Central Coast Birding Trail

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Ventura County Local Sites

Originally compiled by: Peg Stevens

Ventura County provides many recreational opportunities in a beautiful natural setting. Good birding is one of the Central Coast’s finest recreational features.

The Central Coast is strategically located on the Pacific Flyway and provides habitat to many resident and migratory birds. This page is your guide to the Central Coast Birding Trail in Ventura County. A checklist is also available for purchase at selected locations along the Central Coast Birding Trail. When birding, please respect private property and be careful not to disturb birds. Wildlife and natural areas lure visitors to the Central Coast and benefit local businesses. Please help us work for the preservation of habitat for birds and other wildlife.

A Free Color Brochure of the Ventura County portion of the Central Coast Birding Trail is available. See the Publications section.

NOTE: All directions start from the city of Ventura. Click on the following links for further information.

Arroyo Verde City Park, Ventura Pine Mountain
Camarillo Grove County Park, Camarillo

Camarillo Regional Park
Rancho Sierra Vista – Satwiwa
Camino Real Park, Ventura Rocky Peak Park, Simi Valley
Canada Larga Road Santa Clara River Estuary and McGrath State Beach
Happy Camp, Moorpark Santa Paula Canyon and Steckel Park
La Jolla Canyon Sycamore Canyon
Lake Casitas Ventura River Estuary, River Trail
Lake Piru Park and Campground Ventura Water Treatment Plant – Wildlife Ponds
Mt. Pinos Area Wheeler Canyon Rd. and Aliso Canyon Rd.
Mugu Rock Overlook-Mugu Lagoon Wheeler Gorge Campground
Ormond Beach/Pt. Hueneme Beach  

Santa Clara River Estuary and McGrath State Beach

Services: Restrooms, Interpretive Center, Parking, Fee - McGrath State Beach

Habitats: Coastal estuary, salt marsh, riparian.

Location: From Seaward Ave., turn south onto Harbor Blvd. Park on street just before Santa Clara Bridge. Follow trail to river bottom. If flooded, cross bridge to McGrath State Beach and park in campground or go west on Spinnaker Dr. from Harbor Blvd. To the beach and walk south along the beach to the estuary.

Highlights: terns, plovers (Least Tern, Snowy Plover nest), Peregrine Falcon (winter)

Best Season: All year.

Mugu Rock Overlook and Mugu Lagoon

(No services.) Part of Mugu State Park. Ocean backed by cliffs.

Location: Take Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1 ) south from Ventura past Naval Air Weapons Station and Las Posas Road. Lagoon on right past end of freeway. Mugu Rock is ˝ mile south of lagoon. Park in dirt areas at both sites.

Highlights: Lagoon: waders, shorebirds, ducks, terns, swifts. Rock: loons, murrelets, shearwaters, scoters, phalaropes. At sea: whales, seals in season.

Best season: Winter, spring

Ventura River Estuary, River Trail and Ocean Shore Trail

Services: Restrooms, Interpretive Center, Parking, Fee.

Habitat: Coastal strand, dunes, estuary, riparian

Location: Emma Woods Group Campground at north end of Main St. in Ventura. Park either outside alongside Main St. or in park and pay fee.

Highlights: Whimbrels, tattlers, shorebirds, ducks, shearwaters and more during migration.

Best season: Winter, early spring.

Camarillo Regional Park

Services: None

Habitat: Coastal Sage Scrub, Riparian, Pond

Location: Take Hwy 101 south from Ventura and turn off on Las Posas Road. Go right and follow the signs to California State University Channel Islands off of Lewis Road, south of Camarillo. Turn east off of Lewis road. The park is on the left after you cross the bridge on Calleguas Creek. You can park near the gate and walk in.

Highlights: Chapparal birds, Cactus Wrens, Ducks and Shorebirds on the ponds.

Best Season: Winter, early spring

Lake Casitas

Services: Restrooms, Parking, Fee or park outside main gate, Camping

Lake area, freshwater marsh, oak woodland, open meadows.

Location: From Ventura off 101, take Highway 33 north toward Ojai. Take Highway 150 west to the park entrance.

Highlights: Early summer: sparrows, grosbeaks, Clark’s and Western grebes, Osprey, Western Bluebird, raptors, woodpeckers, nuthatches.

Best season: Good all year; best winter and spring.

Canada Larga Road

No services or fee.

5-mile dead-end road.

Oak woodland/savanna, private ranch land.

Respect private property. Beware fast traffic.

Location: Take Highway 33 off 101. Exit at Canada Larga Rd. Turn right. Park off road as you bird the canyon road to end.

Highlights: Early morning or late evening for owls. Golden Eagle (regular), hawks, Mountain (rare) and Western bluebirds; variety of sparrows in winter. Yellow-breasted Chat, Phainopepla, grosbeaks, orioles (spring).

Best season: All year, especially in spring, winter.

Arroyo Verde City Park

Services: Restrooms, Parking, Fee on Sundays.

Oak woodland, grassy areas, chaparral, long broad canyon.

Location: From 101 exit at Victoria. Go north to Foothill Rd. Turn left. Continue to park entrance on right.

Highlights: kingbirds, hummingbirds, finches, orioles, raptors.

Best season: All year.

Rancho Sierra Vista – Satwiwa

Part of Mugu State Park

Services: Restrooms, Interpretive Center, Parking.

Low coastal mountain park, open meadows, chaparral and sage scrub, some riparian, small ponds.

Location: From 101 south, exit at Wendy Dr. Turn left (west) at first traffic light onto Wendy Dr. Continue to end; turn right onto Potrero Rd. and left at stop sign. Follow signs to park entrance.

Highlights: Lazuli bunting, Blue grosbeak, Savannah and grasshopper sparrows, white-tailed kite, Costa’s hummingbird, raptors, roadrunner.

Best season: All year, especially spring and winter.

Mt. Pinos Area

(elevation 8831 feet)

Services: Camping, Restrooms, Fee,  available in several area camps.

Mountain area in NE Ventura county. Good year-round birding. All areas produce good sightings, especially good in campgrounds.

Location: From Ventura (90 miles), take Highway 126 east to Castaic Junction. Merge onto Interstate 5 north; exit at Frazier Park. Take Frazier Park Road west; follow signs to Mt. Pinos. One mile past the campgrounds at the top of the mountain is a large parking lot and several trails.

Highlights: High elevation birds. White-headed woodpecker, Clar’s nutcracker, Pygmy nuthatch, Western wood pewee, Green-tailed Towhee.

Best season: All year; best in spring, summer, fall.

Ventura Water Treatment Plant – Wildlife Ponds

Open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Coastal dunes, ponds, willows, reeds, habitat varied.

Location: From Highway 101 in Ventura, take Seaward toward the beach. Turn left onto Harbor Blvd. Continue on Harbor to Spinnaker Dr. Turn right. Then turn left at 1400 Spinnaker Dr. Enter the gate at 1400 Spinnaker. Turn Right on Bovee. Then left on Stehle (note there are two signs at this spot. The sign on the left says Stehle.) Then just past the building on the right turn right on Beswick. Park off the road near the Reed Drive sign at the corner of one pond. Reed Drive goes all the way around the two western ponds. There is also one pond to the east of Beswick.

Highlights: Bonaparte’s gull, ducks, sora, common moorhen, marsh wren, phalaropes, warblers, grebes, peregrine falcon, spring swallows.

Best season: All year, especially spring, fall, winter.

La Jolla Canyon

Part of Pt. Mugu State Park

Services: Restrooms, Parking, Fee.

Coastal sage scrub, campground. Trail starts just past main parking lot, crosses the stream several times as it climbs to the end at the pond. Lower portion fairly easy; more difficult after 2nd stream crossing.

Location: From Ventura or Oxnard take Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) south past Naval Air Weapons Station and Pt. Mugu Lagoon and Rock. La Jolla is about 2.5 miles south of the rock on the left. Park outside the entrance and walk in or pay fee and drive in.

Highlights: Lazuli bunting, rock and canyon wrens, Costa’s hummingbird, swallows, orioles (spring), quail, thrashers.

Best season: Spring, early summer.

Sycamore Canyon

Part of Pt. Mugu State Park.

Services: Parking, Restrooms, Camping, Fee.

Coastal sage scrub, eucalyptus and sycamore groves. Easy walking in camp area; canyon more difficult.

Location: Follow Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) south past Mugu Rock about 4 miles. Park on highway or pay day use fee.

Highlights: thrashers, towhees, migrant flycatchers and warblers, grosbeaks, woodpeckers.

Best season: Early spring, summer, fall.

Camino Real Park

Ventura City Park (R,P)

Open grassy area ringed by pines. Eucalyptus trees along the barranca and Aurora Dr., forming north border of park, are resting places for migrating monarch butterflies in late fall and winter.

Highlights: Hot spot for migrants, vagrants, and rarities. Spotted dove and Allen’s hummingbird resident.

Best season: All year, especially early spring and winter. Early morning best.

Pine Mountain

(elevation 7,000 feet), Lockwood and Cuyama Valleys

Very few services and only in camps or at the few stores along the route. Start with a full gas tank. Take water and snacks. Be prepared for snow in winter. Full day trip.

Habitat is mix of high desert, montane, valleys, open grassland, and agriculture. Many pockets of habitat for excellent birding.

Location: From Ventura take Highway 101 to Highway 33 north to Ojai. Turn left at Maricopa Highway (Highway 33). Continue on 33 for about 30-35 miles to Pine Mountain Summit. Continue on past Ozena Station (Good birding there, too.) About 1/2 miles beyond that is Lockwood Valley Rd. To bird Cuyama Valley, continue on Highway 33 past Lockwood Valley Rd.

Highlights: Valley good for many sparrows, several raptor species. Camps yield nuthatches (including pygmy nuthatch), creepers. Mountain bluebird, white-headed woodpecker in high camps. Pygmy owl (rare).

Best season: Winter, spring, late fall.

Wheeler Gorge Campground

(elevation 1,500 feet)

Restrooms, Interpretive Center, Parking, Fee.

Mountain park with variety of trees, small gorges, and chaparral. Bird camp area plus river trail that fords creek (fairly difficult) and on up the mountain.

Location: Take Highway 33 from Ventura. Drive north past Ojai (Hwy. 33) through two tunnels to the campground. Park on right side of road and walk across to camp.

Highlights: orioles, Olive-sided flycatchers, Steller’s jay, dipper (rare), thrushes, solitary vireo, golden-crowned kinglet (rare).

Best season: Spring, summer.

Wheeler Canyon Rd. and Aliso Canyon Rd.

No services.

Dead-end canyon roads lined with private ranches, pastures, orchards, oak woodland and chaparral. Respect private property and bird from road only.

Location: From Ventura take Seaward Ave. inland until it deadends at Foothill Rd. Turn right and follow that about 12 miles east toward Santa Paula. Both canyons on left.

Highlights: orioles, warblers, sparrows, raptors, wintering zone-tailed hawk (fairly regular), bluebirds, kites. Owls early morning or evening.

Best season: All year, especially early spring;

Santa Paula Canyon and Steckel Park

No services, Camping, Fee.

Varied habitat, with live oak, open grassy areas, creekside trails. Canyon is accessed from the grounds of St. Thomas Aquinas School. Expect a guard just inside grounds of school. Register and follow trail signs.

Location: From Ventura, take Santa Paula Freeway (Highway 126) east to 10th St. (Highway 150 to Ojai). Exit. Turn left, follow 150 north to Steckel Park. Santa Paula Canyon is about 2 miles further along Highway 150. Park outside on the side of the highway.

Highlights: woodpeckers, raptors, warblers, kinglets, vireos in park. Canyon yields spring warblers, vireos, flycatchers, dipper, tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, canyon wrens, swifts, Costa’s hummingbird, golden eagle, zone-tailed hawk (especially in winter).

Best season: All year, especially spring.

Ormond Beach/Pt. Hueneme Beach

Services: Restrooms, Parking, Fee at Pt. Hueneme Beach, free at end of Perkins Rd.

Coastal strand, dunes, marsh between ocean edge and water treatment plant.

Location: From Ventura, take Harbor Blvd. (becomes Channel Islands Blvd. as it curves to left.) Stay on Channel Islands to Ventura Rd. and turn right. Follow to end. Pay fee and park. Or, turn left on Hueneme Rd., continue to Perkins Rd. (just past "J" St.), turn right, go to end. Free parking at end of road on right.

Highlights: Endangered least tern/snowy plover nesting site. Sea and shorebirds, terns, brown pelican, bitterns. Rare migrants often found.

Best season: All year, especially summer for shorebirds; late spring and summer for nesting species.

Lake Piru Park and Campground

Services: Restrooms, Parking, Camping, Fee.

Varied habitat, inland lake. Popular for boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, and camping.

Location: Take Highway 126 about 25 miles through Santa Paula and Fillmore to Lake Piru turnoff. Turn north. Follow signs to park entrance.

Highlights: Several varieties of sparrows, warblers, raptors, ducks. Bird entire area, especially perimeter and perimeter approach road.

Best season: Fall, winter, spring.

Camarillo Grove County Park, Camarillo

Services: Restrooms, Parking, Fee.

Varied city park habitat: cactus, oak, grassy areas, chaparral.

Location: Take 101 south through Camarillo to Camarillo Spring Rd. Exit freeway and turn left under 101 to stop sign. Turn right and continue to park.

Highlights: Cactus wren, Hermit thrush, Ground dove, Cedar waxwings, raptors, bluebirds, woodpeckers, kinglets.

Best season: All year, especially fall, winter, spring.

Happy Camp, Moorpark

Services: Parking, Restrooms.

Riparian habitat, open fields.

Location: From 101 south, Take route 23 north to Hwy. 188 (old 23 extension). Follow old 23 west 1 mile and turn right at Morrpark Ave. Follow that to Broadway. Turn right and go to parking lot (with kiosk). Take trail to oaks.

Highlights: Vireos, goldfinches, raptors, sparrow species, orioles, grosbeaks, thrushes.

Best season: Fall, winter, spring.

Rocky Peak Park, Simi Valley

Chumash Park, high chaparral and creekside trail

Services: Parking, limited at trailhead)

Location: From 101 South, take Route 23 north to 118 east. Follow 118 to Yosemite Ave. in Simi Valley and turn north. Follow that to Flanagan and turn right and go to the end. Park on street at right. Take trail north from map kiosk.

Highlights: sparrows, wren, thrashers, roadrunner, grosbeak, lazuli bunting finches. Great wild flowers.

Best season: Early spring.


R. Smith, Webmaster