Rose Valley Falls was perhaps one of the easier waterfalls that we’ve visited, especially considering it was near the rugged expanse of the Sespe Wilderness north of Ojai. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising to see that this was also the type of excursion where we tended to see families making a visit. Perhaps the only caveat to this place was that it probably stretched the limit on what could reasonably be done in a day from Los Angeles given that the falls was probably closer to Santa Barbara than downtown LA. Indeed, this was one of those places where the next time we go to Santa Barbara or decide to do this place as a day trip again, we’d bring our daughter along.
When we first visited this waterfall, it wasn’t lost upon us that this was one of those limestone-type waterfalls that seemed similar in character to say Nojoqui Falls and Limekiln Falls. With its accessible lower drop perhaps tumbling some 80ft or more, it was definitely one of the more scenic local waterfalls to be around. However, we also noticed that there was a plunging upper tier of the Rose Valley Falls, but that tier would only flow impressively immediately after a clearing storm that had pretty significant precipitation. We were able to see the upper tier in such a state back in 2010, but on our most recent trip in March 2017, it didn’t flow quite as well as it followed nearly a month after the last of nearly historically significant rains that had battered much of the state during the Winter months.
The hike to the base of the falls was a gently uphill 0.4 miles each way on a well-established trail with a stream crossing or two. We were able to catch glimpses of the upper waterfall from the initial sections of the trail. However, as we got closer to the falls, the views of that upper waterfall became more obstructed. For the best views of the upper tier, we were able to see it from the Rose Valley Campground area as well as the Rose Valley Road. After barely 15-20 minutes on the trail, which passed by some minor cascades and waterfalls (each with steep informal scrambling paths to access them), we’d eventually get right up to the base of Rose Valley Falls.
Most of the views of the falls were obstructed by trees until we got right up to its base. During our first two visits here, we lingered around just to enjoy the water running over the moss-covered wall while also growing the underlying rock as the waters were apparently rich in calcium carbonate (i.e. limestone). But it was that limestone quality that also prompted locals to show us (on our third visit here) that it was possible to crawl beneath one of the small openings of the bottom of the limestone, which then went into a tight cave where we could crawl in on one side of the falls and emerge out the other side of the falls. With a headlamp or strong flashlight, one can see the travertine formations within the mini “cave”, and one of the locals even said there were bats and large cave spiders in there as well. Given how wet the crawl spaces were, this would probably be better suited to film on a GoPro instead of risking water damage to the digital SLR camera.
First thing’s first. To get to Rose Valley Falls from LA, you have to drive north on the 101 Freeway towards its junction with Hwy 33 near Oxnard (between Camarillo and Santa Barbara). It would take us roughly 90 minutes of driving from Los Angeles to Ojai without traffic.
Then, you have to drive north on Hwy 33, which starts off as a highway before becoming a mix of streets with traffic lights and rural roads (actually even coinciding with Hwy 150) en route to Ojai. Once in the village, you turn left at the traffic light junction with Maricopa Highway. Then, you drive the next 15 miles or so along the winding and rockfall-prone Maricopa Highway (Hwy 33) into Los Padres National Forest.
Along the way, you can purchase an Adventure Pass at the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center. All parked vehicles are supposed to display this pass, and from what we could tell, this was the most obvious place to purchase it (we didn’t see a place to purchase one near the Rose Valley Campground).
After around 15 miles, you turn right at the signpost for the Rose Valley Campground and Piedras Blancas. Then continue along this road for the next 3-4 miles towards a 4-way stop sign intersection. If you miss this intersection and see the Rose Valley Gun Club, then you went too far. Turning right at the 4-way intersection, you drive a little less than a mile further into the Rose Valley Campground area where there’s day-use parking area near Campsite 3 and the trail begins besides Campsite 4.
En route to the campsite area, you may be able to spot the Upper Falls if you’re timing’s right.
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