Lion Canyon Trail

I love hiking above Ojai in the springtime.  There are so many beautiful flowers.  I came back this week to see if the wild roses in Rose Valley were in bloom (they weren’t) and to hike Lion Canyon Trail, an 11 mile round trip.  The weather was perfect for hiking – cool and overcast for most of the day.

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5       6   The macro function on my new camera is quite poor.  I had to buy a macro lens to make it work.  These first few photos were taken in my backyard as I tested the new lens.


From Ojai, the turn-off for Rose Valley is about 15 miles.  I pulled off the road a couple miles before to get a view down into the Ojai Valley.  Highway 33 can be seen winding it’s way up into the mountain in the left of this photograph.


From the 33 – Rose Valley Road turn-off I drove 4.8 miles to the turn-off for Middle Lion Campground.  Just before the turn a deer bolted in front of my car and then disappeared into the hills.  I knew today would be special.  I pulled over before descending to the campground to get a shot of the magnificent rock formation known as Piedra Blanca, just a couple of miles away.

9     10     11   I parked in one of the vacant campsites, being sure to remember to hang my Adventure Pass on my rear view mirror. There were several campers on site, but once I hit the trail they would be the last people I saw all day.  Photo 2 – Some kind of poisonous plant that they don’t want you roasting your marshmallows with.

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Once on the trail, I immediately crossed over the creek.  Photo 4 – I took a little trail down to a pool of water.  I could see small fish darting about, in the moment, totally free of all human drama.

16   I rose above the creek a little as I continued into the canyon.

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Looking up at the steep hillsides, I spotted what I believe to be Chief Peak.  The two peaks standing side by side with a saddle between, and the road crossing beneath them on the north side, it all fit with my recollection of what Chief Peak looks like.

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Photos 2 and 3 – Putting my new macro lens to work.

23     24     25   After 1.3 miles I came to a junction with Rose-Lion Connector Trail, which I took when I hiked over from Rose Valley Campground a few months ago.  The wild rose bushes were abundant, tall and overgrown, but I saw not a single flower.  I had some concern about the thorns on these bushes, as I was torn up pretty good the last time, but the thorns seemed to be smaller this time and didn’t scratch me at all even though the stems were growing over the trail.

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I caught a lucky break when these clouds rolled in. They only got thicker as the day wore on, providing much appreciated shade.

28   At 1.9 miles I reached another junction.  Spur trails broke left and right, leading to East and West Fork Lion Camps, which I hiked to previously.  Lion Canyon Trail continues another 3.6 miles to Nordhoff Ridge Road, my turnaround point.

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31   I now began to climb above the canyon, the bottom of which looked like a lime green river of trees.

33     32   The dirt on the trail was soft and often covered with crumbly bits of shale.  I sometimes had the feeling the trail was a little “loose” beneath my feet.

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Photo 1 – Looking back, part of Piedra Blanca was visible, but not the top of Pine Mountain.  Photo 2 – Chief Peak again

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The trail got narrow in places, but the drop-offs weren’t all that scary.  There was one short section of the trail that was covered with black shale. It was quite strange. The trail was narrow and a bit slippery and the drop was one that demanded focus.  It’s really more psychological than anything else.  If there were small bushes bordering the edge of the trail it probably wouldn’t have been any safer, but it would have felt safer, like I was boxed in.   Photo 3 – Black shale drop-off  Photo 4 – Looking back at the semi-sketchy black shale section of trail.

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Photo 2 – As I turned a corner I arrived at this slippery looking “sandbar”, for lack of a more accurate term, with drops on both sides.  The trail doesn’t cross over it, fortunately.  Photo 4 – After crossing over a few skinny sections I looked ahead and the trail looked really sketchy, like it might be washed out.  “There’s no way I’m crossing that,” I thought to myself. But when I got over to it it wasn’t bad at all.  Things sometimes look worse from a distance.


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49   Photos 1 and 2 – I came across a lot of bizarre looking plants.  These are what’s known as an oak apple.  It’s formation is caused by a gall wasp and I believe there are wasp larvae inside.  Photo 3 – Also, I noticed the leaves on a manzanita tree curling in on themselves and turning red and yellow.  They looked like they were curling into pods.  This is caused by another destructive insect, the manzanita leaf gall aphid.


As I got closer, the ridge rose up like a giant, cresting wave.

51     52     53   I knew I was getting close to the road as the trail became much nicer, wide with manicured plants in places.  I reached the road and hiked up it a few yards to gain some elevation and hopefully get a glimpse of Ojai Valley directly below.  But, due to the overcast conditions, a glimpse was all I could see.


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Ojai below – some farmland and the town, barely visible.

57   As I sat and ate lunch, the fog swept over the road.  I decided to head back before I had to feel my way home.


59     68     60   I Heart Yuccas

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63   Photo 2 – I cross over the black shale again.


The view of the massive Pine Mountain cleared up a bit.  I love seeing clouds like this on the trail.

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Photos 1 and 2 – Nice rocks  Photos 3 and 4 – Cool bugs

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As I passed the wild roses again I took the time to really look for some small flowers or even a single bud.  I didn’t find any.  I did, however, find these weird, prickly, berry-looking things attached to some of the leaves.  I now know that these too are caused by gall wasps.  Each little pod contains wasp larvae.

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Photo 2 – Back near Middle Lion Camp, I crossed over the creek again.

75   While taking my gear off I noticed a crazy looking bug had hitched a ride on my pack.  He looks like the bug in the movie “The Matrix”.


On my way back to the 33 I noticed a small body of water right off the road.  This is Rose Valley Lake, or the bottom part of it.  All the times I had hiked right in this area and I didn’t even know there was a lake.  There was a sign pointing to the upper lake, a half a mile from the road going south on the way to Rose Valley Campground.  I will explore further upon my return.

77     78     79   One of the magical things about driving up Highway 33 in the springtime is the explosion of Scotch Broom, a striking plant covered with bright yellow flowers.  The plant is not native and is considered an invasive species, but it’s beauty is undeniable.

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I pulled over to get a photo of the endless bands of Scotch Broom.  What a fun day!

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