Wills-Rice Loop Trail is a 4.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Ojai, California that features beautiful wild flowers. The trail is rated as moderate offers a number of activity options.
The Ventura River Preserve is maintained by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. It contains a vast network of trails along the Ventura River and into the adjoining foothills. One can choose between easy, level hikes along the river channel, or one of several loop hikes with moderate elevation changes. The Wills-Rice loop hike is approximately 5 miles long, starting at the Oso Trailhead. You begin the hike at an elevation of about 700 feet. The climb is fairly gradual up to a maximum elevation of 1100 feet, whether you choose to go up Wills Canyon first (the southernmost), or Rice Canyon (the northernmost). If the weather is hot, keep in mind that Wills Canyon is by far the more shaded of the two. Shortly after leaving the parking area at the Oso Trailhead, you will arrive at the Ventura River. There will be quite a bit of water here year round, but also a lot of rocks, so crossing is not difficult. Please note that winter rains could make this crossing dangerous to impossible. Coming out of the river, the trail makes a left turn to the south. In a few hundred yards, you come to a junction: to the right is Rice Canyon, or continuing straight to parallel the river for another half mile, you will come to Wills Canyon, where trail turns westward. It's your choice on which way to make the loop, but I prefer to do the uphill part of the loop in Wills Canyon which is more shaded. Also, there are quite a few benches strategically placed in Wills Canyon which make nice rest stops. After walking about a mile up Wills Canyon, you will come to one of those benches at a trail junction. This is a beautiful place to stop and take in the lovely surroundings of the oak forest. The trail to left is the Fern Grotto trail. You will continue going straight farther up Wills Canyon. In a little less than half a mile you will arrive at another junction. The trail to the right goes through El Nido meadow, but both trails end up joining again. If you take the trail to the left, you will quickly come to another junction where you continue going straight, not taking the trail to the left which leads to the Preserve high point (1320 feet). After leaving El Nido meadow, where the two trails rejoin, you begin the steepest part of the climb, and unfortunately, you also leave the shady oak forest behind. However, soon you reach the summit and begin the descent down Rice Canyon to your starting point.
Great hike. Incredible views. The distance shows a little short, my fitbit came in at 6.75 miles.
This is a hike for any hiker, you can make it as hard or as easy as you like just remember this is Ojai and can get pretty warm in the summer. Bring water and make sure to drink it as well :-)