Los Padres National Forest
Los Padres National Forest is located in the beautiful coastal Mountains of Central California. The Los Padres National Forest is the third largest National Forest in California encompassing nearly two million acres with elevations that range from sea level to 8,832 feet. The Los Padres Forest stretches almost 220 miles from the Carmel Valley area to the western edge of Los Angeles County.
The forest provides the scenic backdrop for many communities including Pine Mountain Club, Cuddy Valley, Lockwood Valley, Lake of the Woods, Frazier Park, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ojai.
Fishing, hunting, off-road sports, camping, target practice, and trail use is the most popular attractions that bring millions onto the Mt. Pinos Ranger District each year. While many of the campgrounds and picnic areas are easily reached by vehicle, there are excellent opportunities for primitive backcountry recreation and exploration.
The local Mt. Pinos Ranger District area of the Los Padres National Forest is one of five administrative districts in the forest. Mt. Pinos Ranger District encompasses areas in Ventura County and Kern County, along with a small portion of Santa Barbara County.
Visitors are attracted to the Mt. Pinos Ranger District for the variety of landscapes and recreational settings. Camping reigns as a major attraction offering the popular sites of: Aliso Park, an oak-shaded RV and tent camp; Nettle Sprints, which has Chumash Wilderness access, and the campgrounds of Ballinger, Tinta, Cottonwood, Dome, Dutchman and others that offer an overnight stay for those who enjoy motorized trail use.
Water play and winter recreation are other pursuits from the Mt. Pinos' campgrounds. Group camping is found at Reyes Creek and McGill campgrounds.
4X4 & Off-Roading
The Ballinger Canyon Off Highway Vehicle area is located on Highway 33 near its intersection with Highway 166. There are over 65 miles of trail for motorcycles, quads, and four-wheel drive enthusiasts to enjoy. The east side of the District has nearly 100 miles of trails that can be accessed from Hungry Valley State Vehicular Park, off the Interstate I-5 in Gorman. The OHV enthusiast can choose from a variety of day trips or overnight rides. All vehicles must have a state license or Green Sticker. Vist the following websites for more information on local OHV parks.
Ballinger Canyon OHV Map
Hungry Valley State SVRA Park
The Dick Smith, Sespe and Chumash Wilderness areas make up a third of the Mt. Pinos Ranger District. Horseback riders are welcome.
The trailhead for the Piedra Blanca Trail is located at the back of Reyes and has corrals for 4 to 6 horses at a time. There is plenty of room for horse trailer parking, as well as restroom facilities.
In the Grade Valley area, Thorn Meadows Campground offers horseman a covered corral and watering facilities for 10 to 12 horses as well as 5 campsites. Thorn Point and Cedar Creek trailheads are located near this camp.
Reyes Creek Campground Information – Equestrian Corral
The Reyes Creek campground offers creek side camping that is seasonal — winter and spring. The elevation of the campground is at 4000 feet. Facilities include 30 camp sites with 1 pipe corral. No piped water is available. This Campground is a Campfire Use Site and requires an Adventure Pass for overnight camping.
The Reyes Creek campground is located 3 Miles east on Lockwood/Ozena Road off of Highway 33, then 1.5 miles from the turnoff on forest road 7N11 to Reyes Creek campground, which also goes to Camp Scheideck. The Scheideck settlement is tucked along Reyes Creek and was originally homesteaded in 1888. There are 30 to 40 cabins and a popular lodge, bar, and restaurant, which was built in 1898.
The campground offers easy access to the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail.
Thorn Meadows Campground Information – Equestrian Corral
The Thorn Meadows Campground is located in a shaded area among Jeffrey Pines. The elevation of the campground is 5000 feet. Facilities include 5 camp sites with 1 pipe corral. No piped water is available. There are 4 stoves, 4 tables and 1 restroom. This is a no fee campground.
The Thorn Creek Campground is located at end of the Spur Road, 9 Miles South off Lockwood Valley Road and 23 Miles West of Frazier Park.
For more information on horse trails within the local Los Padres National Forest, visit the following website.
Los Padres National Forest – Horse Trails
The Rancho Nuevo Trail, the Deal Canyon Trail, the Bear Canyon Trail and the Ozena Trail are all located in the area of Highway 33 and Lockwood Valley Road. Trail camps are available along most trails offering one or more rustic campgrounds; many adjacent to or near creeks.
A popular hike is at the summit of Mt. Pinos and can be reached by an easy 1.4 mile hike along a dirt road from a parking area (Chula Vista) at the end of Los Padres National Forest Road S349S also known as Mt. Pinos Road. This trail continues into the Chumash Indian Wilderness on the west facing Mt. Pinos slope. The trail stops at Mt. Abel (Cerro Noroeste), about 6 miles. Most of the trail is above 8,000 feet and offers hikers spectacular views of the surrounding Mountains and valleys.
For more information on local Los Padres National Forest trails and to view maps, see the “Los Padres National Forest Maps – Local” section below.
Campgrounds & Fishing
Tinta and Rancho Nuevo Creeks have campsites available and offer fishing for naturalized trout in the spring months. Reyes Creek has camping and is stocked with rainbow trout throughout the spring and summer months. In the Grade Valley area, Piru and Lockwood Creeks run most of the year.
The California Department of Fish and Game has designated Lockwood and Upper Piru creeks as "Wild Trout" areas, offering fly or artificial bait fishing for naturalized rainbow trout. There is a two fish take limit and "catch-and-release" is encouraged.
For more information on fishing licenses, regulations, and other useful tips to assist you in planning your next fishing trip , visit the California Department of Fish & Game website.
The California Department of Fish & Game - Fishing
The east side of the Mt. Pinos Ranger District is known for its easy access to deer hunting. Deer, bear, bird, quail and other wildlife is harvested; all State hunting rules and regulations apply. All federal, state and local laws apply to hunters on federal land. Information on hunting regulations, seasons, licenses and restrictions is available from the California Department of Fish and Game, local sporting goods stores and other licensing agents.
Please use non-lead ammunition to reduce the threat of lead poisoning of wildlife, including the endangered California condor in the Los Padres National Forest. Lead bullets have been banned for hunting in the historic condor range which encompasses all or portions of 13 central and Southern California counties and seven different deer hunting zones, including the Los Padres National Forest.
For more information on hunting in the Los Padres National Forest, visit the following websites.
The California Department of Fish & Game - Hunting
Los Padres National Forest - Hunting & Target Shooting
Mountain bikes are welcome on any non-wilderness trails in the Mt. Pinos trail system. The 8,000 acre Ballinger Canyon area is especially popular. You'll find 68 miles of routes that vary from sandy washes to ridgeline trails. The relatively dense route network provides many opportunities to make loops of varying difficulty. The Los Padres National Forest also connects to the 19,000 acre Hungry Valley State SVRA Park with its 130 miles of scenic trails for biking and off-road vehicles.
Mt. Pinos Ranger District Trail Information
Ballinger Canyon & Deer Park Map
Hungry Valley State SVRA Park
Stargazing - Mt. Pinos
Ask any astronomer where the best stargazing site in California is, and chances are they'll say Mt. Pinos. The Mt. Pinos parking lot (Chula Vista) is at an elevation of 8,100 feet and is a popular viewing area for both amateur and professional astronomers and astro-photographers.
For more information on Mt. Pinos Star Gazing, detailed driving directions, and tips for new star gazers, visit the following Pine Mountain Club Real Estate “Mt. Pinos” section.
The varied habitats and topography of Los Padres provide permanent or transitory refuge for some 468 species of fish and wildlife making it one of the more diverse National Forests in California. The Los Padres National Forest Wildlife is abundant.
Currently there are five large species of animal in or immediately, adjacent to Los Padres: mule deer, black bear, wild boar, Pronghorn Antelope and Tule Elk.
Mule deer, represented by two subspecies, the Columbian black-tailed deer and the California mule deer, constitute the vast majority of the larger wildlife in the forest. The deer population is divided among seven deer herds. The black-tailed deer are a more coastal specie. The remaining deer in the San Rafael, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Mt. Pinos herds are comprised primarily of California mule deer.
Black bear populations have maintained or increased their numbers over the past few decades although very little information is available concerning the central coast area. Areas of high bear concentration include the Santa Cruz and upper Santa Ynez drainage on, the Santa Barbara District, the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, Aqua Blanca and Upper Piru areas of the Ojai District and Sisquoc River area of the Santa Lucia District.
The European wild pig is an introduced species which has been present on the Monterey District since 1927. The original European stock was released in the Carmel Valley and has dispersed and intermixed with feral pigs down the coast range into San Luis Obispo County. The major concern with the wild-feral pigs is their destructive nature in sensitive wetland and riparian habitats and their direct competition with wildlife, especially deer, for food and cover in the fall. The feral pig populations have also appeared on the Santa Barbara District in recent years but only in small numbers.
The Tule Elk, a species historically found on the forest, has been reintroduced onto the oak-grassland areas of the Fort Hunter-Liggett Military reservation immediately adjacent to the Monterey District. The Tule Elk occurred on the forest but was eliminated in the early part of the century due to over hunting and land use changes. Concerted efforts to reintroduce Tule Elk in the Los Padres National Forest were initiated in 1983, with a small reintroduction in the Avenales area. Transplants in 1985 and 1989 of over 120 animals in the eastern portion of the Santa Lucia District and on adjacent private lands, have been successful. This new herd, known as the Pozo Herd, now numbers over 600 elk and has been opened to limited hunting in the past few years.
Pronghorn Antelope is another species of historic occurrence on the eastern side of the forest and within the Carrizo Plain. This species also disappeared along with the Tule Elk. Similar reintroduction efforts have been successful and the herd has reached a size allowing limited hunting.
Upland Animals & Fowl
There are seven major groups of upland animals and fowl which occur on the forest: quail, rabbits, tree squirrels, band-tailed pigeons, dove, turkey and chukar. Quail, both Mountain and valley, are found throughout the forest at all elevations, although the Mountain quail are generally found at higher elevation and are less numerous. The valley or California quail receive the most hunting pressure of any upland species on the forest with the majority of hunting occurring on the Mt. Pinos District. As water seems to be the limiting factor for these birds, over 100 guzzlers have been installed on the forest to help enhance their populations.
Band-tailed pigeons are abundant on the forest during their winter migrations down the coast stopping to forage in the oak woodlands and pinion pine stands. Some resident populations occur in oak woodlands of some of the coastal portions of the forest with perennial water supplies. These pigeons favor pinion nuts but in poor pinion years will shift to acorns, toyon or madrone berries where abundant.
Dove populations are generally low on the forest with the primary habitat occurring on the Mt. Pinos District. Generally low seed crop densities and a lack of flat open area limits dove habitat.
Chukar is another introduced species which has only a marginal population in the Mt. Pinos Ranger District of the forest. Additional plantings along with water developments could improve the numbers of Chukar.
Turkey populations in Los Padres currently average around 300-500 birds. This small population is constituted primarily of the outer edge of dispersals from populations planted on adjacent private lands starting in the l940's. The generally poor success of those transplants is believed to be due to the poor adaptability of the hybrid Merriams-domestic stock used and the small numbers transplanted. More recently transplants conducted in the Santa Barbara County portion of the Santa Lucia District, using Rio Grande subspecies, have been relatively successful with good production of young birds in the past few years. Added transplants are planned for this and other suitable habitat areas on the forest.
Waterfowl populations on Los Padres are very limited in both numbers and species diversity due to the limited habitat available and in being out of the mainstream of the Pacific flyway. Since the development of large reservoirs and good food supplies is not within the foreseeable future, there is little chance that future populations will be enhanced.
The vast majority of wildlife species in Los Padres National Forest are non-game animals. There are some 307 species of birds, 70 mammals, 34 reptiles and 14 amphibians which constitute this wildlife group.
For more information on local wildlife, visit the following Pine Mountain Club Real Estate “Wildlife” section.
Pine Mountain Club Real Estate “Wildlife”
Los Padres National Forest Climate
Climate in 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.
It’s a good idea to check the weather conditions for the area before traveling. Be prepared with snow chains during the late fall and winter months. Visit The Weather Channel website for current weather conditions and call Caltrans for current road conditions.
The Weather Channel – Enter ZIP code 93225 for the Frazier Park Area
Caltrans - Road Condition Information
Call Caltrans for current road conditions at (800) 427-7623 or visit the Caltrans website.
For maps and additional information on campgrounds, hiking and ATV trails in the Mt. Pinos Ranger district of the Los Padres National Forest, click on one of the following website links.
Los Padres National Forest Campground Maps - Local
Los Padres National Forest Hiking Trail Information - Local
Los Padres National Forest ATV Trail Information – Local
Mt. Pinos Ranger Station
Mt. Pinos Ranger District
34580 Lockwood Valley Road
Adventure Pass Information
You can obtain a pass at the Mt. Pinos Ranger station in Frazier Park on Lockwood Valley Road or at any BIG 5 Sporting Goods store. The cost is $5.00 for a day pass and $30.00 for a year pass. You can also purchase an Adventure Pass at these locations on your way to the summit.
Don's Liquor Mart
616 Monterey Trail, Frazier Park
Daily & Annual Passes
600 E. Border St., Frazier Park
Daily & Annual Passes
Forest Service - Mt. Pinos Ranger District
34580 Lockwood Valley Rd., Frazier Park
Daily, Annual & Secondary Passes
For More information on Adventure Passes, visit the following websites.
Adventure Pass Information
Los Padres Forest Service Information
For more information on annual and daily Adventure Passes, visit the National Forest Adventure Pass website.
National Forest Adventure Pass website
Staying Safe in the Forest
To ensure a safe and enjoyable time in the forest, visit the Los Padres National Forest website for valuable recreation and safety information.
Los Padres National Forest – Recreation and Safety
For more information on the local area of the Los Padres National Forest, contact the Mt. Pinos Ranger District office.
Mt. Pinos Ranger District
District Ranger: Erik Van Walden
34580 Lockwood Valley Rd.
Frazier Park, CA 93225
FAX: (661) 245-1526
For recreation or visitor information email: Rick Howell
Hours: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Daily