For a riverside bike ride that combines art, industrial grit, coffeehouse charm, and no cars (!), saddle up for a 19-mile round-trip roll on the most scenic portion of the Ventura River Trail. The paved bike and walking path—supported by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
—runs along the former Ventura and Ojai Valley railroad, paralleling the Ventura River much of the time. Eclectic surroundings include rotating oil derricks and intermittent bronze sculptures like a poinsettia and a brown pelican. Ride the most scenic part by starting at Foster Park, 6 miles north of downtown Ventura. Head east, pedaling inland toward Los Padres National Forest. Dense sycamore and oak trees give some shade to the winding path. In less than a mile the trail diverts north, disappearing behind rural housing and shielding views of Highway 33. Near the 2-mile mark, pass through an oak grove and then cross a low-lying cement-and-railroad-tie bridge where a creek meets the Ventura River. The trail snakes across the seasonally dry riverbed and past equestrian trails. Bask in full views of the Red and Sulphur mountains. At about 8 miles, the trail sneaks back toward the highway on the approach to Ojai. The end point is grassy Libby Park, where you can also access downtown Ojai. Returning the way you came, put some buzz into your bike ride at the adobe-style Full of Beans Coffeehouse
, right along the route. Kick back on their spacious garden patio and refuel with a milkshake and freshly baked pastries. Sweet ride!
TIP: Ventura Bike Depot (239 West Main Street in Ventura near the Highway 33 overpass) has bike rentals for $24 for half a day or rates by the hour.
To reach Foster Park, take US 101 to SR 33 North. Take the Casitas Vista Rd. exit and turn right onto Ventura Ave. (follow the sign for Casitas Rd.) Turn right at the well-marked Foster Park. Parking is $5 in the lot or free underneath the highway overpass. Full of Beans is along the bike path outside of downtown Ojai at 11534 N. Ventura Ave. and is dog-friendly. Contact Ventura Bike Depot at 805-340-2453. Near Ojai, the Ventura River Trail turns into the Ojai Valley Trail, which will be closed for construction at the San Antonio Creek Bridge from Oct. 10, 2011–Feb. 2012. Dog-friendly!