By Visit Ventura
Ventura is a pathological liar’s dream of outdoor play. In June of 2020, thanks to the efforts of the Ventura Land Trust, that playground reached a new level with the opening of the Harmon Canyon Preserve, a 2,100-acre pastoral heaven of gnarled oaks, downy grasses, and wind-kissed vistas, made for play — and the things that matter too.
Opened in June 2020, Opening of Harmon Canyon, a 2,100-acre land trust opened to the public with spectacular hiking and mountain biking trails just on the edge of town (ie easy to get to) Ventura’s brand new outdoor gem, recently opened Harmon Canyon offers the first large-scale, publicly accessible hillside nature preserve in Ventura. Over 2,000 acres, it’s a pastoral heaven of gnarled oaks, downy grasses, and wind-kissed vistas where you can see ocean and rolling landscape (almost) forever. A place to hike and mountain bike, yes (sorry, horses are not allowed). But also a place of soul-healing solitude, where you can do the important things, like watch shadows creep down the hillsides.
Derek Poultney, Ventura Land Trust’s current Executive Director, sums it perfectly.
“It transforms you back in time to an early California: beautiful oak groves, coastal sage hillsides, tree-lined creeks, expansive scenic views, peace and quiet. And it’s free for everyone to enjoy from dawn until dusk every day. There are so many things about Harmon Canyon that bring me joy, but seeing people enjoying it excites me the most.”
A handful of handy Harmon things to know…
The Ventura Land Trust’s aim is selfless and simple. That future generations will know the joy of quiet places and wide skies.
Bring water and be prepared for heat
Yes, it may be 75 degrees at the parking lot trailhead, but that trailhead is still touched by ocean cool. Bike/hike/run a short distance inland and the temperature can jump 15 degrees. In the upper hills, shade is scarce. Sturdy hiking shoes are also a fine idea.
Leashed dogs are welcome, up to a point
Leashed dogs are allowed on the main road into the canyon, up to about 1½ miles. Bobcats, black bears, mule deer, and mountain lions have been seen in the preserve, and, in warmer weather, rattlesnakes are not uncommon. It is a wilderness preserve.
There’s a new mountain bike trail… and it’s a stunner
Trail #103 wends up to a place where the world becomes wind and sky, with stunning miles-long views stretching off to the Channel Islands, and the Santa Monica and Topa Topa Mountains. The International Mountain Bicycling Association has mapped out some 30 miles of planned singletrack. Roughly five miles are done now.
Of course, you can hike the trail too.
Bringing us neatly to
Harmon Canyon’s lovely trails are shared. There are some blind curves. No sense in having mountain biker meet runner/hiker suddenly. There is much (understandable) tendency to reverie, but stay reasonably alert. Bikers are asked to grab one of the miniature cowbells at the trailhead and use it liberally when hikers come into view.
How you might become a part of the Canyon and ensure something very important
The Harmon Canyon Preserve has no entry fee, but the Ventura Land Trust does have substantial costs (continuing to build new trails for starters). They can always use volunteers and donations to continue their simple, selfless aim.
To ensure that generations will enjoy these lands as nature intended—free of charge, forever.
To hear the things that matter.
That would be nothing.