San Rafael Wilderness, Los Padres National Forest -- Manzana Creek Trail

Located entirely in the Los Padres National Forest, primarily between the San Rafael Mountains and the Sierra Madre Mountains, this is the closest large wilderness area to Santa Barbara. A beautiful and wild place, San Rafael Wilderness is a special area to explore the solitude of wilderness while hiking or backpacking. Watch for wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions and the occasional California condor.

One of the easiest and most rewarding ways to explore the San Rafael Wilderness is on the Manzana Creek Trail.  If backpacking, the first primitive camping area is only 1.5 miles away from the trailhead, and is adjacent to the Creek with abundant vegetation. There are so many other places to discover on and off the trail. You can also camp in the Forest Service’s nearby Nira Campground which has both reserved and non-reserved sites, and take day hikes. The Manzana Trail East (Upper) is both beautiful and filled with adventure.

To really unplug and connect with the environment, there is nothing like wilderness. Fortunately, the San Rafael Wilderness is accessible and inspiring.



Sunset Valley Rd, Los Olivos (past Davy Brown Campground)

Managed By

US Forest Service

Distance from UCSB

49 mi

How To Get There

Drive, Bike

Things To Do

Backpacking, Birdwatching, Camping, Hiking, Historic Cultural Interest, Horseback Riding, Picnicking, Relaxing, Running (Trail), Viewing, Walking, Watchable Wildlife

Fun Facts

After the Wilderness Act of 1964 was passed, and following a groundswell of local support, San Rafael became the first primitive area in the nation Congressionally designated as wilderness. This occurred in 1968.

Other Information

Congressionally designated as a wilderness in 1968, this area had previously been protected by the Forest Service as a Primitive Area.

Nearby Public Lands Worth Visiting

Interested in exploring more wilderness? There is the Dick Smith Wilderness and the Sespe Wilderness, including the Wild and Scenic Sespe Creek, the only undammed river in Southern California.

Best Time To Visit

Spring, Fall, Winter

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