Rose Valley

Rose Valley is a recreation area in the Los Padres National Forest north of Ojai, California. When you reach Rose Valley sign, you are 3,400 feet above sea level and about 14 miles from downtown Ojai along Highway 33, the Maricopa Highway. Rose Valley is an open and desolate place, the few houses along this route are miles away, and there are few cars passing by. Occasionally, there is an auto club going by (I once saw a Ferrari auto club of all vintages come by), and packs of motorcycles, but nearly as much as Highway 150 going to Lake Casitas. This is a ride where you should be prepared, bring plenty of water and a tool kit.From downtown Ojai, take the Maricopa Highway toward the mountains.

After 3 miles of rolling hills, the climbing begins next to the Ojai Quarry. The start of the climb starts out at 10 to 12% for about a half a mile. It's intimidating, but it is short, and it is the longest steep section of the entire climb. The rest of the climb is between 4 to 8% the rest of the way. Look ahead for a white guardrail, that is where the grade tails off. For the first 6 miles, the road is at the bottom of the gorge, so cell service is spotty to nonexistent. The road follows the North Fork of the Matilija Creek, and it crosses and recrosses the road several times. The gurgling of the creek is a nice part of the ride. Matilija Creek, itself, is currently trapped behind Matilija Dam in the canyon to the west. Matilija Lake is silted in, and the dam is slated for demolition soon.
Next along the road are three tunnels. The first tunnel is the longest, about 100 feet long, but is has a curve in it. I keep envisioning a car plunging from bright sunshine to darkness and a curving tunnel
with a cyclist in it. So I usually listen for cars and pass through when there no cars coming. There is so little traffic; I never have to wait. And then I hustle my way to the sunshine on the other end. a mile later, there are two more tunnels, but they are short and straight.Wheeler Gorge Campground is just beyond the tunnels. There is no running water here; bottled water can be bought at the Park Visitor Center on the right-hand side of the road. There is an outhouse on the other side.Once you pass the campground and the Fire Station, the road begins to climb slowly up the side of the hills and the trees go away. Now the grade stays very steady at 4 to 6% for the next few miles. The road twists around here, doubling back on itself. You can look far down
on the road, you were just on.
Out in the open country, you keep climbing with the occasional hawk overhead.Depending on the time of year, it could be 20 to 30 degrees warmer here than by the Pacific Ocean, 20 miles away. There usually is a breeze going up the valley as a tailwind. On the way up, it helps to survey the opposite roadside, keeping an eye out for rockfalls and sand. The highway is very well maintained by CalTrans, so there are no potholes or patches. But rocks and gravel do occasionally fall on the road and coming back downhill at speed and hitting a rock would be bad.
With a little over 1 mile to go, you can look up ahead and see two levels of the road above the level that you're on. It's shown in the first picture above. Slowly, you
make your way around the end of the canyon and climb to a nice vista point, and then it's the last half mile to the top. Once you see a tree and an intersection you have reached Rose Valley Recreation Area turnoff. The Rose Valley Recreation Area itself is a few miles down the road to the right. Riding up to here is a Category 1 climb. It is long and usually very quiet. To capture the first picture, you have to keep going for another mile or so on the Maricopa Highway. You can look back down the valley and see the road and in the distance, you can see the Pacific Ocean, when there is no marine layer. You can keep going, Pine Mountain, at 5,000 feet is 15 more miles away and to get a water refill, you have to go to the Ozena Station before Lockwood Valley Road. The Ranger station is after a 7-mile descent from Pine Mountain. It has the only free, potable water for miles. Beyond the station, at
Lockwood Valley Road, you will see a road sign saying that it 35 miles to Maricopa and 37 miles to Ojai. This gives you perspective as how much you are in the middle of nowhere.
From Rose Valley, the way back is easy, it's all downhill. If the headwind is not too strong, then you can easily get back to the Ojai Quarry going 20 to 30+ miles per hour. The turns are sweeping and not hairpin, and there are some straight sections, so it is easy to scoot back quickly. Please watch the tunnel. Remember that is curved. It is easy to fly into the tunnel doing 25 miles per hour, forget about the curve and find yourself in the wrong lane in the dark. Then it just a matter of tackling the rollers back into Ojai.