to the left which leads to the Preserve high point (1320 feet).  After leaving El Nido meadow, where the two trails rejoin, you begin the steepest part of the climb, and unfortunately, you also leave the shady oak forest behind.  However, soon you reach the summit and begin the descent down Rice Canyon to your starting point.


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Tips:  Much of this hike is on roads, but some portions are on easily passable single-track trails.  It is suitable for either walking... more »


There is a large parking area at the Oso Trailhead.  The easiest way to get there from Ventura is:  hwy. 33 north toward Ojai, turn left at hwy 150 (Baldwin Rd.), then, in about 0.2 miles, turn right onto Rice Rd.  Follow Rice Rd. for about 2 miles and turn left at Meyers Rd.  Continue for about 0.2 miles.  The road then makes a turn to the right, but don't be fooled by that.  Continue straight through an open gate on an inconspicuous road with several large speed bumps.  In a eighth of a mile, you're at the trailhead parking area.

If you forget to download and print a trail map, you can usually get one at the Riverview trailhead, which is on your way along Rice Rd., left side, between Lomita Ave. and El Roblar Dr.
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