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Emma Wood State Beach

Ocean’s Edge Trail

Emma Wood State Beach to Seaside Wilderness Park is 1.3 miles round trip

Several ecological communities converge near the mouth of the Ventura River: sand dunes, a floodplain, cobblestone beach, riparian woodland and wetlands. Botanists have tallied some 300 plant species in the area; more than half of them are native.

This diversity of riverfront and oceanfront life is explored by Ocean’s Edge Trail, a 12-stop interpreted nature trail.

In the early years of this century, local naturalist E.P. Foster envisioned a world-class park like San Francisco’s Golden Gate. He donated land at the Ventura River mouth to the county to create such a park. Alas, by the time the county began landscaping the area with Monterey pine, eucalyptus and palms, the Great Depression struck and the money ran out.

Instead of “Ventura’s Golden Gate,” the park became known as Hobo Jungle because of the many vagabonds who camped in the wetlands here. In bad weather, the hobos slept under the railroad bridge. Hobo Jungle now belongs to the city of Ventura, which renamed it Seaside Wilderness Park.

Emma Wood acquired large land holdings on the coast and coastal slope of north Ventura County, land that was originally part of Rancho San Miguelito. She died in 1944 and in the late 1950s her husband and heir gave to the state the beach west of the railroad overpass, a stretch of coast long popular with the public.

Ocean’s Edge Trail takes you along Emma Wood’s mixed rock and sand beach to Seaside Wilderness Park, where pine and palm trees rise above low sand dunes. The nature trail explores wetlands, including a second mouth of the Ventura River, a lagoon and sand bars.

Directions to trailhead: Emma Wood State Beach is located at the south end of old Pacific Coast Highway, north of West Main Street in Ventura. The turnoff for the Ventura River Group Camp area is just before the on-ramp to northbound Highway 101.

There’s a fee for parking at the state beach. You can also park for free just outside the park and walk under the highway overpass to the group campground at the south end of the park. Signed Ocean’s Edge Trail begins at an information display on the oceanside of the campground.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at