Hanging around north of LA waiting on my upcoming Channel Island getaway has given me time to explore the area, specifically Ventura County’s cool and “mostly affordable” (at least by SoCal standards) Regional Parks. But there are a couple of tricky rules that could potentially cause a snag.
Many county parks are reservable, but only two weeks out. Once you are within those two weeks, it’s a matter of “first come / first served.” This can be problematic on the weekends, as there is no way to tell if spots are reserved until you arrive. And it’s not a case like some FC/FS locations where “once you’re in, you’re in.” If you arrive on a Thursday and the space is reserved for the weekend, you’re out of luck, even if you occupy a site. Being such a densely populated urban area, weekends are nearly impossible, while during the week, you’ll have the park all to yourself.
Since I had plans to visit the Reagan Library, there was no better spot than Tapo Canyon Regional Park in Simi Valley, part of the Ventura County Park System. I arrived at this spot late on a Saturday afternoon figuring it was futile, with the nearby Moose Lodge as my “Plan B” since all LA area Walmarts are off limits for overnights. But they had one space open. At $37 per night, it was a little over my budget, but the full hookups including sewer were a treat, and on a Saturday night, I was glad to get it! And the park is less than 10 miles to the Presidential library, and only 3 miles from restaurants, shopping, and a movie cineplex!
Though one would never know conveniences were so close, as the park is up Tapo Canyon Road, nestled just outside the canyon. The park is very small with only 16 sites, all lined up in true RV Park fashion, but my row backed up to a small creek. The cacophony of frog songs at night was mesmerizing. I loved falling asleep listening to them “talk” to each other up and down the creek.
Just 1.5 miles up the road is a trail head that leads to miles of multi-use trails. A labyrinth winds through the canyon with intersecting trails, none marked with directional signs. I loved hiking the “double lollipop” loop through Tapos and Chivos Canyons, with a couple of spurs up to the top for 360° views, for a total of 8 miles. But I would not have had the confidence to complete the loops without the help of this website. Gotta love the name….”Nobody hikes in LA.” LOL!
Another potential “gotcha” with the Ventura County Parks is visitors are not allowed to stay in two parks back to back without a 7 day lapse. This applies to the inland parks also, not just the beach parks. This was a big concern as I only realized it AFTER I had paid my money and was “in the system” in Tapo Canyon with my next planned stop being Rincon Parkway, another Ventura County Park. Thankfully, this rule appears to be geared toward preventing locals from “squatting” in the county parks. I decided to ask for forgiveness rather than permission when moving on to Rincon Parkway, hoping they didn’t notice. Thankfully it wasn’t an issue, but technically, they could have denied my stay.
Having read about Rincon Parkway on several blogs and seen Wheelin’ Nina’s video, I knew it was a place that I would love. She had me at “The sound of the ocean is very *loud* (very!)” The park is ALL first come/first serve, so no trouble getting booted out of a site by a reservation like Tapo Canyon. But the downside is that the park has a 5 day stay limit at this time of year. It is blanketed by two other Ventura County Parks, Faria and Hobson, but if the “no back to back” rule is enforced, one must leave the area for a 7 day period before staying at another Ventura County park.
Five nights was just about enough to establish a deep seated addiction to the sound of those crashing waves lulling me to sleep each night, and gently waking me up with the incoming tide each morning. The rhythmic crashing followed by the quiet lull, then the sucking sound as the new wave mounted was hypnotic, and I miss it. The Winnie parked by the sea was that “beach house” I always wanted….for five nights anyway. My neighbor and I even saw two gray whales on their migration close to the shoreline.
Some might not care for the “end to end” parking along Rincon Parkway. It’s right alongside Hwy 1, which is right alongside a railroad track. And with only 40 ft of space allotted as the meat in the sandwich between neighbors, it could be brutal for those with rear views. But I “live” on one side of the Winnie. My bed looks out the passenger side, as does my kitchen, door, etc. I never look out the front or back windows. And with the ocean roar, I couldn’t hear them either. So it felt remarkably private to be in the most crowded setting yet. Both other county parks, Faria and Hobson, as well as Emma Wood State Beach offer more traditional side by side parking, which seemed much more claustrophobic to me, for a higher price.
Ventura is a great place to explore. Lots of conveniences nearby, as well as seaside attractions….if, that is, I could only pull myself away from the View with the view!
What a fabulous collection of gorgeous photos! I’m reading this on an iPhone, and the mountains look almost 3-D. What beautiful areas! You’ve really brought them to life.
Nice photos !! I want to back to West coast !!!
Rincon Park looks fabulous, a great “beach house” location.
Ahhhh…you’ve taken me back to our week by the ocean. Didn’t know about that back-to-back rule though, so that’s good (albeit annoying) info.
Sure was hard to believe you were anywhere near LA in your beginning photos! Wilderness! Crashing waves make for a deep sleep:)
Love the sound of waves to lull me to sleep….or frogs are good, too. I agree, the California County Parks are terrific! We use them in San Diego and have also stayed in them in central California. I hope to not have to ever stay in LA, but if we do, then I know where we’ll go.
We were apparently at Faria the same time you were on the Rincon. That Airstream left the day before we did. We are just out of your Faria photo to the right in a Chinook. We also saw the whales and dolphins, which felt to be just 100 years behind our rig, but were probably a bit more distant. We ate at the snack shack several times and loved it. We liked Faria because we couldn’t hear the 101 traffic at all and we only knew a train passed because of the vibration….we couldn’t hear the engine. Amazing! We lucked into Faria. We then lucked into Steckel Park in Santa Paula and, like you, got the very last site on a Friday. We also didn’t know about the 7 day wait between parks. Steckel had an aviary and free roaming peacocks! What a find! We’re back home in San Diego now, but both of those parks go on our list of places to return to…..off season.
The ocean side parking looks so wonderful. I think we’re nine inches too long to park there, which is a complete and total bummer.
Oh yeah, the sound of those waves, mesmerizing, I want to go back.
Glad to see you found some hiking trails while in the LA area. As I was reading this post, I found myself saying that I couldn’t do this hike alone without some good direction or I would be hopelessly wandering in the wilderness forever. Good website should we find ourselves in the area. Your photos as always are lovely Suzanne.
Kind of reminds me or camping in northern CA at Orik right along Hwy 1. I love to listen to the waves but not so much play in them. And when the wind blows in the pines on the North Rim it sounds like crashing waves.
I’d always thought the side parking was horrible, but when you compare your photos of the slot parking to curb parking, curb parking seems to come out the winner