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Activities | Camp | Camping | Destinations | Mountains | CA National Forest

nf.los padres

Springtime San Luis Obispo

santa barbara

One of California's best kept secrets, Los Padres Forest. The majority of LA city folk head east to Angeles & San Bernardino National Forests / Big Bear ...only a small percentage of them head north to Los Padres National Forest. Plenty of small campgrounds & dirt roads to real seclusion. The forest boundary stretches along the California coast as far north as Monterey.

Hungry Valley OHV
off-roaders paradise

nearby parks:

Required ?

Nearby cities & towns:

Atascadero CA
Arroyo Grande CA
Big Sur CA
Frazier Park
Goleta CA
Gorda CA
Gorman CA
King City CA
Lebec CA
Los Olivos CA
Lucia CA
Monterey CA
Ojai CA
Pine Mountain CA
San Luis Obispo CA
Santa Barbara CA
Santa Maria CA
Santa Ynez CA
Ventucopa CA
Ventura CA
Wilderness Areas
Dick Smith Wilderness
San Rafael Wilderness
Sespe Wilderness
Ventana Wilderness
Chumash Wilderness


2 National Forest Maps to cover this Coastal Region

A diverse landscape makes this area interesting with plenty of recreational activities. Dirt backroads are all over the place. Pinyon pine to Jeffery Pine forest, Snow in the mtns., cactus & manzanita chaparral, wide creek washes plus the meadows makes this a very desirable destinations for Californians seeking a break from the crowded urban areas.

The park stretches as far north as Carmel & lines the Big Sur Coastline with plenty of primitive camping options away from the crowded coastline. see Big Sur BackRoads

California Redwoods

Ranger Stations:
Forest Headquarters
Mt. Pinos District
Frazier Park
Ojai District
Santa Barbara District
Santa Barbara
Monterey District
Kings City
San Lucia District
Santa Maria
Los Padres Association
web site
Los Padres National Forest
government web site


  • convenient & close to Los Angeles / Ventura / Santa Barbara / San Luis Obispo / Santa Maria
  • fires are very restricted, depending on fire danger risk
  • fire permits are required
  • permits are required for overnight back country camping
  • check with the correct ranger district for all back country camping restrictions

Some of the best remote backpacking in Southern California can be found in this area. A Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are many dirt roads & trails in order to get to some of these spots.

Trail head parking spots located at:

Big Sur / Central Coast Area - this coastal range offers spectacular views of the coastline plus hiking among oaks & some redwoods trees. From coastal Hwy.1 a few miles south of Lucia, across from Kirk Creek Campground take the small & very windy Naciemiento Ferguson Rd. (paved) up 7 mi. to the dirt road crossing. Turn left /north & continue on dirt road to 3 different trail head parking spots. There is no base camp areas.


Trail camps:
Upper Nuevo - see directions & description for Rancho Nuevo

- off Lockwood Valley Rd. look for Reyes Creek campground & park there. Hike into these back country campsites. They can be found in order, heading south toward another other parking option at Lion campground on road # 6N313 found off Hwy.33.

  • Upper Reyes
  • Bear Trap
  • Haddock
  • Three Mile
  • Pine Mtn. Lodge
  • Twin Forks
  • Piedra Blanca

Wilderness Area Maps
Dick Smith Wilderness
Ventana Wilderness / Silver Peak
Chumash Wilderness

Los Padres Campgrounds

Los Padres is a long chunk of public forest land spanning nearly the entire Central Coast. Los Padres stretches from Monterey down to Ojai CA
Choose your desired camping area -

Back Roads

There is no better place is Southern California to hit the dirt & get away from the crowds. Big Bear in Santa Bernardino National Forest & Angeles National Forest, so close to LA, are such popular destinations, that you can rarely feel like you are in the wilderness. But merely 30-40 miles from San Fernando Valley is this network of amazing dirt backroads. Check out the red dirt action in Quatal Canyon & Santa Barbara Canyon. quatal cyn ohv

A Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. Many dirt roads to get to spectacular views.

Central Coast - Ridge Roads

From Coast Highway 1, a few miles south of Lucia, across from Kirk Creek Campground take narrow & very winding paved road east up Naciemiento Ferguson, approx. 6-7 mi. to the dirt road intersection/crossing.
From Hwy.101 take exit for G18/ Jolon Rd. past Naciemiento Lake & past town of Lockwood. Through Hunter Leggitt military base on Mission Rd., veer left on Naciemiento Ferguson Rd. Pass campgrounds Ponderosa & Naciemiento
Just West of Naciemiento campground will be an intersection of dirt roads.

North segment will bring you to Cone Peak Rd. Backpackers parking areas & plenty of trails leading into the coastal wilderness. Dead ends.

Turn South on Coast Ridge Trail #20S05 & find primitive camping spots: continue 5 mi. to right turn up hill & onto ridge area. All out in the open with great view. A few oaks trees for shade. Continue South on #20S05 & follow into confusion dirt roads. Signs with map are hard to understand & some west slope roads are washed out due to El Nino rains a few years back. You CAN eventually get down the western side via Willow Creek area (with a nice waterfall) Rd#23S01, but you will have to be patient & not wander East into military land.

Willow Creek waterfall: From coast Hwy.1 just North of town of Gorda, Highway widens to dirt area & up embankment. Take Rd#23S01 up approx. 1 mi. (careful - no trespassing on private lands) to fern basins, redwoods & a waterfall.

see our special - Big Sur BackRoads

232k - Lg. File!
map credit NFS:
Los Padres - Mont. Distr.



272k - Lg File!  
map credit Thomas Bros.

Sespe Hot Springs hikesespe Wilderness


Hungry Valley OHV - So. California - near the Grapevine Area of Interstate 5

Ballinger Canyon OHV - great for the motorcycle enthusiast beginner & intermediate, East of Hwy. 33 near Ventucopa

California 4x4

Reyes Peak Camp @ Pine Mountain- ridge line, secluded campsites, 9 miles (half paved) from Highway 33

Lockwood Valley Rd. west of Frazier Park has plenty of Forest Service Roads that branch off of it. Take your pick & go exploring. Most are suitable for 2WD high clearance vehicles, except during wet weather.

Tecuya Mountain 4x4 Camps @ Cuddy Valley

San Emigdio road behind cabin community of Pine Mountain Club . Try westward, up to the Blue Ridge for a great sunset run.

Miller Jeep Trail - the over-crowded and super-popular 'city boy' weekend run. Call it extreme 4x4 rock crawling.

Mild graded dirt roads lead back to Half Moon Campground

Dome Springs is an east to reach campground along Lockwood Valley Road

Nettle Springs is a secluded camp geared toward dirt, located way back, off of Highway 33 @ Cuyama River

Valle Vista Campground is located way out on Cerro Noroeste Road, west of Pine Mountain Club

California Hiking


Plenty of hiking & backpacking opportunities within this forest. Frazier Mountain area has some nice trails.

  • Prewitt Ridge & backpack opportunities, views to live for.
  • Sykes Hot Springs near Big Sur is best donw as an overnight trip
  • Partington Cove along the Big Sur coastline.
  • Sespe Hot Springs - a really long day hike
  • Mount Pinos is a great easy half day hike
  • Mount Pinos over to Mount Able ( or vice versa, & swap vehicles is a great plan for a group)
  • Lyons & Piedras Blancas has some awesome terrain
  • Rose Valley Falls is an easy hike for the family, even if it is mostly a trickle (best days after a big rain)

100 Hikes in California's Central Sierra & Coast Range


This coastal range has a few lower elevation reservoirs, that are perfect for recreation during that hot June, when the June Gloom is still in full swing. While most have full service marinas & rent boats, kayaks, bikes,& more, you should contact lake authorities directly to see what is available as some items will be already reserved or even discontinued for the season.


Rock Climbing

  • Sespe Gorge Wall @ Potrero John Creek & Hwy.33, approx. 20 miles North of Ojai
  • Devils playground - Sandstone area near Lyons campground, Near Rose Valley at Hwy. 33

Lockwood Creek

Total Escape California Camping


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