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.
Copyright: USDA Forest Service
Los Padres National Forest
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.
- 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.
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.