Saturday, February 23, 2013

Day 823: Topatopa - Sisar Canyon Trail - White Ledge Camp - Topa Topa Bluff - Howell Place

A Topa Topa Sunset!
Day #823 * Hike #1027 * New Track #809
Saturday  February 16, 2013
Topatopa - Sisar Canyon Trail - Upper Ojai, CA

White Ledge Camp - Topatopa Bluff - Howell Place
My Tripometer: 8.5 Hours * 16.5 Miles * +4800 Feet
The Map!
 View of Topa Topa from the 150 Elevation 1500 Feet

From Ventura, take the 126 East to Santa Paula.  Exit on 10th Street, the 150 and take this through Santa Paula toward Ojai.  You will pass Steckle Park - Day 294, Thomas Aquinas College where you will smell Sulphur and is the trailhead for Day 648: Santa Paula Punch Bowls.  Keep heading up the 150 until you reach the summit.  The Summit Restaurant will be on your right and then the very narrow Sisar Road will be on your right next to Summit School.  According to the map, you are suppose to park here but everyone drives up Sisar Road.  Pass over the speed bumps, slowly, and continue up the gravel road which turns into dirt.  You can park by the water tank or if you have enough clearance on your vehicle, keep going up the dirt road.  Warning, this dirt road is very rocky and bumpy but it's only a quarter mile or so to reach the trailhead.  Today, the parking area was full but we snuck into one spot to settle in at 10:00am (late for a hike like this).

 Trailhead ~1800 Feet Elevation

**I've hiked along Sisar many times in the past but this is my first visit in my 1000 Days.  I believe today's hike is my longest and largest elevation gain in these 1000 Days.  I am now in training for Mt. Whitney and I plan to do something similar to this every weekend until August.

There are some cool watering holes back by the water tank.  Sisar Road follows a creek and if you look off to the right there are several places to explore.  It often gets very hot here in the summer months and the cool water is a nice way to relax...

 On with the hike, start down the shaded dirt road

 You will pass two easy creek crossings

 Howell Place to the right, stay left up the road

 Ayden's like, "Dad, we are not climbing all the way to the top"

 Heading out of the shade - fortunately its a cool day

 Topa Topa Bluff

 2.1 Miles in,  Follow Troy - take the single track trail beyond this gate

**We eventually meet Troy at the top.  He organizes a yearly camp out and today we met him with 20 friends at the top.  **Warning, before reaching the single track trail we heard a mountain lion off the wide dirt road.  We saw him zig zag his way through the thick up and away.  Good thing we didn't follow the switchback road higher beyond the single track because it would have walked us right into him!

 Nice shaded trail


We heard and possibly saw another Mountain Lion!  He darted from above the trail, across the trail and down into the creak.  It was like a flash and he was very dark in color.  Very creepy being alone in here...
 Out of the shade and higher again...


 Entering White Ledge Camp

 There are three spots to camp in here

**My last camp out before starting this 1000 Day adventure was to White Ledge.  I went with Alyssa, Ayden and Sammi.  When we got back home that next day, Sammi was covered in ticks, and Ayden and I found some on us as well!


It took us 1.75 hours to hike 3.1 miles and +2500 feet to reach this camp.  In fear of the mountain lion, we nearly bypassed this spot but decided that we were hungry.

 Chicken Bratwurst

After a 30 minute stay, we continued up the trail.  It was 12:15 and we were on our way to summit the Topa Topa Bluff...

 View of Anacapa Island

 Looking back on what we've done so far...

 It's a long hike up to the top...

 7 miles from the 150, so we hiked about 6 so far

 Turn right at Nordoff Ridge Road...

To the left, you can hike to Chief Peak and eventually this take you to Nordoff Peak - Day 98.  Just 0.5 miles to the left you would reach the Lion Canyon Trail.  I hiked along this trail on Day 781: West Fork Camp.  About 8 years ago, I also hiked from Middle Lion all the way to the top and then camped out here:

 This site is just off to the right as soon as you start trekking toward Topa Topa

 We saw a trail sign off the right, about a mile further down the road

 Last Chance Trail?

This confused me because according to the map, the Last Chance Trail is another mile and a half up the dirt road, which becomes the Red Reef Trail.  On my hike 8 years ago I hiked down this trail, past Lady Bug Camp and eventually camped out on a second night at Day 223: Willet Hot Springs.  I hiked this with Domino and it was an over 30 mile, 3 day loop adventure.  Domi could barely walk by the end of the journey.  I was in bad shape as well lugging up 80 pounds on my back.  Back then, I looked for the Last Chance Trail but could never find it.  I assume it must have been rerouted and here it is.  In theory, you should be able to hike this all the way back down to the Santa Paula Punch Bowls.  However, from other experiences coming up from Santa Paula, the trail is lost and you are forced through poison oak to reach the Jackson Falls.  I have not been back to that area in my 1000 Days...

 Trace of snow - does this constitute as a snow hike?

 It gets quite steep here

In my opinion, the Piedra Blanca Trail was harder than this.  It's amazing how small the white rock looks from here.  Hiking to Piedra Blanca from Lion Camp is quite easy, but of course I hiked up 4250 Feet that day to reach Pine Mountain Lodge.
 Ayden has doubts...

 With only a couple hundred feet to climb, Ayden needs a break

Passing up a hiker with a Black Golden Retriever

This was one of Troy's friends lugging 70 pounds on his back.  This was his first ever backpacking adventure.  Good luck going back down the next day.  Your legs will feel like jello.

 Topa Topa Summit - 6367 Feet

 Chill Out!

 Amazing Views!

 Above the bluff

Next time you head down the 101 through Oxnard, look across the fields toward the mountains.  Yeah, we just climbed that beast!

 Good Night!

We reached the summit at 2:15.  This only took us 4 hours and 15 minutes, but that includes a 30 minute lunch break.  We made pretty good time but we only hung out at the top for thirty minutes.  Alright, time to head back to beat the sun down...

 Ayden is like, really, already...

 Looking back at Topa Topa

 Back to White Ledge Camp

Creeping past the Mountain Lion Zone
We reached the car at 6:30.  It had just turned dark.  Perfect timing!  Let's head home, my anniversary is tomorrow and it will not be a relaxing day to rest my legs.  Stay tuned...


  1. Beautiful pictures, beautiful hike! Was that a velvet ant? I've never seen one, but I imagine that's how it would look. Amazing how much clearer the air is than in Northern Utah. Looks lovely!


  2. Oh my God, thanks for sharing this hike. I too want to do Mt Whitney (waiting on the lottery) and I heard about this hike. Your details make the difference ... now to find someone to hike with figuring mountain lions wont bother two ...

  3. What day(s) did you enter the lotto? I plan to hike Baldy and several high peaks in Sequoia this summer to help train for Whitney. Check out my Horseshoe Meadows and Cottonwood Pass Hike on this blog. Good spot to stay the night before the big one...

  4. According to Skyhiker from a comment on another post, it's a Velvet Wasp...

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