Sespe Wilderness and Piedra Blanca, Los Padres National Forest

Over 200,000 acres in size, the Sespe Wilderness is filled with beautiful views, wildlife, diverse vegetation, trails, solitude and adventure. Part of the Los Padres National Forest, Sespe Wilderness includes a stunning and ecologically significant segment of the Sespe Creek Wild and Scenic River. Adjacent to the Sespe Wilderness, and also part of Los Padres National Forest, is the striking Piedra Blanca sandstone formation. Both the Wilderness Area and Piedra Blanca are remarkable destinations.

The most convenient way to access these areas is at the Piedra Blanca Trailhead in the Rose Valley. After hiking on a joint trail for 0.4 miles, you can either go north on the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail to the impressive white sandstone cliffs, rock formations and beyond; or go east on the Sespe River Trail to the Sespe Wilderness, as well as two notable hot springs.

Additional hiking and backpacking trails in the Sespe Wilderness can be found here, here, and here. Throughout the Wilderness there are excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, including mountain lions, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, deer and golden eagles. In spring, there are arrays of wildflowers, and in the fall and winter the bushes retain their often-colorful beauty. From conifer topped mountains to riparian vegetation, chaparral, and oak woodlands, Sespe Wilderness provides excellent habitat for resident wildlife and human visitors alike.

After spending time in the Wilderness, don’t miss viewing, admiring, climbing on and otherwise exploring the magical Piedra Blanca sandstone formations.



End of Rose Valley Rd, Ojai (to the Piedra Blanca and Sespe River Trailheads)

Managed By

US Forest Service

Distance from UCSB

60 mi

How To Get There

Drive, Bike (long)

Things To Do

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

Fun Facts

The only undammed river in Southern California, Sespe Creek is the first stream protected by Congress under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that includes seasonally flowing segments. In addition to recreational opportunities, the Creek is very important to threatened and endangered species, including the southern steelhead and the arroyo toad.

Other Information

The iNaturalist website offers an excellent wildlife checklist. Here is a delightful description of hiking and camping in the area from Dan McCaslin. The Sespe Condor Sanctuary, which is part of the Sespe Wilderness, is closed to the public to protect the propagation and growth of the magnificent California Condor.

Nearby Public Lands Worth Visiting

Pine Mountain Ridge (generally known as Pine Mountain). To the north, at over 6,500 feet in elevation, there is a very special area called Pine Mountain, which is filled with sugar pine, white fir and Jeffrey pine trees. Part of Los Padres National Forest, Pine Mountain has a limited number of camping and picnicking facilities, as well as spectacular views, wildlife, wildflowers (in the spring) and pine scented air. Watch for condors! The Pine Mountain Trail is recommended. Pine Mountain is a very special area that deserves to be fully protected and enjoyed.

Best Time To Visit

Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer

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