The Topatopa bluffs run from West to East, serving as a gigantic reflector for the Ojai valley. They are a numinous presence in much of the surrounding county. I can see them from my house. This weekend, however, is the first time I’ve hiked anywhere close to them.
To hike the Sisar Canyon trail you take Highway 150 from Santa Paul (or Ojai if your so inclined) and turn North on Sisar Road. Travel up the road a mile or so, continue bearing right where the asphalt ends. You’ll come to a gate.
The first three and a half miles are well-traveled road. There are two water crossings in the first mile or two, an easy rock-hop to get across. I was a little surprised to meet a man driving a late model Subaru down the hill, but there is a residence a few miles back.
The road is popular with mountain bikers and equestrians, so keep your eyes and ears open on the blind curves. It’s a two mile hike to the overlook that commands a view of the Oxnard plain on one hand, and Topa Topa on the other. Another mile and a half you come to the head of Trail 21W08 which goes up to Sespe Creek. The sign is shot up and naked of paint, but you can read the raised lettering to see that Sespe is some 13 miles beyond. Closer is White Ledge Camp, a shady campsite with firebox. The trail to White Ledge is a long half mile. It looked to me like a trail crew had been this way just a few days earlier. Branches were trimmed and the path was smooth and level with some fresh trenches for runoff. There are a few narrow spots, not a place I’d want to go on horseback, especially not after a heavy rain. But it was clear that someone had done just that–hoofprints sunk deep in the trail near some very steep drop-offs.
At one spot there is a huge slag heap of rosey sandstone. It looks as if someone had been quarrying the area. I’d be interested to know what cause this, it certainly looks man-made.
All in all the hike from the gate to White Ledge is an eight mile round trip.
Addendum: Sometimes you’ll find this hike by searching for Topa Topa Mountain. On maps it is listed as Topatopa Mountain. It’s a little confusing, seeing that place names in Ojai are listed as Topa Topa.
Originally published March 7, 2007