Rose-Lion Connector Trail

I’ve missed hiking in Ojai.  I was back in the Rose Valley area on this day and had another great time, although this hike was my backup.  I had planned to hike Lion Canyon Trail from Middle Lion Campground to Nordhoff Ridge Road, an 11 mile round trip.  When I arrived on the scene I found the gate to Middle Lion Campground and the campground itself were closed for the winter.  If I followed my original plan I would have to add an extra two miles to my hike and that was just too much.  So Plan B it was.  I hiked more than just Rose-Lion Connector Trail, I also visited the East Fork, West Fork and Middle Lion Campgrounds, approximately 9 miles in total.

1   I parked next to the road just before the entrance to Rose Valley Campground and took the signed trail east.  Looking back, Rose Valley Falls is out of sight, just around the corner on the left.

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I started out under pink skies, so beautiful.

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Photo 1 – Martian Landscape  Photo 2 – Pine Mountain with a pink hue.

5     6   Photo 2 – After a short while I began to climb.  I could see the trail/fire road that also originates from Rose Valley Campground but heads in the opposite direction, the one I took up to Chief Peak.

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Speaking of Chief Peak, I think this is it here…I think.

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11   I look forward to hiking Pine Mountain one day.

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Photo 2 – After reaching a crest in the trail I began the downhill portion. This section might be a little hard to follow if one were coming from the opposite direction.  It’s a steep hill where the trail below seems to end.  As you can see, it doesn’t really look like there’s a trail.  The downhill is only about 1/7 of the hike, but I had to go back up at the end of the hike and it was tough.  Photo 3 – There were some stream crossings along the way but everything was dry today.  Photo 4 – Yucca Swan

17     18   The trail was a bit narrow in parts but the drop offs were not extreme.  It almost looks like it might be fun to slide down the side of this hill.

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23   As I approached Lion Canyon Trail things began to get overgrown.

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As I hiked I was scratched on the arm by a plant, drawing blood.  I found the culprit, a wild rose bush.  I had hiked this very area a few times but had never seen one before.  In fact, I had never seen one on any of my hikes before, and these plants lined the trail at the end of the connector trail and all of portions of Lion Canyon Trail that I hiked.  I’m used to dodging poison oak and poodle dog bush, but roses?  The name Rose Valley now makes more sense to me.

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I passed what looked like a waterfall.  There was a pool of water sitting beneath it.

31   I turned south (right) at the junction with Lion Canyon Trail.  In a half mile I reached four points junction.  The middle trail heads up to Nordhoff Ridge Trail and was my original route for the day.  Instead I explored the trails that went to the left and right to East Fork Lion Camp and West Fork Lion Camp.  Both are short trails and arrive at their camps in a half mile or so.

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I headed to left first, toward East Camp.  The trail was quite overgrown and rough in places.

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These golden leafed sycamores mark where the camp is located.  Just keep heading toward them.

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I arrived at East Fork Lion Camp.  There are a couple of fire pits and grills.

42          43   Healthy looking trees around the camp.

44     45   I love these rocks, called cobble conglomerate according to my hiking guide.

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Beyond both camps are waterfalls.  To get to them one must rock hop/scramble.  I love Ojai.  The canyon trails have such a rugged quality to them, guaranteed to kick your butt.  Although it was only about 0.1 mile to the waterfall, it was tough work getting there.  Photo 3 – Squeezing through a gap between the boulders.

50   49   I arrived at the the waterfall which was totally dry.  Still pretty cool though.  The water spurts out behind the rock in photo 1.  Because it was dry I was able to go down and take a close look.

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There’s a little grotto next to the waterfall.

53     54   As I returned to East Camp I noticed a dead tree with rocks stacked in a flat spot.  I think boy scouts must play a game where they toss rocks up and see if they can make them “stick”.

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I made it back to the four way junction and took off toward West Fork Lion Camp.  It was more of the same, overgrown and crumbly trails.  West Camp is slightly less luxurious than East Camp.

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I headed toward the second waterfall.  I looked at the mess in front of me and thought this is not good.

60   Maybe there’s a trail I missed because the going was tough.  Not helping matters was the thick blanket of leaves covering the ground.  Sometimes I stepped down expecting the earth to be right beneath the leaves, but then sank down about four or five inches like I was stepping in a puddle of unknown depth.

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I kept making mental notes about the landmarks I passed so I could find my way back.  “Turn left at the crooked tree, remember this boulder,”, etc.

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65               66   Finally I made it to the falls, sort of.  They’re just above the wall of rock in front of me.  I guess I could have scrambled up on the right but felt right about turning back here.

68     69   I headed north and returned to the four way junction and then to the junction with Rose-Lion Connector Trail.  I then headed toward Middle Lion Camp.  The trail here was the sketchiest part of the day.  A thin trail but little higher up than earlier in the day.

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72     73   I think this is some kind of thistle plant.  It has a lot of sharp looking barbs all over it.

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77     76     75   I crossed the creek and arrived at Middle Lion Camp.  I found a shady picnic table overlooking the creek, rested and ate lunch.  It was totally deserted and very peaceful.

78     79     80   Shadows overtake the trail and my day ends.  Another great hike.  I want to return to Lion Canyon when the wild roses are in bloom.

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