October 1, 2020

A Day Trip from LA to Ojai

Arcade and the Post Office tower. Photo by T. Worrick, courtesy of Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce

Ojai is a laid-back, artsy town just over 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles, in a valley in the Topatopa Mountains. A drive out here to take in the surrounding nature and wander the charming town center makes for a great day trip from LA (approx. 1.5h). Here’s where to hike, eat, and shop in Ojai.

To help combat the spread of Covid-19, some venues below may be closed or by appointment or reservation only. Note that masks are required in all venues except when you’re eating.

Things are changing rapidly. We do our best to update openings, closures, and hours. All information published below was correct at the time of writing.
Ojai Farmer’s Market. Photo courtesy of Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce

If you’re planning to hike today, don sneakers and head out of LA on either 101 N or 126 W, driving west and then north to Ojai. Depending on what time you left LA, coffee might be in order on arrival. Park, then grab a cup (and use the bathroom) at Beacon Coffee (you can pre-order here) or Love Social Cafe. If you’re ready for brunch, this is a solid place to sit outdoors and munch on breakfast burritos and tacos. If it’s a Sunday, swing by Ojai Farmers’ Market, open 9am-1pm.

Bart's Books. Photo courtesy of Bart's Books

Walk over to Bart’s Books, the world’s largest outdoor bookstore and an Ojai mainstay since 1964. Browing the 130,000 books at this shop in the fresh mountain air is a lovely way to spend time. Bart’s is open daily from 9am until sunset.

Porch Gallery Ojai. Film courtesy of Porch Gallery Ojai Ojai is known for its art scene, so make time to visit a few of its galleries (hours vary, but most are open Saturday). Porch Gallery Ojai showcases contemporary art in all mediums, and Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts is the former home of avant-garde artist Beatrice Wood, who died in 1998 at age 105.

With a few new reads in hand, walk 10 minutes to Middle-Eastern leaning restaurant Ojai Rotie. This is a marvelous place to pick up delectable picnic fare to take on your hike in Los Padres National Forest. Go in for the rotie chicken meal (a free-range rotisseried bird with sides like cardamom carrot and red quinoa and sublime Lebanese flatbread) and donate one to Help of Ojai, which supports those experiencing food insecurity. You can also make a substantial and colorful meal of picnic sides like golden caramelized cauliflower with turmeric or purslane tabouli. The brownies here, made with Guittard chocolate, walnuts, and sea salt, are dense and rich, the perfect reward after a challenging hike (or a pleasant ramble in the woods).

Los Padres National Forest. © Jennifer Wan/iStock

From Ojai Roti, drive into Los Padres National Forest ($5 day pass required). There are a number of trailheads less than 10 minutes’ drive from Ojai—Valley View Shelf Rd., Cozy Dell, and Ventura River Preserve - Meyer Rd. This is an enormous park, a million acres, with more than 300 miles of trails, waterfalls and streams, fields of wildflowers, and hundreds of animals, among them bluebirds, cottontail rabbits, and barn owls. Breathe in fresh mountain air as you traverse hiking paths and break for a picnic (eat in designated picnic area at Piedra Blanca Trailhead, and remember the golden rule of hiking: carry in, carry out.)

Summer Camp. Photo courtesy of Summer Camp

Back in Ojai proper, pop into a few of the boutiques in town, like Summer Camp (home goods and accessories with fun SoCal vibes), Fig Curated Living (ceramics, books, and folksy kids' toys), casual womenswear shop Priscilla in Ojai (cute bits and bobs for parents and kids) and Ojai Lingerie (lovely size-inclusive loungewear and undergarments.) Note that Ojai Lingerie is currently closed but will do same or next-day delivery in Ojai.

Photo by Ethan Koerten, courtesy of Ojai Beverage Company

Cap off your day in Ojai at Ojai Beverage Company, a treasure trove of dozens of local craft beers from breweries like Leashless Brewing in Ventura, Captain Fatty’s in Goleta, and Seismic Brewing in Sebastopol. The food menu is tasty pub grub—fish tacos, burgers and sandwiches, fried bits.

Nocciola. Photo courtesy of Nocciola

Also nearby are Italian bistro Nocciola, Hakane Sushi, and pan-Californian joint The Nest Ojai.

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Photo by Tablet

If you want to stay the night

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa: Despite the name, this is no wee inn but rather an expansive Spanish Colonial-revival style resort with 235 rooms and 65 suites. It’s well known for its spa and golf course and for its packed events calendar—think bike tours, surf lessons, beekeeping and honey tasting. Though the hotel is a favorite of couples, it’s family friendly, with an arts and crafts hour held every morning and a pool where kids can splash about wildly. From $459

Hero image: Topatopa Mountains behind fruit orchards, Ojai Valley. © Motionshooter/iStock

Going to San Francisco? Visit Half Moon Bay or go up the coast to Mendocino.

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