Special Places

Jacinto Reyes National Scenic Byway

Location and General Description

The Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway traverses the Ojai Ranger District and part of Mt. Pinos Ranger District of the Los Padres NF and is entirely within Ventura County. The byway is bordered by 30 miles of national forest and 7 miles of private land within the forest boundary. About .75 mile of byway is outside the national forest.

The Reyes family was largely responsible for mapping the current highway route, in order to gain seaside access from their ranch on the Cuyama side of the mountains. For over 70 years, it has served as a valuable transportation and recreation corridor in southern California. Originally, it was known as the Maricopa Highway, and it was to be the great connection for commerce and tourism between the San Joaquin Valley and southern California. Although today it is within a two hour drive of 25 million people, the route maintains its feeling of spacious solitude and isolation.

The byway travels through some of the most picturesque and diverse terrain in southern California. Spectacular vistas greet you along the entire route, and yet you are also treated to "close encounters" with beautiful cliffs, rock formations, and lush riparian areas. The unique geology, geomorphology, plant, and animal life of the area captures the interest and imagination of the casual recreationist and scientist alike. The corridor provides access to four Congressional designated wildernesses.

  • Highway 33 is a state highway, maintained by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
  • Highway 33 is both a National Forest Scenic Byway, and a State Scenic Highway. This means that it traverses a scenic corridor of outstanding aesthetic, cultural, historic, and interpretive values.

State and Federal Scenic Byway

The two designations of the Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway apply to roughly the same stretch of road, with a minor difference as follows:
The "National Forest Scenic Byway" section is a 37-mile segment of State Highway 33, extending from the edge of the city of Ojai (milepost 12) to the junction of Lockwood Valley Road at the Ozena Fire Station (at approximately milepost 49). The southern terminus is at the intersection of Highway 33 and El Roblar Road, about .75 miles outside the national forest boundary. The northern terminus is approximately eight miles inside the forest boundary.

The "State Scenic Highway" designation begins at milepost 17.5 (near Wheeler Hot Springs) to the Santa Barbara County line at milepost 57.5.

Areas of Activity

Along the byway, there are three primary recreational activity areas where a majority of the visitation occurs. These provide experiences and facilities related to the values of the scenic byway.

1. The Matilija Canyon Road -The Matilija Canyon Road travels primarily through private land and the Matilija Environmental Science Area (MESA) before ending at a trailhead to the Matilija Wilderness. The predominant use is people who are accessing the Matilija Wilderness and other non-wilderness trails. Much of the use is day use. Mountain biking is a popular activity.
The road is an important for wilderness and non-wilderness access.

2. Rose Valley Road (a.k.a. Sespe Road) - This is the most heavily used activity area along the corridor, and includes two campgrounds, three small lakes, a shooting range (operated under special use permit), several hiking trails, striking views of the Piedra Blanca area, and a trailhead to the Sespe Wilderness.

Larger family groups frequent this corridor and enjoy overnight camping. Many different activities are available here. They include hiking, fishing in the Rose Valley Lakes, target shooting, horseback riding, and biking. This is the most heavily used horseback riding area.

3. Pine Mountain Road (a.k.a. Reyes Peak Road) - Located at the highest point along the byway, the Pine Mountain Road accesses three rustic campgrounds and three trails, one of which enters the Sespe Wilderness en route to Reyes Peak (elevation 7,510'). From the Pine Mountain Road, visitors have expansive views to the Cuyama Badlands and Chumash Wilderness to the north, and the Dick Smith, Matilija, and Sespe Wildernesses to the west, south, and east.

In addition to camping and hiking in the Sespe Wilderness, this area is also used by hang gliders as a launching area. There is also some horse use, but this activity is limited due to the lack of available horse trailer parking.

Predominant Uses

The most predominant use of the Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway is driving for pleasure - a primary reason for its special designation. The route is especially popular with motorcyclists, both individuals and clubs.

Other uses include recreation use (hiking, camping, target shooting, photography, fishing and water play, snow play and rock climbing, grazing, and scientific study (especially geology).

Scenic

Piedra Blanca

The Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway is a 38-mile segment of State Highway 33, extending from the edge of the Ojai Valley to the junction of Lockwood Valley Road in Ventura County. The route is known as the Maricopa Highway, and it is the connector for commerce and tourism between the San Joaquin Valley and southern California. Although today it is a popular scenic drive, the route maintains its feeling of solitude and isolation.

The byway travels through some of the most picturesque and diverse terrain in southern California. Spectacular vistas greet you along the entire route, and yet you are also treated to "close encounters" with beautiful cliffs, rock formations, and lush riparian areas. The unique geology, geomorphology, plant and animal life of the area capture the interest of the casual recreationists and the scientist alike.

Looking to the south from the byway, one can glimpse the Pacific Ocean; to the east lie the Cuyama Badlands. Highlights along the route include (starting from Ojai):

  • Wheeler Gorge - Here, the route passes through three tunnels and a narrow canyon, snaking along the foot of sharp cliffs and a boulder-strewn creek. Water seeping from the cliff faces sustains beautiful maidenhair fern, mosses and orchids.
  • Wheeler GorgeBellyache Springs - Legend has it that the springs here received this name because early travelers were so thirsty by the time they got there that they over drank and got bellyaches. One Forest Service legend is that early rangers met here on horse back to discuss, or belly-ache about Forest Service issues.
  • Peidra Blanca - Dramatic white sandstone outcroppings come into view as the highway drops into the Sespe Creek watershed. Motorists are treated to sweeping vistas of the Sespe Wilderness.
  • Sespe Gorge - At these impressive vertical escarpments, rock climbers can often be found practicing their bouldering and rappelling skills.
  • Pine Mountain Ridge - As you climb in elevation to 5,020 feet, the landscape changes from chaparral to large old-growth Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine in this popular recreation area.