Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park, in the eastern Ventura County city of Moorpark, offers visitors 12.5 miles of trails in a 3,000-acre wilderness area frequented by hikers, equestrian riders, and mountain bikers. The open grasslands and deep forests are abundant with wildflowers and wildlife including rabbits, bobcats and golden eagles.
The park is underlain by complex geology ranging from deep water shale outcroppings along the top of Big Mountain, to oyster and clam rich shales and sandstones along the flanks of the Middle Ridge Fire Road. On the northern and western perimeters of the property are bright red shales which, in places, display a glassy texture - the result of years of burning organic materials trapped in the shales. On the lower slopes of the southern part of the park are flat "benches" - the remnants of old river terraces carved in fluvial sediments of Arroyo Simi and Las Posas Creek.
Happy Camp Canyon was home to several Chumash Indian groups. Later, it was part of the immense Strathearn Ranch, founded by a pioneer Simi Valley family. They ran cattle on the land and enjoyed family vacations in the back part of the canyon. You will see remnants of ranch life in the form of watering troughs, tanks and fences.
In 1990, The Conservancy began operating the 3000-acre wilderness portion of the park under an agreement with the County.
Broadway parking lot to Canyon Entrance Gate: Two and a half miles round-trip, easy. This trail connects the upper parking lot with the canyon area.
Rustic Canyon Golf Course parking lot to Canyon Entrance Gate: Two and a half miles round trip, easy. This trail connects the main lower parking lot with the canyon area. Follow dirt road on east side of canyon, past park kiosk, and past the golf course. Cross dry streambed to the west side of canyon, turn right and follow dirt road to Canyon Entrance Gate.
Canyon Gate to East Park Boundary (via the Happy Camp Fire Road): Twelve miles round-trip, moderate. This is the main hiking trail in the canyon. Begin at the gate and walk up the canyon on a sandy dirt road. After .5 mile, you will pass a large oak grove on your right. Listen for the raucous calls from families of acorn woodpeckers who frequent these groves. Continuing east, notice an outcrop of colorful yellow and red rocks on your left. These were formed from underground fires associated with the area's rich oil deposits. As you approach the spring and large grove area, please respect boundary areas and fences, which have been installed to protect sensitive wildlife habitats.
You will pass several side roads to the north which are used for power line maintenance. Follow the main canyon road to the park boundary (about six miles from the canyon gate) or return at any point along the road. At about the four-mile point, there is a fork in the road. The left fork, initially up a small hill, will take you to the end of the park (about two miles). The right fork, on the flat, will take you to a picnic area (Mower Grove), on nearby right, and then to a steep switch-back trail to top of Big Mountain, connecting with Middle Ridge Fire Road. Returning via same Happy Camp Fire Road (on canyon bottom) maintains moderate level hike. Returning via Middle Ridge Fire Road is strenuous (See South Ridge Loop description).
South Ridge Loop (via the Middle Ridge Fire Road): Eight miles round-trip, strenuous. Begin at the canyon gate; about 100 yards beyond, turn right and follow a dirt road up to the ridge top. Continue east along the Big Mountain Ridge to a junction, enjoying views on your right of Moorpark, Simi Valley, the Santa Monica Mountains, and all the way to Channel Islands. At the junction, turn north and drop down into Happy Camp Canyon. When you reach an old corral (and picnic area), turn west and walk back to the entrance gate on Happy Camp Canyon Fire Road (in the canyon bottom), approximately four miles.
Directions to Upper Parking Area (primarily for equestrians) 14105 Broadway, Moorpark. From the 101 and 118 Freeways, take to the 23 north, exit Los Angeles Avenue. Go west to 3rd signal (Moorpark Avenue), turn right. Go 2.6 miles beyond the railroad crossing to a sharp left turn. DO NOT TURN LEFT but continue straight and make an immediate right turn on to Broadway Avenue.
Directions to Lower Parking Area (primarily for hikers/bikers): From the 118 Freeway, exit Princeton Avenue. Head north to Campus Park Drive and turn left. Proceed 0.5 mile to Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park/Rustic Canyon Golf Course sign and gates. Go though gates and follow paved road to parking lot and staging area about one mile into park. (Guided hikes all stage from this lot.)
Parking: Ample parking is available
NOTE: Because of sensitive habitat, no dogs are allowed past Canyon Entrance Gate. Dogs on leash are OK between either parking lot and Canyon Entrance Gate.