Tortoises and Roses

Ventura County backroads lead to May flowers and Zoo U

, 2005, Sunset Magazine

You're longing for a quiet country drive. You'll find a great one around the Ventura County towns of Moorpark, Somis, and Fillmore. Here, backroads lead to lemon groves, specialty nurseries, and more.

One surprise lies off the Collins Drive exit from State 118. America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College (11–5 Sat–Sun; $5; 7075 Campus Rd., Moorpark; 805/378-1441) is a one-of-a-kind school for future animal trainers. Take in a student-run animal show (on the hour 12–3 Sat–Sun); you can get satisfyingly close to the big cats, giant tortoise, and other animals.

Near the intersection of Los Angeles Avenue and Somis Road (State 34), Underwood Family Farms (5696 E. Los Angeles Ave., Somis; 805/386-4660) offers produce from the farm's 70 acres of fields. About 1 mile west, near Bradley Road, buy nuts in every form at Somis Nut House (4475 Los Angeles Ave., Somis; 800/266-6887). In another mile, you can grab more fresh fruits and vegetables at Petersen Ranch Fruit Stand (3402 E. Los Angeles Ave., Somis; 805/386-8190).

Double back and head east on Los Angeles Avenue and go north on Bradley Road, which lopes through citrus groves dotted with expensive homes. Just past the 2-mile mark, slow down for a view of a 35-acre iris-and-daylily field. Then, in about 2 miles, shortly after Bradley intersects with Balcom Canyon Road, you'll come to Greenwood Iris + Daylily Farm's display field (9:30–4 Sat Apr–Jun; 8000 Balcom Canyon Rd., Somis; 562/494-8944), where you can buy the same flowers you saw earlier.

Roses Reign at Otto & Sons Nursery
David Zaitz - Roses Reign at Otto & Sons Nursery
Fresh produce at Petersen Ranch Fruit Stand
David Zaitz - Fresh produce at Petersen Ranch Fruit Stand
Map image

Drive south on Balcom Canyon, then go east on Stockton Road, which in 3 miles becomes Broadway Road. Head east another mile and turn north on State 23, which gives you 5 miles of twists, turns, and views into the Santa Clara Valley. Just before you get to Fillmore, turn right on Guiberson Road and head to Otto & Sons Nursery (8–5 Thu–Sat through Oct; 1835 E. Guiberson Rd., Fillmore; 805-524-2123). If roses are your weakness, you'd better bring the SUV: More than 800 varieties of rosebushes are for sale.

From here you can exit rural bliss on State 126 and continue east to I-5.

Backroads tour

Somis, the center of our driving tour, lies about 10 miles west of Moorpark via State 118. Some area roads were affected by winter rains; visit for current conditions.

Published: May 2005, Sunset Magazine