During a recent housesit in Ojai, I had my eye on the mountain bike trails at Ventura River Preserve a few miles out of town. It’s a popular place for locals to get outside for fresh air and exercise – hikers, trail runners, equestrians, and mountain bikers alike.
Wet weather foiled my first attempt at riding there, but I did sneak in a great ride before I left and I was very much impressed!
The descent down Friends Trail was a blast and the views can’t be beat.
If you’re in Ojai looking for some good riding, definitely check out Ventura River Preserve mountain biking. Here’s everything you need to know about riding there.
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Getting to Ventura River Preserve
Ventura River Preserve is located just a few miles west of Ojai. There are several parking areas:
None of the trailheads have water or bathrooms. Please pack out all of your trash!
Important Things to Know
Ventura River Preserve is a great place for mountain biking, but here are a few things you should know before heading out there:
Trails are closed when wet: Check the Ventura River Preserve website to see trail status before heading out there. I didn’t and had to turn around my attempt at riding there.
The trails are shared: Expect to see hikers, dog walkers, trail runners, and equestrians at Ventura River Preserve. Please be respectful, use your common sense to yield, and say hi when you pass!
Not all the trails are created equal: The trails at Ventura River Preserve are not created equal. Some are definitely more mountain biker-friendly than others. Use my route recommendation below to plan your ride.
There is a river crossing: The water was actually moving quite fast when I visited and it took some fancy footwork to cross on the rocks without getting my feet wet.
e-bikes are allowed: Up to Class 1
Bike bells are required: Most of the trail networks around Ojai require mountain bikers to have a bike bell to give other trail users early warning that they’re approaching.
Consider making a donation: Enjoy your ride at Ventura River Preserve? Help keep it beautiful and wild by making a donation.
Best trails to ride
Ventura River Preserve is not that big, so there aren’t a ton of trails to ride. However, here are the three that shouldn’t be missed:
There aren’t too many trails or miles to explore at Ventura River Preserve, but there are definitely ways that you don’t want to ride certain trails….
Here’s the route I recommend for your first visit.
Best of Ventura River Preserve
There’s a little bit of everything on this route: some mundane fire road climbing, a bombing descent, a little bit of cross-country pedaling, and epic views all around.
There’s also a river crossing (which you’ll need to do twice) and some riverbed riding that might have you cursing…
Ride it for:
- Beautiful views
- Super fun descent down Friends Trail
Need to know:
- Watch out for hikers and horseback riders
- You might get your feet wet on the river crossing
Route directions: Oso Trailhead > Cross River > Rice Canyon (Kennedy Ridge isn’t worth it) > Friends Trail > Wills Crossover > West River Trail > Oso Ridge Trail > Allan Jacobs Trail > Fern Grotto > Wills Canyon Trail > Orange Grove Trail
Make longer: I haven’t ridden this, but if you want to add some miles try taking a left onto Wills Canyon Trail at the bottom of Fern Grotto and then coming down Oso Ridge trail.
What to wear & pack
Ventura River Preserve mountain biking is pretty straightforward, so there’s nothing extra or specific you need to pack other than your mountain bike pack essentials.
If you’re new to mountain biking, check out these posts to help you gear up for your ride:
I hope this gives you the inspiration and information you need to head out to Ventura River Preserve for an awesome day of mountain biking! Be sure to hit the descent on Friends Trail – it’s a treat 🙂
Ojai is home to some great biking. Check out these two-wheeled adventures for your next visit to the area:
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What questions do you have about Ventura River Preserve mountain biking? Have you been there? What’s your favorite route? Let me know in the comments!