Ocean's Edge

Hiking Ocean's Edge Trail in Emma Wood State Beach in Ventura County

Tightly wedged beside the 101 Freeway and downtown Ventura, and divided by the Southern Pacific Railroad, Emma Wood State Beach is mostly known for RV camping. Meh. But wait … beyond the motor homes and rail tracks lies a little gem! The sandy Ocean’s Edge Trail has a cobblestone beach, sand dunes, riparian wetlands, and remnants of history. The 1.5-mile out-and-back hike starts from the group campground at Emma Wood’s south end. Head southwest under a railroad bridge on a paved path that reverts to sand and curves left, down coast. Continue along a wide cobblestone beach and the verdant Ventura River plain. At a marshy pond, the trail forks. Stay right to hug the rocky shore, entering deeper sand on a stone-lined path beside low, windswept dunes patched with sand verbena and ice plant.

Cobblestones give way to sand as you reach the mouth of the Ventura River. Near the surf line, two weathered concrete cylinders are partially submerged under a wide beach berm, remnants of “Panama mount” gun batteries installed in 1942 to protect the coast after a Japanese submarine reportedly shelled Ellwood oil field near Santa Barbara, the first attack on the continental U.S. during WWII. Before heading back, explore the fringe of Seaside Wilderness Park, a wildly overgrown riparian wetland, where a lagoon skirted by giant reeds is perfect for sighting wading birds like the snowy egret and great blue heron. Palms and Monterey pines visible here were planted long ago, vestiges of an idealistic planned park that never panned out.

Gallery image 1 of 7
Gallery image 2 of 7
Gallery image 3 of 7
Gallery image 4 of 7
Gallery image 5 of 7
Gallery image 6 of 7
Gallery image 7 of 7

BEER BONUS: Post hike, head to the tasting room at Topa Topa Brewing, named for the local mountain range. Open since June 2015 in downtown Ventura, this watering hole should fit like a glove, with the brewer’s nature-loving philosophy and outdoors-themed beers, including Chief Peak IPA (brimming with “piney hops”); Flatlands, an effervescent saison; and Weekender, a delicious session IPA. The brewery also hosts food trucks in its parking lot every week.

Heading north on the 101 Freeway, exit California St. in downtown Ventura, turning right onto California St., then left onto Main St. After passing over a river bridge, park for free along W. Main Street near its intersection with Park Access Rd. From here, walk south under the freeway to reach Emma Wood’s south-end entrance for the Ventura River Group Camp. Trailhead is just past a picnic area. No dogs on trails. Day-use vehicle fee is $10. No car? No problem! Take Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles to Ventura Station, just a block and a half from Topa Topa and under a mile from Emma Wood State Beach (entered in this scenario via Surfers Point on the beach or by walking west on Main Street). No dogs on trails at Emma Wood State Beach. Topa Topa Brewing is dog-friendly!

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Shakespeare Bridge + Secret Garden

    Romeo, Romeo, we all know how this goes, but do you know how to go to the Shakespeare Bridge and secret gardens? We’ve got the online do-it-yourself hiking route for you.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Malibu Hike, Canyon, Beach

    Get a highlight reel of the Malibu coastline on a 2.25-mile hike through Leo Carrillo State Park, featuring a canyon climb, Pacific panorama, and a beautiful beach.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    The Highway of Waterfalls

    Ready for a totally refreshing road trip? Hit the Highway of Waterfalls! This stretch of road in Southern Oregon travels alongside the wild and scenic section of the North Umpqua River—and more than a dozen waterfalls.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Suspension Bridge Surprise

    This urban hike in San Diego connects two gardens by way of two spectacular bridges, including the awesome Spruce Street Suspension Bridge built in 1912.

    View

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Get Outdoors In Sonoma County This Fall

    Sonoma County's great outdoors includes hike-in beaches, hidden redwoods, and a new zipline-to-treehouse stay. Here are 5 of the best ways to explore outdoors in Sonoma County.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Ride and Seek

    Oceanside breezes, beautiful beaches, a car-free pathway for biking, and beer at the end: You’re on a roll! The San Mateo Coast was made for beach hopping and beer tasting …

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Redwoods, Beach, Banner View!

    Explore among the redwoods in Henry Cowell State Park on this magical 5-mile hike featuring the big trees, a beach, and a beautiful view from an observation deck.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    GOAT Coastal Hike + Sunset

    GOAT (greatest of all time) Sonoma Coast experience? Hike the Kortum Trail, wine taste on a patio overlooking the Russian River, and catch a sensational sunset at, yep, Goat Rock Beach.

    View