HIGHWAY 33 Date reviewed - 2/06
Fun . . . . . . . . 5
Difficulty . . . . .Medium
Traffic . . . . . . Medium
Driveways . . . .None
Condition . . . . Good
Length . . . . . .56 miles
Highway 33 between Ojai California and Highway 166 is quite possibly the best driving road in Southern California. While I have driven other roads that have given me more enjoyment of a certain type (high-speed runs, endless tight switchbacks with no traffic, etc.), Highway 33 offers 55-miles of endless variety, fun, and nearly deserted pavement. Only Angeles Crest Highway can match a continuous mountain drive of that length south of Santa Barbara. When you add in Lockwood Valley road as a diversion, it just gets that much better.
Heading north out of Ojai provides you with 35-miles of mountain passes and ridge-running until you reach the intersection of Lockwood Valley Rd. North of that is approximately 9-miles of winding river-valley following roadway and then the final 11-miles of flat-out straights with very little elevation changes that offer very good line of sight.
The great thing about the 33 is the large variety of driving (or riding) styles you will experience before reaching the other end. Starting at the northern end headed south are miles and miles of perfectly straight and recently repaved straights. Those less inclined to obey the posted speed limit can cross this stretch in a hurry. The straights head into the smaller hills that have been cut by the river. The road runs along side of the large wash for about 11-miles but don't think this is a boring straight run. While there are no major elevation changes, this stretch is non-stop twists, turns, ups, downs, and just plain anything but a straight-flat line.
Almost immediately after passing Lockwood Valley Rd. (which runs west towards Frazier Park and the 5 Fwy. at the Grapevine) the road begins a serious attack on the mountains. Don't get behind a slow moving vehicle here, there is no place to pass and practically every corner is blind. On the plus side there is new pavement, and if you get the road to yourself this is a great section (see satellite photo at right).
Once up at the "top" you drop back down slightly and then run across a high elevation valley for quite a while. This section is composed of high-speed sweepers and minor elevation changes (pink on lower map at right). Words and pictures can't do this justice, I was riding this road recently with someone who had never been up there before. It was getting too cold to continue with the sun dropping behind the horizon, but our novice to the area was converted and swore he would be back as soon as possible.
Eventually you come to another hill-climb, although headed south you are now dropping back down from the upper valley. Again you are presented with switchbacks and tight corners, but there area a few places where you can see far enough down the road passing may be possible (but not recommended from a legal viewpoint).
As you get closer to Ojai you will start to see some civilization start to encroach. Watch out for the two tunnels, the southern tunnel especially. It is built over a tight corner so you can't see light out of the other end, even though it is not very long. Your eyes will be trying to adjust to the dark and meanwhile the road is making a pretty severe direction change. Also, just north of the northern tunnel (it's actually 2 short tunnels back-to-back) is a tight corner that seems to always have water and rocks or gravel on it. There is a spring here that keeps this corner damp, so use caution.
Overall this is just a great road for driving or riding. With the recent resurfacing project completed it is only that much better. Watch out for a washout that has the road down to one lane several miles north of Lockwood Valley, the State has put up stop signs and plenty of warning is provided. Rockslides and dirt are a serious concern in the wetter part of the year, but that is nothing new to us. This is a state highway so is in theory patrolled by CHP, but I've seen Sheriff patrol vehicles up here as well. It isn't too heavily patrolled, but holiday weekends might be a good time to stay away.- Back to Region
Red: Highway 33
Blue: Lockwood Valley Rd.
Yellow: Cerro Noroeste / Mil Potrero / Cuddy Valley / Frazier Mtn. Park
Green: Highway 150
Purple: Soda Lake Rd.
Blue section runs along the river, yellow is straight and mostly flat across the valley.
Yellow climbing up to the top, purple running along the upper valley.
Up and over (looking south at upper yellow section above).