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California > Los Padres National Forest
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Los Padres National Forest

Monterey Ranger District- The Monterey Ranger District extends north from the Monterey/San Luis Obispo county line to Carmel Valley and includes the scenic Santa Lucia mountains.
Mount Pinos Ranger District- Mount Pinos Ranger District is part of the two million-acre Los Padres National Forest. Camping, trail use and fishing are the predominate recreations.
Ojai Ranger District- The Ojai Ranger District, Los Padres National Forest consists of 311,294 acres, located in the northern half of Ventura County. Elevations range from a low of 240 feet at Rincon Creek to the high point of 7,570 feet on Reyes Peak.
Santa Barbara Ranger District- Beautiful stands of conifers, massive sandstone formations, natural hot springs, along with the relaxed recreation areas, serve the communities of San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles, San Joaquin Valley and the extended coastal areas.
Santa Lucia Ranger District- Santa Lucia Ranger District is located in northern Santa Barbara County and southern San Luis Obispo County. A number of hiking and riding trails lead to expansive vistas and deep canyon flats.

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General Information

Los Padres National Forest
Copyright: - US Forest Service
Los Padres National Forest
Description - Los Padres National Forest encompasses nearly two million acres in the beautiful coastal mountains of central California. The 75 mile long stretch of the Big Sur coastline is one of the most spectacular coastal environments in the world.

8,831 foot Mt. Pinos is the highest point in the Los Padres National Forest. On a clear day, visitors are rewarded with inspiring vistas of the San Joaquin Valley, the Sierra Nevada, and many other peaks and valleys. The Mt. Pinos area receives enough snow in the winter to offer winter recreation activities.

The Los Padres National Forest has ten designated wilderness areas. These include the Ventana and Silver Peak on the Monterey Ranger District; the Santa Lucia, Machesna and Garcia on the Santa Lucia Ranger District; and the San Rafael, which spans the Santa Lucia and Santa Barbara Ranger Districts; the Dick Smith in the Santa Barbara and Mt. Pinos Ranger Districts; the Matilija in the Ojai Ranger District; the Sespe in the Ojai and Mt. Pinos Ranger Districts; and the Chumash in the Mt. Pinos Ranger District.

Attractions - Los Padres National Forest is one of the most scenic recreation destinations in California's central coast offering opportunities to all, whether you prefer viewing scenery from the roadside or exploring a remote wilderness, touring in your off-road vehicle or relaxing under a tree in quiet contemplation.

Sand Dollar Beach, a day use picnic area, is the largest public beach on the southern Big Sur coast. You can reach it via a short trail down the cliff. Unpredictable riptide currents and very cold water make swimming inadvisable; sightseeing, beach combing, sunbathing and surf fishing are popular alternatives. Pfeiffer Beach is a very scenic and popular day use area is 2.5 miles south of the community of Big Sur off Hwy. 1.

Cuesta Ridge is a narrow, eight-mile long strip of National Forest land between Cuesta Pass on Highway 101 and the Cerro Alto area adjacent to Highway 41. You can reach the ridge by trail from Cerro Alto Campground or by vehicle from Highway 101. With an average elevation of 2,000 feet above sea level, the ridge offers impressive views of San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay and Morro Rock, the Atascadero hills, and the Santa Lucia Wilderness.

At 7,500 feet, Pine Mountain Ridge offers spectacular views of the forest with distant vistas of the Sierra Nevada. The area's mixed conifer forest includes large stands of Big Cone Douglas fir, Monterey pine and Jeffrey pine. There are two campgrounds (no water, no flush toilets) and several trailheads for starting both short day hikes and serious backpack excursions.

Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail climbs out of the Sespe River Gorge, with views of the striking white sandstone formations that give the trail its Spanish name. After winding into rugged chaparral-covered hills and along several perennial streams, the trail crosses Pine Mountain Ridge and descends to Reyes Creek Campground with beautiful vistas of the Cuyama Valley. The trail is just over seventeen miles long, and can be accessed through Lion Campground, via Rose Valley Road.

The Santa Ynez Recreation Area is located north of Santa Barbara off Highway 154 along Paradise Road. Its key feature is the Santa Ynez River. Picnicking, camping, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are some of the area's popular activities.

Jacinto Reyes National Scenic Byway - Highway 33 winds through scenic canyons and along chaparral oak-dotted hillsides. State Highway 33 climbs to 7,500 feet at Pine Mountain in the Ventura County backcountry, forty miles beyond Ojai. The views from the highway include the central coast and Channel Islands, the striking Sespe Gorge, and several wilderness areas.

Rose Valley Recreation Area is one of the most popular recreation destinations in the Los Padres National Forest. Two campgrounds are located near the banks of Sespe Creek, while another is near beautiful Rose Valley Falls. Fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are popular activities.

While many of its campgrounds and picnic areas are easily reached by vehicle, much of the Los Padres is remote and unroaded, with excellent opportunities for primitive backcountry recreation. The Forest has ten designated wilderness areas and more than 1,500 miles of trails for the hiker, backpacker, equestrian, mountain bicyclist, and off-highway vehicle enthusiast. For backpacking information, contact the Forest Service office nearest your trailhead.

Most campgrounds in Los Padres National Forest operate on a first-come, first-served basis; no reservations are required. There are several family and group campgrounds that are on a reservation system.

Most land in Los Padres National Forest is open to hunting; however, discharge of firearms is prohibited in some areas.

Recreation - Sightseeing, beach activities, fishing, camping, and trail use are the predominant recreations enjoyed on Los Padres National Forest.

Forest visitors on the San Bernardino, Cleveland, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests of Southern California are required to purchase an Adventure Pass and display it on their vehicle when parked in the Forest. The cost is $5 per day or $30 per year and can be purchased in any Forest Service office or over 350 businesses throughout Southern California.

Climate - Climate on the Los Padres varies greatly with elevation and the amount of coastal influence. Areas with more coastal influence experience moderate temperatures year round with fog likely from June through mid-August. Plan your coastal visit in the late summer or fall to ensure the best conditions for viewing the scenery. Also, occasional clear days between winter and spring storms are incomparable. Areas further inland experience greater temperature extremes, with relatively cooler winters and hot summers. Inland areas often receive frost on winter nights. As throughout most of California most of the precipitation comes in the winter months, with April through October normally very dry.

Location - The Los Padres stretches almost 220 miles along California's Central Coast. It reaches from the Carmel Valley area to the western edge of Los Angeles County, providing the scenic backdrop for many communities including Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ojai.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Randall Brink (Madison, WI)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: 5 of us hiked back along bear creek during the first week of May. There was a lot of water and the creek was high. We wanted to hike all the way to sespe hot springs, but the last few crossings were chest high, and we had full packs, so we stopped near willet hot springs. The trail was good for the most part, but some of the crossing points were hard to find. Luckily, some one made stone markers at several vague spots to show the way. The creek was clear and made for great swimming in the pools, temp was about 80. Willet hot springs was great, there is a nice pool to soak in. The trail got a little narrow the last quarter mile or so. The flies were bad, bring DEET. Saw a lot of wild life including two condors, coyote,rattler, and water snakes, one one creepy hairy big spider (tarantula, I think). We saw several mountain lion tracks, but no lions. Difficulty was moderate, but it was well worth it. I came 2000 miles to hike here, and I am glad I did. We saw several people as we were leaving who were grooming the trail, otherwise only one other party in 5 days.

Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: areal was beautiful but there were an awful lot of squirrels

Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Neutral
Report: Tar Creek to West Fork Sespe Creek. Good physical condition is a must. 5/27 & 5/28. 3miles to Tar Creek. It was over 100. Take water at Tar creek and the spring at the drain pipe by Potatoe Rock it provides a shady stop! ( 1.5 miles past Tar creek). Tar Creek water falls visible across the valley from here. This is the last water until Sespe. Crawl back under the drain pipe and use a water filter to get a cold supply. The trail is heavily overgrown and very tedious. Watch for poison oak, ticks and RATTLESNAKES. We ran into two diamond backs!! When you hit Sespe use this for a lunch stop. The trail continues across the creek towards the right side over the larger boulders and up the side of the mountain about 50- 75 feet and winds its way through a large spring. Keep your feet DRY!! The trail becomes very tuff from here and most of the time you cant see your feet!! The West fork is 2 hours away at a quick pace if you keep to the trail. You will sleep good tonight and the fishing is unbelievable. Dont forget catch & release only on barbless flys. We fished that evening and in the morning left by 10am. 2 water stops, lunch and alot of sweat had us in the air conditioned car by 5pm. ALSO have a Wilderness Pass for the car when you park and avoid the temptation to drive past the gate. Another group got locked in when we came out!!! Have fun!!

Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Memorial Day weekend 2003 we backpacked from the Reyes Peak Trailhead on Pine Mountain Ridge, through Haddock and Bear Trap camps, to Camp Scheideck. Contrary to earlier reports, the trail is in good condition all the way. It's narrow, and we had to scramble around two or three fallen trees between Haddock and Bear Trap, but navigation was never difficult and it certainly wasn't overgrown. Awesome views from Haddock Peak and too many other spots to list. We spent one night at Haddock and one at Bear Trap. Haddock is in a clearing, ringed by pines and cedars, with about four campsites and ample water in the creek. Bear Trap is shaded by oaks and cedars, with three sites in the main area and a couple more outlying sites -- check the one about 1/4 mile east if you want some privacy. Plenty of water here as well. Upper Reyes could be pretty if it wasn't so trashed by inconsiderate users. We saw one large group of maybe 15 people, three smaller groups of 2 or 3 each, but had the campsites to ourselves both nights. One warning: be very careful on the road in to the Reyes Peak trailhead -- it's in good condition and mostly paved, but twisty and narrow with many blind curves, and there was a major head-on collision the day we left. Excellent hike.

Filed By: Holi (Santa Clarita, CA)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I have taken the hike to Rose Valley Falls since I was a very little girl. I take my kids up there now at least yearly. The hike seems so small now, but not so small for kids. There is minimal incline, a lot of plantlife, a small stream, and this hike is ideal for little ones. I'd say it is about a 1-mile or so total. There are picnic benches and campgrounds at the base of the hike. 25 years ago, the two lakes that you'll see on the way to the campground area were full, with running streams and rivers between them and all over that little area. It was so nice to camp there. Sadly, the lakes are dry and there is little water to speak of these days. But the little hike is a nice memory, and kids will love it.

Filed By: carter myers (santa barbara, CA)
Number of People Encountered: 50+ ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Neutral
Report: getting to hurricane deck through the manzana narrows was probably the hardest part it is a very steep uphill trail. Also, the trail was very narrow hints the name the manzana narrows

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More Information

Contact Information:
Los Padres National Forest, 6144 Calle Real , Goleta, CA, 93117, Phone: 805-683-6711

Additional Information:
California National Forests & Parks - California's National Parks, Monuments and Forests cover lands from the Pacific Ocean to the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Central Coast Region - The Central Coast Region covers a tranquil expanse between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Dramatic seascapes and coastal resorts, together with the pastoral atmosphere of its inland agricultural communities, make this region an idyllic destination.
Southern California -

Los Padres National Forest - Official agency website.
Los Padres National Forest - Official agency website.
Los Padres National Forest - Official agency website.


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