Rose Valley Falls is a magnificent two-tier 300-foot waterfall located on the west end of the Topatopa Mountains in Los Padres National Forest. Rose Valley Falls is the tallest waterfall in the range and while it is an easy hike to the base of the 100-foot tall lower tier of the waterfall (0.8 miles round trip with 150 feet of elevation gain), it is adventure to reach the more impressive upper tier.
A half-mile gradual trail leads to the base of the lower falls. Bays and oaks provide enjoyable shade along a straightforward track. The lower falls is short and pleasant, but the upper falls is long and impressive. However, much like Escondido Falls in Malibu, the trail from the lower falls to the upper is difficult and unmaintained.
There are numerous footpaths that bold hikes have created to get above the lower falls. This is because there isn’t really a good route up. Exercise caution when attempting to reach the upper falls as it requires a good deal of scrambling. If it is above your skill or comfort level, stay behind and relax by the lower falls.
The most obvious route is to the left of the lower falls. Cross the dirt bank along a thin footpath. From there follow the ridgeline up through the brush. Catch your breath when you reach the top of the rise, where the stunning upper falls is in sight. Carefully descend the slope of gravel scree down to the creek and boulder up to the foot of the falls.
In the summer, the water trickles down the long elegant black rock. The falls are enjoyable then, but early spring is the best time to see this waterfall at its boldest.
To get to the trailhead: Take the 101 Freeway to Ventura and head inland up Route 33 to Ojai. Continue another fifteen miles past Ojai into the mountains to the Sespe Road turnoff. There will be a sign for Rose Valley Falls. Drive 3 more miles and turn right on Chief Peak Road, which ends at the trailhead at Rose Valley Campground after half a mile. Display your adventure pass and start up the trail.
Campground address: Rose Valley Lake Road, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA 93023
Campground coordinates: 34.531702, -119.182896 (34° 31′ 54.12″N 119° 10′ 58.42″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Central Coast trails and campgrounds.
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There is a free first-come first-serve campground right at the trailhead where nine sites for car campers are circled close together in a field. Rose Valley Campground sports views of the falls but lacks privacy. Not far away there is another small free site, Middle Lion Campground, that offers more shade and privacy. A bit farther to the east is the Sespe Wilderness where backcountry camping is free and easy. If you intend to explore either of these options, arrive early or off weekend. Late comes looking to camp will end up down the mountain at Wheeler Gorge Campground where the going rate is $20 a night (and $5 for addition vehicles). Consult the Forest Service website for more camping options.